On February 22nd, the event “The Winter Tales Program: The Spirit Survives” was held at the A. R. Knight Auditorium of the Spurlock Museum. The Winter Tales Program is a series of events honoring the culture and practices of the Native Americans.
Written by: Yushan Guo
This event is a one-woman concert delivered by a social activist and storyteller from First Nations, Dovie Thomason. She made original stories that are highly relevant to historical facts, her personal experiences and feelings, along with humor and highly vivid imagery. The story was about the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, where countless Native American children were forced to be assimilated and “civilized” to the American society. They were forced to abandon their cultural identities and were trained to “become someone else’s servants”. They were deprived of the right to resist the unfair treatment they got since the first day they arrived at the school.
This tragic story accurately reflected real history regarding how the “winners” represented justice and civilization while the “losers” had nothing to do but to conform to the norms set by the “winners” and usually at the cost of their own culture and identity. Not limited to Native Americans, similar things happened to all the minority groups in the U.S. After summarizing this sad history using stories from the perspective of a child, she moved on to the profound impact of the boarding schools on Indians. She turned her focus onto the Native Americans’ inner activities and actions to reflect on their own cultural identities and means to preserve the essence and the spirit of their cultural identities. She referred to the ideals of the 1960s, such as the Civil Rights Movement, resistance, resilience, and so on. She summarized the effort and thoughts regarding the lessons they learned from history and what they should do to let the spirit of their cultural identities survive and thrive.
The one-hour event was moving and educational. Using her brilliant storytelling, Dovie Thomason pictured the past, the present, and the future. The story and the ideas behind the story were tragic but epic.
For more information about the Spurlock museum or about this event, please visit: https://www.spurlock.illinois.edu/events/event.php?ID=1765