October 30, 2012

Ishi producers sponsor Indigenous Day

After Controversial Ishi Play, University of California, Berkeley Co-Sponsors Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration to Promote Healing

By Marc DadiganLast spring, the University of California, Berkeley, produced a historically inaccurate and graphically violent play about Ishi, the famous California Indian, which caused some American Indian viewers to openly weep and condemn it for perpetuating racist stereotypes.

Though a group of graduate students who led the protests against the play didn’t succeed in stopping the production, they did engage the university’s Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies (TDPS) in an ongoing dialogue.

This led to TDPS co-sponsoring an interactive Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration October 8 at the university that included elders from many tribes speaking about their people’s history and hopes, poetry, dancing and demonstrations in making baskets and acorn mush, important elements of many California tribes’ cultures.

“We wanted to do something that would start atoning for the Ishi play, and that would create awareness that there are Native students on campus and in the community who are still here,” said Peter Nelson, Coast Miwok, a graduate student in anthropology and Coast Miwok.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Theater Apologizes for Ishi Play and Play Portrays Ishi as Rapist, Murderer.

Below:  "Julia Parker, Pomo/Coast Miwok, demonstrates to University of California, Berkeley students and community members how to make acorn mush." (Josh Hesslein)

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