Narcisse Blood was killed in a car accident not long ago. He was a center post for many innovations and creations and it has taken a while for people to begin to pick up the threads and begin again. Justin Many Fingers is a performance artist and dancer from the Blood Reserve of the Kainai, north of Montana in Alberta. It is a place that has been sheltered from whites, which has protected the aboriginal heritage but also given the People a secure base from which to operate in the larger world. Justin is an example of that.
Another factor is readiness to work with worldwide indigenous peoples. Darrell Kipp, also gone now, was much empowered by this force since the Hawaiians and the New Zealand Maori had done a lot of work with language restoration and were happy to share. I first met Narcisse at a Piegan Institute sponsored conference. These People are “reconciliation” People who wish to preserve and energize the old ways, but not punish the present. Inclusion and transformation are the values.
Justin appeared at the Valier library with a posse of Blackfoot folks that included Beverly Hungry Wolf whom I know from the Sixties when she was married to Adolf Hungry Wolf. Their daughter Star had recommended that they stop on a research visit to the location of the “Baker Massacre.” The couple raised their children 19th century style in a log cabin with a creek for a water source and a photovoltaic sheet for electricity to run Adolf’s laptop. Their children, now adult, have moved on to good jobs in the cities. The Hungry Wolfs divorced and Beverly is remarried, teaching at one of the tribal colleges. Everything moves on.
Justin has been active in many contexts and now is about to take on management duties. This is his self-description on “Linked-in”:
“I’m 28 years 5 months. My address is my suitcase and a back pack.
I live for the arts, as long as I have food in my tummy, a pillow under my head, and a studio to create, I'm all good.
“I love traveling and making new friends and family.
“I am I bit crazy because I like to live life without any limitations, I live to push beyond them.”
Troy Emery Twigg and Cherish Violet Blood were with this group. They had worked together on a production called “Making Treaty 7,” a previous key work. (Treaty 7 is the Canadian Blackfoot treaty.) I’m quoting from the website, "makingtreaty7.com".
“The board and staff of Making Treaty 7 are deeply mourning the tragic loss of ELK SHADOW / PONA KO’TAKSI, also known as Michael Green, and MIDDLE BULL / TATSIKIISTAMIK, also known as Narcisse Blood. Elk Shadow was the founder and visionary behind the Making Treaty 7 project. We celebrate his commitment to a shared belief that “WE ARE ALL TREATY PEOPLE”. We are committed to ensuring that his spirit will live on. Elk Shadow, One of Long Vision, had no boundaries and could not see color. He was an inspiration to everyone he touched. “This is the most rewarding and electrified piece of art that I have ever created in over 30 years,” he told us, “and to have, through this process, through the Sundance, been blessed with a spiritual awakening is a gift I could never have expected.” Middle Bull was the Cultural and Spiritual Advisor to Making Treaty 7. He was the Grandfather to the cast and crew; he was the walking encyclopedia of our language, our culture and our history. Together, Middle Bull and Elk Shadow brought First Nations and non-First Nations together. They were the heart and soul of Making Treaty 7. Narcisse will be truly missed within our spiritual circles.”
Justin played the historical character Champlain in a production called Wisakedjak, which “is not just entertainment, it is the embodiment of sacred teachings.” “To get to the essence of this half human, half spirit being, whose escapades have been passed on through an oral and nomadic tradition, is like being played by the trickster himself. He is a shapeshifter, the original rebel without a cause, a stranger in a strange land, the manifestation of our hubris as well as its antidote.”
In terms of comparative religion, Wisakedjak is NOT Napi or Jesus or Starboy, but he occupies the same niche as an interlocutor between realms, including those of cultures. Champlain with his 17th century big hat, long jacket, and writing plume is clueless. (For more, go to “Troutinplaid.com.”)
As clueless as the drunken Major Baker of the US Cavalry who bore down on the peace camp of HeavyRunner and massacred women, old people, and children -- the men had gone to hunt. One can read similar stories in the newspaper every day, but the people -- who are roughly the same color as American indigenous folks -- are in Eurasia. Carol Murray, local Blackfeet historian, was the guide. For many years since the location of the camp she and her husband, John, have organized annual commemorations. If the road is passable, that is, since it happened in the middle of winter.
There are many accounts, some written and many more told by survivors only in their families. There was great fear of retaliation on both sides. In fact, it was used to justify the suppression of ceremonies, the language, and newly forming organizations of every kind, including the young educated men who wanted only discussion of ideas.
Now the discussion can happen freely and this group is leading it. So much is just beneath the surface if we aren’t afraid to access it. Canada has been much better about funding and supporting the arts and they are the better for it. Many of our best Native American actors, like Graham Greene and Tantoo Cardinal were trained by Canadian companies. They have resisted the commercialized entitlement wars that try to “own” cultures, wasting energy on suppressing others, American style.
Iitahpoyii de Troy Emery Twigg @ Studio 303 on Vimeo. This is Justin dancing on vid. I hope you can find it. Yosemite hides links, at least from me. vimeo.com › Studio 303 › Studio 303’s VideosVimeo