Friday, September 24, 2010

Five Tribes Museum Storyteller Conference...

Finally I have time to give some reflections on the "5 Tribes Story Conference" being held at the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee, Oklahoma. This was the first of what is hope to be many conference hosted by the museum with the intention of offering advice and direction for the many forms of storytelling with an emphasis on the history of the so called Five Civilized Tribes.
I was initially contacted by Reuben Noah, the Manager of Collections at the museum for a contribution to be included in an exhibit that provided some history of Indian Territory Freedmen. The fact that Reuben understood the importance of including people of African and African-Native descent in the story of the five tribes was a welcomed change in the way our story has been missing from the story of the five tribes.

Given an opportunity to share of story of a shared history was important to the founding members of the newly formed organization; Indian Territory & Oklahoma Freedmen Hstorical Association and we decided that not only would we contribute to this historical effort, we wanted to have several of our members in attendance during the conference to support this important recognition of African descendant people on the historical map of Indian Territory.

It was through the urging of Joyce Shelton-Settles and Carlotta Kemp-Wheeler that two of the other six founding members were able to join them in attending this first conference dedicated to storytellers of our shared history. Although the freedmen would not have an active role to play in presenting their oral tradition at the conference we will urge the board of directors of the museum to give serious consideration to our input and participation in future events.

 One of the themes that resonated with me was the talk given by Tim Tingle when he urged the those in the audience who desired to be storytellers that they understand the "freeddom to tell the truth." It has been my mission to bring the truth about the story of African and African-Native people to a wider public and by doing so I hoped to stimulate more interest and thought about the plight and inter-personal relationships of black and red people.  By doing so I understood that for some people the truth about slavery and the five tribes it could make some people uncomfortable. However, I was gratified to hear Mr. Tingle also state that if everyone left this conference "happy" as a storyteller we would not "change a thing." Clearly Tim is correct in this sentiment, the story of the enslaved African among the five tribes is not a happy story but we must tell their story because it is very much a part of Indian Territory and the history of the five tribes.

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