If you can reach back to a time when you laid on your back and marveled at the sky and how quickly the clouds change and cover you in shade, the vastness of the sky above, or remember your first firefly, or the gift of holding a baby chick, the times you discovered the world around you, surrounded you and simply filled you with wonder.
A poem, a simple poem did that for me one afternoon as I listened to Angela Helmig read a poem in the setting it was written to depict. The flowing water seemed to rush by, but as she described a leaf on the water, I could see it and then as suddenly I could no longer see it. As her poem about water ends, I simply became that water.
There are magical places and one afternoon I heard a woman tell about when she was a little girl how her family would all go to Tar Creek to swim. I could see them there, I could see the joy water can bring in her eyes as she remembered.
I am the creek, we all are. We all can be. Those moments on the creek with Angela Helmig happened because Glenna Wallace had a vision. That vision was to capture the part of us that makes us Native, that thing that is our culture. Our culture is not our "Indian card" it is the stuff we do, what we make, how we do it, how we gather from our environment the pieces we need to use that our people were taught by their people to do. Culture is not always valued, but it is the stuff people study when our things are discovered 'neath some random earthen mound that sometimes stops the bulldozer long enough to remove a broken pot, a woven item, the things we left behind that told of what we did and who we might have been.
Glenna Wallace, Chief of the Eastern Shawnee believed our tribal cultures are alive and being lived by tribal people in Ottawa County, lived quietly by humble people, none seeking to be discovered, each carrying forward or finding anew the slivers of what our ancestors born to us. How do you capture those movements of the clouds you saw as a child? You seek out someone who can link the stories of place to people and that is how Chief Wallace came to draw Meredith Ludwig to believe in her dream. During the thirty years she taught at Crowder College, she had heard Meredith speak story to past, engagingly, because if you are capturing culture you have to have someone who doesn't try to put fireflies in a jar, but will muster other ways to gift the future with the talents that are present now.
With the structure of an ANA Grant, Cultural Tourism in a Nine Tribe County and a 3 year timeline in the midst of the COVID shutdown, Meredith has done it, and reached out to a lifelong friend Suzanne Carter to come with her video skills. It was these 2 women who valued Tar Creek this week and brought poetry to life there. First a Slam by Michael Scruggs, then hearing the true way words can change into art as Angela spoke of water in the last words In her poem,
Open to the sea
Become one with her
Aloud, the words with the water flowing as it was, I too became one with the water and more committed to speak for Tar Creek and gather the people who speak for the creek. And Filo Gomez Martinez, the Ayuuk from Quetzaltepec, he heard and filmed misty-eyed grown men who long for justice and clean water.
The list is long, the tribes are all represented, each telling their stories and many artists like Patty Harjo-Shinn tapped to demonstrate beading, quill work and birch bark basketry. What about Richard Zane Smith's pottery, and of course an inquisitive puppet, how to tap maple trees and make syrup, language, songs. These are our people and they are showing us and the world of tourists way into the future what culture looks like and who is living it.
When you have the vision like this, and the staff to engage and endear the reluctant talent living among us, fireflies don't even know they are captured, they are gently kept for those moments then released unharmed, yet leaving a legacy for the future, say it is for tourists. But it is for us, our grandchildren who will never know these fireflies, but they will see the culture in motion, hear it and learn the past is present for them.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim
The Film Catchers made better with the help from Dana Jim, the apprentice Boom Operator.