The only Native American ever to win a Pulitzer Prize will be among the featured speakers at a conference on "Translating Native American Cultures," to be held on campus Thursday-Sunday, Feb. 5-8. The event is open to the public free of charge.
Subtitled "Representation, Aesthetics and Translation," the conference will examine some of the questions that scholars have been debating since the emergence of Native American studies as an academic field in the 1960s. These include: "How should Native American cultures be represented, and to what audiences?" "What needs to be taught about the diversity of tribal cultures in the Americas?" "What purpose does the study of this field serve for Native Americans and others?" And "How can identity and authenticity be defined and established?"
The conference -- organized by Jace Weaver, assistant professor of American studies and religious studies -- will include performances, panels, a poetry reading and a presentation by representatives of the Pequot and Mohegan nations. Each day will open and close with traditional ceremonies. All speakers and panelists will be Native Americans, representing a variety of tribal cultures including Pueblo, Osage, Muscogee, Sioux, Yupi'k, Choctaw, Apache and Mohawk.
The main topics of the conference will be explored in three academic panels. The first, focusing on language and translation, will be held on on Saturday, Feb. 7, at 9:30 a.m.; the second, on literature, will be held Saturday at 2:15 p.m.; and the third, on religious traditions, will take place on Sunday, Feb. 8, at 10 a.m. Unless otherwise indicated, all conference events will be held at the Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall St.
Among the highlights of the conference will be:
* A play titled "Princess Pocahantas and the Blue Spots" by Monique Mojica, to be performed on Thursday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m. and Friday, Feb. 6, at 8:30 p.m.
* A keynote address on Friday, Feb. 6, at 5 p.m. by Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, a member of the Sicangu Dakota nation and an emeritus professor at Eastern Washington University. Cook-Lynn is the founder and editor of Wicazo Sa Review, a journal on Native American studies. Her publications include the novel "From the River's Edge" and the collection of critical essays, "Why I Can't Read Wallace Stegner."
* The U.S. premiere of the film "Medicine River" by Thomas King, on Friday, Feb. 6, at 2:30 p.m. The film, based on King's comic novel of the same name, deals with issues of identity and cultural alienation among tribal cultures in western Canada.
* A talk on Saturday, Feb. 7, at 1:30 p.m. by N. Scott Momaday, a member of the Kiowa nation, who received the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for literature for his novel "House Made of Dawn." Momaday, who teaches English at the University of Arizona, has also been awarded the Premio Lettario Internazionale, Italy's highest literary honor. His other novels include "The Ancient Child," and "The Way to Rainy Mountain."
* An evening of Native American cultural events on Saturday, Feb. 7, at 8 p.m., at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, corner of Wall and High streets. The event will feature readings by Cook-Lynn, Momaday and Betty Bell, Ofelia Zepeda, Craig Womack and William Yellow Robe Jr.
* A presentation by representatives from Connecticut's Pequot and Mohegan nations on Sunday, Feb. 8,
at 9:30 a.m. The Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans are using the proceeds from their successful casinos to establish cultural centers and to support research on Native American cultures.
Concurrent with the conference, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and the Peabody Museum of Natural History will have special exhibitions dedicated to Native American cultures.