Muriel Miguel: A Retrospective

good evening, everyone. I’m Sarah dAngelo. I’m an assistant professor
in the Theater Arts and Performance
Studies Department. I begin this evening by
acknowledging and honoring First Peoples
first, the Wampanoag and the Narragansett people
the original stewards of this land, on which Brown
sits, and who are still here. I also want to acknowledge
the various departments and folks that have made this
event possible this evening– the Theater Arts and
Performance Studies Department, Jennifer Braga and
the Brown library, Native American Indigenous
Studies Program at Brown, and the staff at the Granoff. I also want to welcome Muriel
and Josephine, Muriel Miguel’s granddaughter and daughter who
have joined us this evening– Thank you so much–
both performers and cultural changers
in their own rights. And I thank you so much
for taking the time to come up and share
with us this evening. It’s really an honor
to have you here. Our guest this evening
is Muriel Miguel. She is joining us from the
Endowed Wilmoth Lecture Series. Muriel is of the Guna
and Rappahannock nations and is a founding member and
artistic director of the Spider Woman Theater, the
longest running feminist Native American theater
company in North America. She has directed and
co-written almost all of Spider Woman’s shows since
their first production, Women and Violence, which
performed in 1976. Since then, Spider Woman
Theater has produced over 20 original works. Muriel is a 2018
Doris Duke Artist and in 2016 was a John S
Guggenheim Foundation fellow. She received an honorary
doctorate in fine arts from Miami University
in Oxford, Ohio, which is the home of the Native
American Women Playwrights Archives. She was awarded the
Rauschenberg Residency in 2015. She is a member of the
National Theater conference and the southeastern
theater conference, where she received the 2019
distinguished career award. Muriel studied modern dance with
Alwin Nickolai, Eric Hawkins, and Jean Erdman. She was an original member of
Joseph Chaikin’s Open Theater, where she performed in
ground breaking works– Terminal, The Serpent,
Merubu, and Viet Rock. She is a choreographer,
director, and actor. As an actor, she was Mary
Deity in the off Broadway hit Taylor Mac’s Lilly’s Revenge. She created the role
of Philomena Wolf Tale in Rez Sisters by
Thompson Highway, a play that is a seminal work
in the development of a First Nations play
repertory in Canada. She played Aunt Shadie in the
Unnatural and Accidental Women by Marie Clements, and
spirit woman in Bones, an aboriginal dance opera. She has created one woman
show’s Hot and Soft, Trail of the Honor, and most
recently, Red Mother. Her latest project
is Misdemeanor Dream, which explores the real
and fantastical existence of native and First Nations
tricksters and spirits in the stories, languages, and
lives of indigenous people. She has received numerous awards
as a member of Spider Woman Theater. These include a retrospect
exhibit presented by the Smithsonian Museum
of the American Indian, a Lifetime Achievement Award
from the Women’s Caucus for the Art, and the Otto René
Castillo Award for political theater. Spider Woman Theater
received the first Honoring the Spirit Award for the
arts and entertainment from the American
Indian Community House. As an educator, Muriel
was an assistant professor of drama at Bard College. She taught and
directed an annual– excuse me– she taught
and directed annually at the Center for indigenous
Theater in Toronto and was the director for
their three week summer intensive program. She’s a pioneer
in the development of an indigenous
performance methodology and is active in the training of
indigenous actors and dancers. She was a program director
for the aboriginal dance program at the Banff Center
and an instructor there for seven years. Her work has been profiled in
numerous articles and essays, and her plays have appeared
in a host of anthologies and publications. Her work has not only influenced
native theater performance, but mainstream performance
theorists and scholars literally worldwide. It is a supreme honor
and personal pleasure to introduce Muriel Miguel. Please join me in welcoming her. [APPLAUSE] MURIEL MIGUEL: Hey, hi. Why don’t you come down further? Come on, please. So– oh, I’ll be right back. SPEAKER 1: No, no, stay there. Can you go into
the dressing room? MURIEL MIGUEL: I forgot my menu. SPEAKER 1: Oh, OK. Oh, it’s the dressing room. MURIEL MIGUEL: It’s
in the dressing home. SPEAKER 1: Thank you. MURIEL MIGUEL: So can we talk? A long time ago, my daughter
and I were at this place. And we had people like this. And we were talking
about theater. And thank you. And after we finished talking, a
voice from the back of the room said, well, who are you. And I realized at that
time that, if anything, indigenous people have protocol. And I made a huge mistake. My mistake was that I
didn’t introduce my daughter and myself like we should have. And who’s your aunt? Who is your grandmother? Who is your mother? All the way down the line. So that’s what I’m
going to do right now. [INAUDIBLE] my name
is Muriel Miguel. My name is Bright Sun. My name is [NON-ENGLISH]. I am from the star clan. I am Guna and Rappahannock. The Guna’s come from
off the coast of Panama. They have a sovereign
nation called Guna Yala. I am Rappahannock from Virginia
and the Powhatan nation and also– you won’t know it
until I say Pocahontas. And Pocahontas was part
of the Powhatan nation. And that’s the only thing
Disney did to help us. I mean, everyone knows
who Pocahontas is now. And I am an actress, a
director, used to be a dancer, before my operation. So I want to start talking
about this picture here. This picture is from
a Connecticut powwow in 1965, the first
powwow that ever happened in this East coast. And I’m not talking about,
now, pageants or anything. I mean, a real powwow. And this was the
native community coming out of New York City,
mostly from New York City. And all of these
are people that came to New York City and Brooklyn
from all over the country. A lot of these
families are still living in Brooklyn
and in New York. The young ones at the
bottom, that’s me. My father, my aunts, my
uncles, my mother, my sisters, they’re all in that picture. When I do these type
of talks, a lot of time I leave it there on the side. And young people will
come up, and they’ll find their grandmother
or grandfather in that. I think that’s so great that you
can find a relation in there. And there’s a lot
of Mohawks in there, because they came
down from Canada. They were everywhere. So that’s to me one of the
wonderful things about being native in New York City. My mother and father
met in Brooklyn. They married in Brooklyn. They had their
children in Brooklyn. So I am truly a city
Indian and proud of it. You learn different things
being a city Indian. And as we grew up, part of it
was that some of us wouldn’t– well, let’s put it like this. At the time, there
was a law that said that you could not
do any of your ceremonies. And so a lot of
people, especially from the West and Southwest,
didn’t know what to do. They had to pass
on this knowledge– these songs, these dances. And they came across country,
and my friends and I– we all lived next
door to each other. We would take anything. We would listen to anything. We would listen to the stories. We would learn the songs. We learned the dances. I can dance southerness and
northern because of that. And at that time, Thomas
Banyacya came to the house. They at that time really
had to pass this on. It was necessary
to pass this on. So we, as very young kids,
learned a lot of things that we should not
have even known. But we had to learn it. And as we got older, we became a
group called the Little Eagles. And we went into– well, the first
thing that happened was that we all got
in trouble because we were in public high school. And the social studies people
said that we were not alive and our culture was dead. And every one of us stood up
and said something about that. And we got into big trouble,
to the principal’s office and everything. And then we just decided
that we would go into schools and talk about who we were. And that’s what we did. And we were kids from all over. We were Iroquois. We were Guna. We were Hopi. We were Ho-Chunk. We were all these people. And at the same
time, our families, our parents were really excited
that we were doing this. So that’s a story of
being in Brooklyn. I grew up and I was a dancer. And then I was a modern dancer. And I still danced. I still did native dancing. But it was completely
separate from Modern dance. I wouldn’t talk about it. I wouldn’t say anything. I was undercover Indian. And that’s how it was
for a very long time until I got really, really
upset with all these people. And hearing how they talk about
native people was a bit much. So I became a dancer. And then I went into acting. And I met a man named Joe
Chaiken, that was open theater. And then I started
to really understand what I was doing in
theater and in dance. I a very crazy young person. And it always felt like
I was going upstream. Everyone was going downstream. There I was going upstream. And that’s hard to do. I did a dance about a trombone. I have no idea how
to play trombone, but I had a great time
working with a trombone. And then I worked for a
long time as an actress and toured and did all of that. And then one day the
director, Joe Chaiken, discovered storytelling. Now he really discovered it. There was nothing I could say. He discovered storytelling. And of course, I
understood storytelling. I understood storytelling
from the bottom of my feet all the way up. Yeah, I understood storytelling. And they would say that. They would say,
oh, Muriel, you’re such a great storyteller. And so I did that for a while. But I started to realize
that storytelling for us is very, very important. How we tell the stories
is very, very important. And I started to work with
different people telling stories. And then I realized
that stories don’t have to start from the beginning. They can start from the end. They can start from the middle. They can start any place. They can start from a word and
that storytelling to all of us native people was
quite different. The stories that you hear
under the kitchen table, how important it is to know that
story about your family, how your Aunt Mary met Uncle
Joe, why somebody didn’t get married, why this, why
that, how important that is, and important to the family, and
your attachment to the family and how that goes
on and is repeated– and so I started to really
look at storytelling from that perspective. And then I realized that a
story is not only a story. One story could have
five stories in it. And so I started to
work with the idea of, how do you make the
connections of those stories. So here are some of the ones
that I wanted to show you. So this is a New Haven powwow. And then I want to
introduce you to my family. And there’s my sister, Lisa. She was the oldest, my
sister Gloria, and me. You could tell I was going
to be a director then. My father– that’s my father
and my uncle playing the pipes from Guna Yala, my mother,
and a family portrait. And this is the Rappahannock
side of the family. And they wore turkey feathers. I started this
group, Spider Woman. And what’s so important
was that the people that were in Spider Woman
were very close to me and still part of my family. And with Spider Woman,
we did this piece. There was my very best
friend, and we put her on two wooden blocks. And she was
suspended in the air. What she did was finger weaving. And we dropped this piece of
finger weaving from the ceiling down so she could use it. And I had a river that
I played on the floor. And one side of the river was
a white woman, Lois weaver, and myself was on
the other side. And Lois told a story,
a dream that she had about making love to Jesus. And I told a story
about the sun dance and talking to a butterfly. And Josephine was up on
these two blocks, finger weaving, and telling the story
of Spider Woman, who is one of the big creation stories. And we started to
understand, listening to it, how you can breathe one word,
how you can say one word, and then all three
of you have it and then in times where
one of you is talking and then another
one will come in and how heavy the words
are, the depth of a word. And that was the first time
I ever really story weaved. And I started to
understand what I was trying to get from my head. And that was the first
one, and out of it– her name was Josephine
Mofsie Tarrant. And she passed away
and left five children. She was my best friend. And her youngest son
married my daughter. And out of it came
a granddaughter. So I always feel
that in this life, Josephine Mofsie Tarrant and
Muriel Miguel are grandparents together for this one daughter. But it’s all part of my kind of
theater when I talk about it. This is my theater. This is how I approach theater. There’s so much to talk about. So when Spider Woman
started it was really hard because we were all married
and we were all feminists. And here we were trying
to say something. And we had these
husbands that, if they went to baseball games or
anything, well, that was fine. But we wanted to do this. What’s wrong with you? So we fought this all the time. We all had children. And we fought it constantly. So then we started to
work, and we went on tour. We went to Baltimore. That was the first tour we had. And the piece that we did was
called Women and Violence. And Women and Violence was
really talking about abuse to women, women being battered. I remember meeting
Luis Valdez, and he was asked, who
would you ask to go to this very fancy
place in France, that was a festival going on. And he said, well, if you
don’t take Spider Woman, don’t take anybody. So I got this fancy
letter all in French, couldn’t speak French,
running around trying to get it translated,
and found out that we were invited to Nancy
And it’s a world festival. And so I borrowed money. I got out a loan. I had a benefit
at public theater in New York City, invited
people like Ellen Stewart to be an MC, Raul Julia to talk,
Jerry Ragni from Hair to talk. And I got money. I really made money
to go to Europe. And I got these Eurail passes. And so we all went
off to Europe. I don’t know. It’s really crazy. How could you do that? I mean, I got there and
all of a sudden realized, I’m responsible for nine women. And what do I say
if they disappear? Dear so-and-so’s mother. So I was really scared. But again, we polarized
all these theater people. We had fights outside the door. Men were hissing at us,
and women were fighting the men that were hissing. It was really remarkable. And at the same time they said,
oh, that’s something American. We don’t do that. We don’t beat up our women. What liars. And it was like just amazing. And we were invited
all over Europe. And we came back. We were supposed to go– I think, it was like
a couple of weeks. We came back. But maybe it was like
three or four months. And that was really
the beginning of our touring and working as
feminists in this kind of work that we wanted to do. And let’s see. And that was the first tour. So I would like to show you
some of the pieces of Women and Violence. And the Women and Violence
came out of how enraged I was walking down the street
and men whistling at me, walking down the street and
men saying dirty, awful things to me, how even, in the
so-called revolution of American Indian
Movement, we were treated like we were the luxuries. You could rape or you could do
whatever you wanted with her. You were a man. And I really realized that, if
I didn’t get away from this, I was going to really be hurt. And I was very
angry, and I was very angry about how the
young men were coming up, because they were being
taught by the older men. So I did this piece
called Women and Violence. And that was the first
piece that went to Europe. I wanted to be as rash and
as brash and as terrible as I could be. And what I found out
working in feminist theater that a lot of times it goes
on and on and on and on and on and on and on. And not only that, they
hit you over the head. You get hit over the head. You get hit over the head. You get hit over the head. And you don’t say
anything except, ow. And you have to
think about that. To have someone
listen to you, you have to give them more than ow. So I devised all kinds of jokes. I went around and
collected dirty jokes. I did all these things. And it wasn’t only me. I say I, but the whole group. We did all of this. And I was so beyond how men took
this that we were still nothing and how do you do
things like this. So it got worse for me. So public exposure– so we did a
whole thing on public exposure. So we did things like [SINGING] And what could happen? [LAUGHS] You go [SCREAMS]. You could do all these
things from something like [SINGING] that we made
this big strong, long dance and song. And this got bigger and bigger. [SINGING] Shocked everybody. They laughed very
hard, and then they were even more shocked
that they laughed at it. So then the dirty jokes
started to really come and really catching people
like, oh my god, I really laughed at that. How terrible. So that was Women and Violence. Yeah, Women and Violence. Ah, yes. This is me. This was my sister. She played the perfect woman. She was wearing this big wig,
and she put white face on. And I played– I didn’t realize at
that time– a trickster. I had this long tail. And we had a nun and
a homeless woman. And we were amazingly raggedy. We went from floor to floor
in a couple of buildings and picked through garbage to
get these wonderful outfits. And this is what we took
to Europe that the men were so upset about. We looked like hell. And each one of us
developed the character. And that’s what’s important
in this kind of theater, that some one of us– I have this idea. So how do you develop it? And each one of us went
home and worked on it and then came back and said, I
want a halo, an aluminum halo as the radical nun. And then she got a cartridge
belt that she wore. My oldest sister,
she asked someone to make a perfect figure
on black shirt and leotards that she was wearing. So she had this perfect figure. And then she made blue eye–
no one knew that she was brown. She covered
everything up and put on white face and blue eyes– and that’s what Trudeau
should have done– became the perfect woman. The other woman,
she really looked for all kinds of stuff that– she didn’t want to be beautiful,
and she wanted to be homeless. And so she just
collected and collected layers and layers of stuff. Is there another one? No? SPEAKER 1: Not in
Woman and Violence. MURIEL MIGUEL: That’s it. OK. So after we took Women
and Violence around, we kind of got bored of it. And so we thought we would
like to work on another piece. And the piece that we worked out
was called Lysistrata Numbah! And we talked about
sex power and control. And so we did things like
signed a pact that we would not make love to our husbands for
a month, very interesting, I guess. And it was very
interesting because it was the first time
a lot of us started to talk about coming
out as two spirit women. It was the first time. And some of us
didn’t understand it. Some of us had different
feelings about it. And so it took all of Lisa
Strata for us to figure it out. And I still didn’t understand
it when we closed Lisa Strata. But Lisa Strata, played by my
elder sister as a hula dancer– she said things like, now you
can go back to your husband, you can go back to your
home, and everything will be nicey-nice. And some of the women
said, but suppose we don’t want to do that. Suppose I want to
go back with her. What? Are you trying to mess
around with me, she said. And so all of that came
into a creation story that we start anew again. And there was a
big creations story that went into A Pretty
Girl is like a Melody. And that was the
first time of really– now we’re really into
dangerous ground, all of us, of who we are. And I don’t know. What do we have? I was doing a tango. This was discovering
all the holes in us. And there’s my oldest
sister as Lysistrata. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] – So it’s everything. Like theater is
really our lives. – (SINGING) A pretty girl. – My name is Lisa, and
I’ve arthritis on my knees. – My name is Pam, and I
have a rash on my ass. – My name is Gloria, and I
have a big sore on my belly. – And my name is Luis,
and I have rotten teeth. – My name is Naja. I have hair on my face. – My name is Muriel,
and I’m too fat. – She will leave you and
[INAUDIBLE] come back again. A pretty girl is
just like a melody. [APPLAUSE] [END PLAYBACK] MURIEL MIGUEL: Messier. Oh, the other
thing that we did– oh, I’ll be right back
to that in a second. The other thing we did
is that, in this group– really fascinating to me. They didn’t like it. I was fascinated
with this group. We were short, tall, fat,
divorced, married, mothers, gay, straight. We were all those things. And I thought it was wonderful. Unfortunately, nobody
really got along. But it was wonderful because it
was like putting something down like this and you
take your hands away and they go [SHOOTING SOUNDS]. And I loved that. So we did eventually break up. But more about that– so this is a piece that we did. And this was really scary
because we did cabaret. And the kind of cabaret– we were talking
about romance, and we called it An Evening of
Disgusting Songs and Pukey Images. And we sent up all this stuff. And one of the things that we
sent up was all those awful songs, Indian songs– boom,
boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom– and we set that off. And we really sent it up. And that’s what this is. We did awful things. We did totem poles and, I
mean, really awful things– in the land of dah-dah
lived the girl of oh ho ho, yada, yada, yada, umpa, umpa,
and we did suggestive gestures. And we came down from
all kinds of places. We came down from the rafters. We came in doors. And every one of these outfits,
we designed ourselves proudly. So we were asked to show this
at the American Indian community house. And all my mother’s old
friends were going to be there. And I was wearing something
that showed everything. And it was net and sparkly, but
you can still see my nipples. And my friend said,
you can’t do that. You can’t go out in
front of her like that. So she put Band-Aids on me. I went out with Band-Aids. But we were so scared
because we were doing these awful songs in
front of our whole community and dancing about it. But what was wonderful was
that the community understood what we were talking about. They understood why we
were singing these songs. And it was a confirmation. I understood why I
was scared, but I also understood that they understood. So do we have a– SPEAKER 1: No, we
don’t have video. MURIEL MIGUEL: We don’t
have a video of that. So we took An Evening of
Disgusting Songs and Pukey Images, we took that to Europe. And we were so
successful, we ended up staying more than six months. And when we came back, we
weren’t talking to each other. And you can understand why. I mean, it means awful hotels
in and on and off railroads. It was really hard. And if I wasn’t 14, I
couldn’t have done it. So one of the things
happened was that we really started, we split up. And so part of the group
wanted to have lesbian theater. Well, it’s hard to have
lesbian theater if you don’t have lesbians in the group. We had two lesbians. And I wasn’t out then yet. So it was so hard for
my sisters because they didn’t understand what the
other women were talking about. They were older. They were older women. And they didn’t understand it. So we split up. And they became
Split Britches, which is another wonderful,
wonderful group that’s around. And we stayed Spider Woman. And then like a whole
bunch of us came out. But also, at the same
time, a Split Britches wrote a story about Split
Britches and her family. And we wrote about our family,
Sun, Moon, and Feather. And I think we have a
Sun, Moon, and Feather [VIDEO PLAYBACK] MURIEL MIGUEL: Yeah, OK. So this is one of the stories
called “The Boat Story.” That’s me. – Every summer my family
went to the beach. We had a big, beautiful
red and white bungalow on a beautiful beach
by a beautiful day. – Cedar Beach was
an old bungalow on a dirty beach of
a dirty polluted bay. – There was a fish house. And twice a day, there
was a god awful odor. – My father bought a big,
beautiful red and white boat with a great big windshield
and a great big motor. – That boat was just a little
bit bigger than a rowboat. And it had a motor in
it that never worked. – My father would stand
at the helm of that boat with his brown safari hat
on and his wooden staff. And he’d look out
over the ocean. He was going to
sail the seven seas. The only trouble was– – –it never went
into the water. – It just stayed
in the back yard. And every summer my father would
paint it, caulk it, pet it, hose it down, and
then all our family and all our friends would
come and we would push it to the other side of the yard. – And then we would oppose
by it, on it, and under it. And daddy and Uncle Joe with
dad at the helm and pretend. – And then next summer my
father would paint it, caulk it, and pet it, hose it down. And then all our family and all
our friends would get together and we push it to the
other side of the yard. And then we would pose by
it, on it, and under it. – And daddy and Uncle Joe would
stand at the helm and pretend. And the next summer my father
would paint it and caulk it and pet it and hose it down. And all our friends
and relatives would push it to the
other side of the yard. – And then one summer it was
ready to go into the water. My mother gave a
party to make punch, potato salad, and sandwiches. And all our friends
and relatives pushed it into the water. – It started to take on water. It was like a sieve. We had to bail out the water. – And then it sunk. Then daddy said, oh
well, next summer. [END PLAYBACK] MURIEL MIGUEL: And that was
called Sun Moon, and Feather, and that is part
of our native names that we used to do that piece. When we did this
piece in Canada, what was so amazing was– we have another piece in
it called Daddy’s Drunk, and so many native people
gathered around us and started telling their war stories to us. And every one of
us go ha, ha, ha. And then we looked
out, and we realized the outer circle of people
that were not native were standing there in horror. And here we are
laughing about it. But that’s what makes our
story so strong for us, that the deadliest
stories can be shared and how we share them. So that story about
the boat is certainly from how our family looked at
this boat, this wonderful boat that never went into the water. And there was something else
I want to say about that. Oh, yeah, so we went to Canada. And we did it at Harbor Front. And these three little
girls, after we came down, one came up and said,
hello, I’m Elizabeth. Another one said, I’m Gloria. Another one said, I’m Muriel. And their mother said,
this is the first time they’ve ever seen women of
their color and who they are, that they’re native
women on stage. And they’re so excited. And I was like, oh my gosh. And that was the first
time– we were so busy trying to keep our
heads above water that we never realized
that we were role models. It didn’t occur to me. I never thought of it that way. I was trying to make
food for the table and trying to spread the word. But I never thought of
myself as a role model. And then one of the chiefs
that we knew– well, I knew since I was a kid,
[? Oren ?] [? Lines– ?] talked to us about working
on another piece. And then we decided that
we had to be all native. It was really important
to be all native, that what we were saying we
had to bring out and bring it forward. So we did the boat story. So one of the things
that Oren said was that there
were so many people stealing, trying to steal
our religion, our thoughts. And what are we
going to do about it? So I read a book by a
man called Karl May, who did this thing called Winnetou. And he made it into a film. He did all these things. And it’s about this white
man who he’s German, who is better than the
Indian, so much better. And he could do anything. Not only that, but he has
a sister that’s beautiful, a man called Winnetou. You know why she’s beautiful? Because she looks
like a white woman. So I started
thinking about that. And one of the
first things we did was make beautiful costumes. And we got lame. And we got shoes
to match the lame. We got funny looking braids. And we did this piece
called Winnetou Snake Oil Show for Wigwam City. And this next piece
Isn’t that gorgeous? – I used to be a white woman. It’s true. I was Irish, German. I was Scandinavian. And then one day, I
woke up and my skin turned beige and my
cheekbones got higher. And I became a shamaness. Thank God I’m a shamaness. Uh! Oh. There’s this vision I
must share with you. I was in the subway on the
platform waiting for the F train when all of a sudden I
heard the sound oh, oh, oh, and the whole world
started to recede. I looked up and coming
towards was this white light. No it was not the F train. It was a white buffalo. And seated that on top
of that white Buffalo was a noble savage naked,
save for his loincloth. His skin was the color of
sunset bronze with just a [SNAP] of gold. His hair, his hair was the color
of Lady Clairol number 154. [INAUDIBLE] And he wore
his braids down to here. Interlaced in those braids
was rattlesnake skin. And growing out of his
scalp was an eagle feather, signifying he was a chief. I’m a shamaness. He’s a chief. It’s true. I’m a shamaness. It’s true. Ooh, ooh, ooh! From under his noble brow
were these cold black eyes. And I could feel the energy
going zip zip, zap, zap, zip. Those cold, black eyes
were burning like coals. And those eyes seared my
skin and pierced my heart. His lips were moving. They were the color
of choke cherries. What did you say? Please, please say it again. What? Say it again. What? He was talking to you,
because I’m a shamaness. It’s true. Come on. [INAUDIBLE] Oh! Wa! I’m channeling. I’m a shamaness. [SHOUTS] (SINGING) Your cheating
heart will tell on you. You’ll cry and cry the
whole night trhough. The tears will come. (TOGETHER) [INAUDIBLE]
Indian Snake Oil. – Two weeks ago, that
woman was nothing but a blind, old white woman. But after taking one good sip
of our [INAUDIBLE] Indian Snake Oil, she now has a Cherokee
grandmother with black braids down to here. [INAUDIBLE] Indian The
Plastic Powwow Workshop. Welcome, welcome to our
Plastic Powwow Workshop, where you can get a package
of two days and three nights plus a coupon worth a
$100 towards the purchase a [INAUDIBLE] Indian Snake Oil. [SHOUTS] [END PLAYBACK] [LAUGHS] MURIEL MIGUEL: So we went on. And one of the
things was that we talked about our father a lot. But we didn’t talk about my
mother, who unfortunately– no, I shouldn’t say unfortunately. She was a psychic,
unfortunate for me. I could never lie to her. How can you have a mother
that you can’t lie to? Boyfriends would come in and
she’d touch them and say, oh, that’s funny. Who needs that? So we did this in
honor of our mother. It’s called Reverberations. And we did it with a hammock. And on the hammock,
we put a big cow bell. And we had a big drum. It was the first time
we had a big drum. We got one of the guys
to teach us a song. It was really amazing
how going back and bringing my mother
forward and starting to understand what she
was trying to say to us and how she said it. For me, it was very
hard because I realized I was so ashamed of her. I was so ashamed that she
wore very long skirts. She was called, in the Italian
neighborhood that we grew up in, strega, witch, because
she was really good at reading tea leaves and coffee grinds. She was really good at this. And the women came to her, but
then they would call her names behind her back. And it was in this
piece I started to realize the
strength of my mother and the strength of how she
used and taught us in a way how to use that feelings that
we have, how to express it. And I don’t know. Do we have a piece from that? SPEAKER 1: Yes. MURIEL MIGUEL: I
don’t know where. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] [SINGING] – I had this tiny,
tiny apartment. And out the kitchen
window I could see one yard, another
yard, and my family’s house and their yard. Sometimes when I would look out
of that window, over the first, and second, and
my family’s yard, I would see my family, sometimes
my mother, my Uncle Frank, my Aunt Aida. They’d be sitting in this
chair by the shed staring out over the yard. [CHANTING] They’d be sitting there by quiet
just staring out over the yard. What do you see? Do you see grandma? Do you see grandpa? Uncle Davi? Someday I will look
out, and I will see you sitting in that
chair by the shed looking out over the yard. And you will not be there. [CHANTING] I sit in this chair. I look. What do I see? Daffodils, pussy willows,
a string of colored lights. When you are gone,
what will I see? I sit in a chair by the shed. I’m staring out over the yard. My daughter looks down at me. Mom, what do you see? Someday I will see you sitting
there in the chair by the shed. And you will not
be there anymore. [END PLAYBACK] MURIEL MIGUEL: So that is
Reverberations and talking about the family and
how it’s passed down, always passed them. And all of us, all
of us have that. So I started to work
with other women at a place called
Banff in Canada. And I remember us
really feeling so dissatisfied with just doing
ballet and nothing meaning anything to us. So I was walking
with these two women. And I said, what
would you like to do. What kind of dance
would you like to do? And we were just three
walking along the path. And one said, I’d like
to talk about the feel about having a baby. Another one said, I want to
jingle dance to Tina Turner. And so I started
writing, and I started to write about
spirits and people coming down from someplace
else and sending things down. And I wrote this piece. It’s called Throw Away Kids. I also wrote it
because, at that time, there were three
things happening. One was that babies were
being found in those big trash cans I forget the name of. And that was one thing
that was happening. The other thing was that a
young baby on a reservation– and we knew everybody
on the reservation– the baby died. And I watched the
young parents, and I felt how the feeling of
these young parents of how it could be to lose a child. And it was really
heavy on the rez. And the other
thing was happening that Miss America did this
dance in a little French thing and fake braids. And she had a pipe, and she
did this dance about death. And she did this
dance about where some people burned their dead. And she did this modern dance
around it with her blonde hair. And I was just beyond myself
that this could happen. And at the same time this
was happening on the rez, at the same time this was
happening someplace else, that kids could be thrown away. I could see how hard it was
for all those young parents. And then this woman’s trying
to make Miss America out of doing this dance around
what they call pyres. So I went back and
I wrote this piece. And I like to use
all the modern stuff. And why not? Why can’t we use the modern
stuff like everyone else and just put it into
where it is for us? So this piece is from that. Am I right? [VIDEO PLAYBACK] [PANTING] [SHOUTING] [SHOUTING] [MUSIC – THE SUPREMES, “BABY
LOVE] – She landed a long,
long, long time ago. – (SINGING) Baby love,
my baby love, I need you, oh, how I need you. But all you do is treat
me bad, break my heart and leave me sad. [SHOUTING] – Cosmos mister. – (SINGING) Tell
me what did I do wrong to make you
stay away so long, because baby love, my baby
love, been missing ya, miss kissing ya. Instead of breaking
up, let’s start some kissing and making up. Don’t throw our love away. In my arms why don’t you stay? Need ya, need ya, baby love. – She was small. She was large. She was smooth. She was rough. She was beautiful. She was beautiful. She was not beautiful. A long, long, long, long,
long, long time ago. – (SINGING) Baby love. Baby love, my baby love, why
must we separate my love? All of my whole life through,
I never love no one but you. Why you do me like you do? I guess this need. Ooh, ooh. Need to hold you,
once again, my love, feel your warm embrace, my love. Don’t throw our love away. Please don’t do me this way. Not happy like I used to be. Loneliness has got the best
of me, my love, my baby love. I need you, oh, how I need you. Why you do me like you do
after I’ve been true to you? So deep in love with you. Baby, baby, baby,
ooh, Till it hurt me. Till it hurt me. Ooh, baby. [END PLAYBACK] MURIEL MIGUEL: And that
was Throw Away Kids. So I went back to Banff. And what happened
was I was working with this woman, Uta
Birnbaum and they brought in all of these
various native people from around Canada. And she was from Germany. She was from the
Berlin Ensemble. And we were going to look,
these Indians, well, we were going to look at justice. The only trouble was
that justice was not there because Uta
refused to let us go. We couldn’t talk about it. She wanted to direct it. want So someone said to me,
well, what’s going on. Is it exciting? And I said, well, it’s kind of
like an Indian making believe they’re German. That’s what it was. We were making believe
we were German. And I fought for
everything after that. She wanted me to do
one of the pieces. And I had to fight for my high
tops, my beaded high tops. I had to fight for that. I had to fight for the skirt. I was determined that this was
going to be a native woman. And so I did it. And I still was feeling like
this is not really what I want, not really what I
wanted to explore. So I started to think about all
the women in our lives that we don’t– is that same shame, the
prostitutes, the drunkards, the dope addicts, the women
that left their children. So what are they? Who are they? What did they mean to us? And how can you be so
changed in the way yet love? How can you pull
something from that child that you want but never
let go of that child? All of this was the stuff
that I was thinking about. So I wrote this piece. And it’s loosely based on– what’s his name? Deborah. SPEAKER 1: Brecht. MURIEL MIGUEL: Brecht. Thank you. It’s loosely based on Brecht. And I called it Red Mother. And well, this is a piece
of Red Mother, right? SPEAKER 1: Yeah. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] – All right. I’m taking it off. MURIEL MIGUEL: That’s
my whole my horse. – My horse. [EXPLOSIONS] Come on, Fred, Fred. Come on. We’re going to get killed, Fred. Come on. Come on. Oh, we’ll pick this up later. We’ll leave it. Come on. Come on. Come on. This is my horse, Blue Fred. Now you may ask, why Fred. Well, you see, I
heard [? Ofbaba ?] calling for his son
across the prairie, Fred. It sounded like a
shooting star, Fred. Now Fred here used to be white. But as luck would have it,
fortunately or unfortunately, Fred got into some
moccasin weed. Now that stuff just
tears up your stomach. Forget about the noise and the
smell and the trail of shit. So here we were,
sneaking along the trail. And Fred here was farting and
stinking and leaving a trail of shit, a trail of shit. And I said, Fred,
you’re going to have to do something about this noise
or I’ll have to do something. And he didn’t. So I took a corn cob, and
I shove it up his ass. Fred turned blue but quiet. [END PLAYBACK] MURIEL MIGUEL: So
that was red mother. By the way, it was
directed by my daughter. And talking about
that, we really come from a family of theater people,
from my father doing snake oil shows. And we were show biz Indians
when I was growing up. And then you know we started
to really do theater. And every one of us, I think– I have Muriel Tarrant. That’s my daughter,
that has developed into a really wonderful writer. And I think that’s
great, an actress. And I have a granddaughter
who has a great voice and is also acting. My sister Gloria
has a daughter who is a great actress, very good. And she has a son who
is a Tribe Called Red. Does anyone know a
Tribe Called Red? Well, that’s Bear. That’s my nephew. So I mean, that’s
a lot of people, a lot of people that we– and I think this
is part of it, is that we hope that this legacy
will go on, that there will be generations or more
generations of us and that we will
make a mark somehow, somewhere on these dirty
roads and crazy places. So this is the
last one, I think. Is it? SPEAKER 1: Well, let’s see. Jen, can we do one more? MURIEL MIGUEL: What? Are you OK? SPEAKER 2: Yes, I’m fine. MURIEL MIGUEL: Did you
wave your hand yet? SPEAKER 2: Fine. Do one more. MURIEL MIGUEL: One more, OK. Oh, no, it’s two more. Is that right? So one of the things I wanted
to talk about was that– [STOMP] oh, was that spirit? Is that a piece that I worked
on with a bunch of women called Material Witness. And I realized that 40
something years ago, we worked on Women and Violence
and how we are 42 years later. And not much has changed
for native women. And surrounding us are
all the things that– Idle No More, not Idle No
More, me too, and all of this– has helped of the women. But we are still being abused. We are still disappearing. We are still being murdered. I mean, babies are disappearing. It’s amazing. So I went back to
the old pieces that I did for Women and Violence. And I invited other
people to work with us. And we came up– is this
Material Witness now? Yeah? SPEAKER 1: Yes. MURIEL MIGUEL: We came up with
this called Material Witness. And we’ve been
traveling into the mouth of the lion, so to speak. We have been in
Canada, where all these different places,
Sault St. Marie and Thunder Bay, where there’s been
heavy, heavy trafficking. And we did this piece. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] [SHOUTING] – I started to run. And I ran. I ran till I got
to a police house. And I said to Emily. – I hate him. – I hate him. – I hate him. – I hate him. – I hate him. – I hate him. And Emily said me, what
did you do to him, Gloria? – I hate him. – What did you do
to him, Gloria? What did you do to him? What did you go? [SHOUTING] [MUSIC PLAYING] [LAUGHS] – Hey, you ever see mothballs? – Yeah. – Well, how’d you get
between their little legs? [LAUGHS] – Because they’re little. – I know. I get it. – Do you guys have
holes in your panties? – No. – Well, how do you put them on? [LAUGHS] [INTERPOSING VOICES] – I got one. I got one. Why did the chicken
cross the road? – Why? – To go visit the idiot. Knock knock. – Who’s there? – Who’s there? – Who’s there? – The chicken. Because I’m the chicken. And you’re the idiot. And I was knocking. – It’s offensive. – 10, 9, 8, and there he
was, right in back of me. – I turned the key slowly. – 99, 98. – And there he was,
right in back of me. – 100. – 10. – 99. – I turned the key slowly. And there he was,
right in back of me. – It was a beautiful, sunny
day, and I was walking home with my laundry. – I turned the key slowly. And there he was
right in back of me. – I was doing my laundry. I was doing my laundry. 100, 99, 98, 97, 97, 96, 95. It was a beautiful, sunny day. And I was doing my laundry. I was walking up the
steps to my apartment. Someone goes around me, careful. A man jumps down off the
steps and back of me. Don’t turn around. I feel something
sticking in my ribs. I have a gun. Open the door. Even if I scream, no
one would hear me. No one is home. I get a second feeling as I turn
my key and the lock pushes me me in, grabs me by the
wrist and starts dragging me all around the apartment. That’s when I realized
it wasn’t a gun. It was a big, fucking
hunting knife. – It wasn’t a gun. It was a big, fucking
hunting knife. – Where’s the money? Where’s the drugs? He’s pushing the place apart. He makes me kneel. I’m a Sac and Fox woman. He makes me kneel? Oh, that really pisses me off. I start looking for
my opportunities. He let’s go on my wrist. He turns his back on me. And that’s when I grab my
big, heavy glass piggy bank and I klack him with it and
make a dash for the door. I go down. I see the flash of
the hunting knife. He grabs me by the throat. This is it. This is it. I look him right
my face and I go. I can’t breathe. – I can’t breathe. He let’s go of me. He says, go in the bathrom
and count to 100 slow. And I won’t hurt you. 99, 98, 97. My hand closes around a
bottle of Lysol spray, and I snap off the lights. – 97. – 97, 96, 95. And that’s when I realized that
I would rather fight and die than live as a victim. [SCREAMS] [END PLAYBACK] MURIEL MIGUEL: OK
and then I want to talk about legacy
just for a moment. And I want to show this. It’s called I understand. And I mean, what
do we leave behind? How do we leave it behind? And it’s a thought
that, now that I’m older, I really think
about it, really sincerely think about it. Like, what is legacy? And what do we as native
people want to leave behind? And how do we leave it behind? So I want to show this. This is the last one. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] – (SINGING) I feel like an eagle
in the air, a long, long way from home, a long,
long way from home. – We got back eons
and eons and eons. Where you place
your hand, your foot is padded with
generations of us. We come from a long, long, long
ago just to be here with you. – I didn’t understand that. – I understand. – But she understands now. [SINGING] – My family, my nation,
my creator, my life, sing for the next generations. [SINGING] [END PLAYBACK] MURIEL MIGUEL:
That’s all I have. [APPLAUSE] Thank you. Thank you very much. [SHOUTS] SARAH DANGELO: We
have for you, Muriel. I like to call up the Native
Americans at Brown [? Art ?] Student Association. And they have a gift for you. MURIEL MIGUEL: Oh. SPEAKER 3: [INAUDIBLE] MURIEL MIGUEL: Oh, thank you. Thank you, ladies. SPEAKER 3: [INAUDIBLE] MURIEL MIGUEL: Thank you. Thank you. Oh, that’s beautiful. That’s beautiful. Now what? SARAH DANGELO: Q&A? Does anybody have questions? SPEAKER 1: [INAUDIBLE]. SARAH DANGELO: Yeah, so
we have some refreshments out in the hallway. Is that where they are? SPEAKER 1: Yes. SARAH DANGELO: What if we go
out and have some refreshments? MURIEL MIGUEL: You don’t get any
if you don’t ask me a question. [APPLAUSE]

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