Yale to Host Conference on Native American Studies
Since the emergence of Native American Studies as an academic field in the 1960s, scholars have debated how to represent Native cultures to various audiences. What needs to be taught about the diversity of Native cultures in the Americas? What purpose does the study of this area serve for Natives and non-Natives? How can identity and authenticity be defined and established?
Yale University will bring together a distinguished group of scholars to discuss these and related issues at the first major conference nationwide on Native American Studies in 25 years. Titled “Translating Native American Cultures: Representation, Aesthetics, and Translation,” the conference will be held Feb. 5-8, in the Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall St. Sessions are open to the public, free of charge.
Organized by Jace Weaver, assistance professor of American Studies and Religious Studies at Yale, the conference 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 cultures including Pueblo, Osage, Muscogee, Sioux, Yupi’k, Choctaw, Apache and Mohawk.
Elizabeth Cook-Lynn will deliver a keynote address on Friday, Feb. 6, at 5 p.m. Cook-Lynn, a member of the Sicangu Dakota nation, is an emeritus professor at Eastern Washington University and 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 a collection of critical essays titled “Why I Can’t Read Wallace Stegner.”
N. Scott Momaday will speak on Saturday, Feb. 7, at 1:30 p.m. Momaday, a member of the Kiowa nation, is the only Native American ever to receive the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Literature, which he won for his novel, “House Made of Dawn.” He 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.” He teaches English at the University of Arizona.
The main topics of the conference will be explored in three academic panels. The first, on Saturday, Feb. 7 at 9:30 a.m., will focus on language and translation. The second will be the same afternoon at 2:15 p.m. on literature; and the concluding session will be on Sunday, Feb. 8, at 10 a.m. on religious traditions.
“Princess Pocahantas and the Blue Spots,” a play by Monique Mojica, will be performed on Thursday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m. and Friday, Feb. 6, at 8:30 p.m.
“Medicine River,” a film by Thomas King, will have its U.S. premier 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 Natives in Western Canada.
On Saturday, Feb. 7, at 8 p.m., Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library will host a cultural evening, featuring readings by Cook-Lynn, Betty Bell, Ofelia Zepeda, Craig Womack, William Yellow Robe Jr. and Momaday.
Representatives from Connecticut’s Pequot and Mohegan Nations will speak on Sunday, Feb. 8, at 9:30 a.m. The Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans are using the proceeds from their highly successful casinos to establish cultural centers and to support research on Native cultures.
Concurrent with the conference, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and the Peabody Museum will have special exhibitions dedicated to Native American cultures.