Biographies of Native Americans presenting at Native Balance
Jesse Bruchac, Abenaki
A graduate of Goddard College, where his thesis was the creation of a syllabus for teaching the Abenaki language, Jesse Bruchac has worked extensively over the past 15 years in projects involving the preservation of the Abenaki language, music, and traditional culture. A musician whose specialty is the native flute, he is the founder of the Dawn Land Singers and has performed American Indian music at festivals and in concert throughout the United States, in Canada, and in several European nations. He performed at Woodstock 2 and as the opening act for The Grateful Dead at Highgate, VT. A professional Web site designer, he is the creator and webmaster of www.westernabenaki.com and the Greenfield Review Literary Center's site focusing on American Indian writers, www.nativeauthors.com. His recordings include the CDs Alnobak, Songs of the Wabanaki and Pabekongan: Flute Songs. His original music has been used in the soundtracks of more than a dozen films, including Adirondack Blue and Source to the Sea.
He and his wife, Jessica, live in western New York with their two small children, Carolyn Rose and Jacob. A lifetime student of martial arts, Jesse is co-owner of a mixed martial arts studio, which can be found online at www.wnymma.com.
Joseph Bruchac, Abenaki storyteller and writer
Joseph Bruchac lives with his wife, Carol, in the Adirondack mountain foothills town of Greenfield Center, NY, in the same house where he was raised by his maternal grandparents. Much of his writing draws on that land and his Abenaki ancestry. Although his American Indian heritage is only one part of an ethnic background that includes Slovak and English blood, those Native roots are the ones by which Bruchac has been most nourished. He, his younger sister Margaret, and his two grown sons, James and Jesse, continue to work extensively in projects involving the preservation of Abenaki culture, language, and traditional Native skills. Visit www.ndcenter.org.
Bruchac holds a bachelor in English degree from Cornell University, where the spent three years as a conservation major before transferring into the College of Arts and Sciences; a master’s in literature and creative writing from Syracuse University; and a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the Union Institute of Ohio. His work as an educator includes three years of volunteer teaching in Ghana, West Africa; eight years of directing a college program for Skidmore College inside a maximum-security prison; and writing residencies at Columbia University and Hamilton College. With his wife, Carol, he is the founder and co-director of the Greenfield Review Literary Center and The Greenfield Review Press. He has edited a number of highly praised anthologies of contemporary poetry and fiction, including Songs from this Earth on Turtle's Back, Breaking Silence (winner of an American Book Award), and Returning the Gift. His poems, articles, and stories have appeared in more than 500 publications, from American Poetry Review to National Geographic. He also is the author of more than 120 books for adults and children.
His honors include a Rockefeller Humanities fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Writing Fellowship for Poetry, the Hope S. Dean Award for Notable Achievement in Children's Literature, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas. A former varsity wrestler at Cornell University and a former high school and junior high school wrestling coach, he also has been a martial arts teacher for more than 30 years, focusing in particular on Pencak-silat, the martial art of Indonesia.
Clifford Long Sioux Eaglefeathers, Cheyenne
Ho’evahtamehnestse / Earth Walker
Tsitsita’ist / Northern Cheyenne
Cliff Eaglefeathers was raised in a log cabin with no electricity or running water, along Rosebud Creek on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana. A 5th-generation descendent of Vóóhéhéve, Morning Star, or Chief Dull Knife, he is a traditional Northern Cheyenne. Cheyenne and Northern Plains sign language are his first languages. He worked with Chief Dull Knife College to carry out the Cheyenne language fluency survey in 1997, has assisted with the Cheyenne language immersion camp, is the founding chairman of the Cheyenne Oral Language Committee, and helped to draft the 1997 ordinance to make Cheyenne the first language of the reservation.
Cliff is an adjunct faculty member at Empire State College, where he teaches Cheyenne language and culture, as well as other courses in Native American studies. He has served as the school board president of the Northern Cheyenne Tribal School, as a board member of the Northern Plains Resource Council, and is vice president of Friends of the Little Big Horn, where he worked to see that the first Indian warrior marker was erected in 1999. In 2003, he was co-recipient with his wife, Karyl, of a Rockefeller fellowship to study persistence and change in Northern Cheyenne Sundance, and in 2008 was co-recipient again alongside his wife of a National Science Foundation grant to document the Northern Cheyenne sacred language, a project that is carried out in full collaboration with and at the request of the Sundance Priests and Sacred Women.
Karyl Denison Eaglefeathers, PhD
Karyl Denison Eaglefeathers is a 7th-generation resident of the Catskills. She spent 25 years out of New York State engaged in the cultural components of the so-called developing countries in Africa, South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and the Asia-Pacific region. She has worked in state government, tribal programs, and community organizations.
She is happily back in her family home, is a professor at Empire State College, serves as a folklorist with Catskills Folk Connection, and is board member of the Hanford Mills Museum and review panelist with the New York State Arts Council. In 2003, she was co-recipient with her husband, Cliff, of a Rockefeller fellowship to study persistence and change in Northern Cheyenne Sundance, and in 2008 was co-recipient again with her husband of a National Science Foundation grant to document the Northern Cheyenne sacred language, a project that is carried out in full collaboration with and at the request of the Sundance Priests and Sacred Women.
Paul Ghost Horse, Lakota
Paul GhostHorse is the oldest son of elder Buck GhostHorse, who was a Lakota teacher and historian. Paul was taught the Natural Way of his family and continues to share his knowledge to the next generation. He has spent his life trying to live a spiritual tradition often in conflict with Dominant Culture Values. Paul was chosen as spiritual head of Sungleska, a national organization of multi-racial families who strive to live a Native Spiritual lifeway.
Vicki Ghost Horse, Lakota
Vicki Ghost Horse is of Scotch/Irish and Cherokee/Chickasaw heritage, and was raised within the white southern culture of family and church. She was an active member of Christian religion for 35 years, attended her first Sacred Pipe ceremony when she was 38 years old, and has lived the Red Road of Lakota tradition ever since.
“I was the wife of Sundance leader Buck Ghost Horse, who was also head Elder of Sungleska Oyate, until his death in 2007. I continue to be a gatherer and teacher of natural medicines and root foods of the Eastern Washington area, a water pourer, traditional singer, and helper within my extended family's ceremonies and Sundance. I am grateful for the Elders in my life, their teachings and their patience with me. I am 61 years old, a dedicated learner and consider myself lucky—for my life is good.”
Oren Lyons, Iroquois and keynote speaker
Oren Lyons is the publisher of Daybreak, a national Native American magazine; and co-editor of Exiled in the Land of the Free. His interests include Native American history, international indigenous affairs, contemporary indigenous issues, and international environmental issues. He has received the Ellis Island Congressional Medal of Honor, the National Audubon Award, the First Annual Earth Day International Award of the United Nations, and the Elder and Wiser Award of the Rosa Parks Institute for Human Rights, and he has been inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame. He is a member of the board of the Harvard Project on American Economic Development and chairman of the Board Honoring Contributions in the Governance of American Indian Nations.
As Faithkeeper, Turtle Clan, Onondaga Council of Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee, of the Onondaga Nation of the Haudenosaunee, he responsible for maintaining the customs and traditions of his people while representing the people's message from the Haudenosaunee to the world community in every aspect as deemed necessary by the Onondaga people.
He is chairman of the Iroquois National's lacrosse team; a founding member of the Onondaga Athletic Club, Onondaga Nation; and a board member of the Salt City Amateur Boxing Club. He was an executive committee member of the World Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival Oxford, England, April 11-15, 1998; and a Presenter at the 4th World Wilderness Congress—Denver Colorado, September 1987.
He is the Native American representative to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, from 1974-present, and was Haudenosaunee representative at the commemoration ceremonies of the Canandaigua Treaty of 1794. A treaty between the Iroquois Confederacy and the United States. Annual event.
He was Six Nations representative to the sub-commission on prevention of discrimination and protection of minorities, Commission on Human Rights, United Nations Economic and Social Council, Washingtion, DC, 1976.
Mike Tarbell, Mohawk
Mike Tarbell is a Native American educator, as well as a Native American. He is almost 100 percent Mohawk, one of five tribes in the Iroquois Confederation. Mike’s career as a teacher and storyteller may be rooted in tribal tradition as he learned it from his grandparents.
“I suppose it goes way back to when my grandmother was giving me stories,” he said. “Even then, I was being groomed to be a keeper of the history.” Then, in the summers, he would hear his grandfather repeat stories word-for-word to one audience after another.
“He had total recall,” Mike remembers. Speaking about the Iroquois Museum, where he is employed, Mike said, “When I came here, it was to do programs that the museum wanted to offer to 4th- and 7th-graders. My job was to present the programs. But over the years, I came to realize that I could improve the programs and correct history at the same time. I could interpret the past better and put my own ancestors in a truer light. That became my charge.”
Mike believes that the Iroquois culture has much to teach the larger American society in which it is embedded.
“Great things happened here that have an impact on the world we live in today,” he said. “Those things came in the form of a governmental style—democracy. That is, democracy as a natural thing in a natural setting. Humans are social. If you can get close to people, and they take you into their confidence, you will be privy to new insights. They trust you, too, if you accept some of their traditions and become a part of their lives. What I am doing is teaching about a people who lived here once and lived under a great law of peace.”
Phil Young, Cherokee
Of Cherokee and Scotch-Irish descent, Professor of Art Phil Young is a member of the "Facade Buster Clan." His widely exhibited painting, drawing, and mixed media installations affirm the necessity of "on/site for insight," geophysically/culturally/autobiographically. "Cultural raids" into Tourist Trading Posts of the Southwest have become sources for performances and "Genuine Indian Burial Sites.” These parodies have been temporarily installed on canyon rims, and in museums and galleries. Satirical text accompanies the collected and fabricated items, which unmask, subvert, and celebrate the demise of the "inauthentic-GENUINE INDIAN," perpetuated in trading post breeding grounds. Recently, the disabling effects of Multiple Sclerosis have entered his mixedbloodbodyscape.
He says, however, that “having been blessed with knowing family on both sides, each with a tradition of great storytellers and makers, I have experienced the resistant and resilient power of remembering family stories and the enabling humor to reclaim integrity and healing.”
He was awarded a Millay Colony Residency, a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant in painting and sculpture, and a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship in sculpture. He is Professor of Art at Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY, where he has resided since 1978. In spite of his upstate residence, he states that "the red clay of Oklahoma still runs in my veins."