Indigenous communities are the original and continued stewards and artists of this land and yet were excluded from shaping mainstream theater as we see it today. What would theater look like in the United States if it was shaped by indigenous communities and upheld tribal sovereignty? How are storytelling, land, and community linked when led by indigenous knowledge, expertise, and tradition?
Neemah Cobell is twenty-one and from the Blackfeet Nation. She is a first-generation senior college student majoring in political studies with an emphasis on American politics, and hopes to one day attend law school. She has been involved in theater and the arts for over eight-years, five of which were with the Native Youth Theater Program, Red Eagle Soaring. While there she helped educate the community on Indigenous and political issues through traditional native stories, which were turned into musicals and plays. She has a passion for arts and justice.
Howie Echo-Hawk is a Queer, nonbinary “comedian” and all around Native person. Their comedy has been described as punishment, by them specifically. They don’t have a dog or a cat, they’re fine being alone, so go away.
Artist, Storyteller, Educator
Roger Fernandes is a Native American artist, storyteller, and educator whose work focuses on the local Coast Salish tribes of western Washington. He was born and raised in Seattle, Washington and is an enrolled member of the Lower Elwha S’Klallam Tribe. He studied graphic design at the University of Washington, has a B.A. in Native American Studies from The Evergreen State College, and an M.A. in Whole Systems Design from Antioch University.
As an artist, he has created artwork for public entities like the Office of Arts and Culture in Seattle, the University of Washington, and 4Culture in King County, Washington. He still creates commissioned pieces for private collections.
As a storyteller and educator, he has learned and shares the traditional local tribal stories of this western Washington region. He uses stories as a reminder that the oral traditions of all people predates literacy and that cultures share their foundational philosophies through the telling of their stories. He teaches storytelling classes at the University of Washington, Highline College, Seattle Central College, and the Northwest Indian College.
Executive Director and Co-Founder, Children of the Setting Sun Productions
My name is Darrell Hillaire and I am a member of Lummi Nation, great-grandson of Frank Hillaire, who, in 1920, formed the Children of the Setting Sun Song and Dance Group. Our traditional Lummi song and dance group included several of his grandchildren, and was formed as a response to rapid colonial settlement which included making illegal the traditional Coast Salish cultural practices including song, dance, language, and gatherings such as the potlatch. Prior to his passing, Frank Hillaire instructed his grandchildren and future descendants to "Keep My Fires Burning." I have endeavored to follow his instructions throughout my lifetime, from serving as Chairperson and Treasurer of Lummi Indian Business Council for many years (15), to providing a home for our children by building and running the Lummi Youth Academy for 13 years, and more recently, as Executive Director and Co-Founder of Children of the Setting Sun Productions (CSSP). CSSP is a Native owned and operated 501(c)(3), located in Bellingham, Washington within 5 miles of the Lummi Nation. I lead the projects based upon lifetime relationships with many elders and spiritual leaders within the Coast Salish Territory and have grown close to many of the elders through the development of Children of the Setting Sun Production content.
My Name is Blake Shelafoe, I am a Duwamish tribal member and Seattle community member. I am 29 years of age. I grew up within Co-Salish Culture learning Language, Culture, songs and dances of my people from a young age and continue those traditions for my people.
Fern Naomi Renville
Dakota Indian Storyteller, Artist, Theater Director, Educator
Fern Naomi Renville is a citizen of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate from South Dakota. She is a Dakota Indian storyteller, artist, theater director, and educator. She is teaching artist and former executive director of Red Eagle Soaring Native Youth Theatre. Fern has a B.A. in Native American Studies from The Evergreen State College and has worked as a practicing artist, theater producer, playwright, and actor. She is an activist in arenas such as education reform and tribal history, as well as the sovereign rights of Native tribes and tribal members.
Director of Arts Engagement, Seattle Rep
Nabra Nelson is a community organizer and theater creator from Egypt, Nubia, and California. She is also the Director of Arts Engagement at Seattle Rep. As an arts administrator, director, playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist, she works with theaters, universities, and community organizations to create positive change, strengthen community, and amplify under-heard voices through theater. She is a founding company member of Dunya Productions and Heard Space Arts Collective, and is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara.
(Re)Imagine Indigenous Theater Reading List
Get ready for the conversation with related books, videos, and other media curated by the librarians at Seattle Public Library.
(Re)Imagine Theater Panel Series
This series brings artists and community leaders together to envision a new theatrical world. Without constraints, what do we want theater to look like? Join the conversation.
(Re)Imagine Black Theater
Join Black theater makers and community organizers from the Seattle area to envision a theater landscape that centers Black voices equitably.
(Re)Imagine Civic Theater
How can theater be integrated into civic life, and civic practice be more integrally a part of theater?
(Re)Imagine Accessible Theater
What does universal access look like in theater? Let’s hear and learn from a variety of intersectional identities, (dis)ABLED theater artists, and community leaders to envision what accessible theater can be.