Origins Immersive Theater: Bringing Tribal Origin Stories to Life

The First Americans Museum (FAM) collaborated with tribal communities to bring to life an authentic telling of tribal origin stories in an immersive theater environment, designed by Batwin + Robin Productions, that allows audiences to experience stories that take place in all realms. Engaging tribal members from concept to completion and every aspect of production allowed for authentic storytelling in which tribes were able to share their origin stories in their own unique and unexpected way. Track:Interpretation & Storytelling & Education


Unknown Speaker 17:57
thank you so much for joining us here today with this presentation is all about theater and how we were heavily honored to, you know, really do some groundbreaking work at the first Americans museum. We just opened in September this year in Oklahoma City. And as part of all of our you know, territorial methodology we wanted to put first person storytelling at front and center, the way that we did this exhibit, one of the several narratives. And, you know, one of the reasons we designed the origins immersive theater was to create sort of a paradise for visitors who were visiting our which tells the collective story of Oklahoma's 39 tribe from their cosmological origins to present day. And, and so we're this theater experience. In particular, we work closely with community members from every time. As and Batman and Robin productions, who helped us bring this incredible immersive experience to live in a big medium for us. Let me go ahead. Some of our other speakers today who are really the stars of this so these are some of the women who came together to do some of the artwork and also one of our stories with language with native languages. So, we have makings for about one and Robin production. I'm gonna have them introduce themselves and understand kind of a brief intro. So, we also have Hillary CART, who is up, and she is a language speaker. You know her, the greatest and darkness and. And she began, the meteor immersion school, We can talk a little bit more about that. We also have Jessica Moore Harjo, is an incredible graphic designer, artist, Dr. Jessica, actually, and she did some of the artwork in the origins theater to bring this experience to life, where the origin story. Everybody said yes. So what I do. I'm going to ask you if you want to, I know that there were like two different versions, do you want to go ahead and share. I want to just start with I'd like to do is start off with a version of the films that are in this theater, and then we can kind of walk you through how it all came together. You know how and what he says, you know, the stories, how it was made authentic by participation from maybe at all levels. And so, you know, this is a theater and around, it's important for us to be able to tell these origin stories from a perspective of time, you know this is like our Genesis story. Every tribe has an origin story that tells them, you know where we came from, how we got here. Basically what we're here for, and we call it, it's like our

Unknown Speaker 22:28
origin stories, our days in between sometimes. So this is an extremely condensed version. We only have the opportunity to tell four because 39 tribes have 30 different origin stories and so we did select four and these four films come from different realms and that was the that was part of the reason that we need that origin story that could tell the story. So, the product will be the first story that will see it. There are the people of the stars, and they came down from the stars, the second origin story is the UK story, and in the Earth every story began from water, although they are Children of the Sun, and then the kind of story. It's an emergence from Earth. And the origin story is the story about quantum systems are kind of how they, you know, develop this plan system and stories are embedded, embedded in these stories as our traditional values. These values are key to our entire exhibit, they laid the foundation for everything in our opening service, because how do you tell the story of 39. The way that we tell them in our exhibit is by our shared values and these origin stories are the beginning of everything. And for us, they are completely embedded with these values. They're simultaneously. The source of our diversity and the source of our commonality, the things that tie us together. And so, within the stories. It's telling you know, they lay out things like, you know, like I said where we came from here. How did we interact with each other and respect for one another, our relationships to not only one another but also our relationship to the larger world and environment. And you know how to conduct yourself all the kinds of rules are sacred medicines are given to us and these origin stories are all laid out for us, all of our money, everything we need to sustain culture from the beginning of time until, you know, forever is embedded, extremely valuable for us to talented, within our entire exhibit with these stories. And so, I would love to go ahead and let's go ahead and share that with you mind going ahead and sharing this video. Awesome, thank you. Yeah, no problem.

Unknown Speaker 25:21
All right, can everybody see my screen. Yeah. Okay, here we go. Let me know if there's any issues with playback. Okay,

Unknown Speaker 25:36
our origin story is to find who we are intimately connected with the natural world since before time began. We look to our stories to understand our relationships to all beings and how to live. Some of us floated down from the stars.

Unknown Speaker 25:55
Noah. In the beginning, there was only did all the great spirit, his realm was shrouded in darkness, or nothingness prevailed. Overcome time he made the world as we know it today, to bring light. Did Allah filled the firmament with stars who pitted the star beings were assigned a role in creation as the mother of all things to fit it Dhaka Eveningstar was given a garden in the heavens and four helpers, thunder, lightning cloud and rain. Together they formed the Earth in a sacred manner, created plants as a sacred living covering of Mother Earth, made her water sweet wrinkled seeds across the land, and release animals onto the earth life on Earth, please teed off. Then came time to create Okidata, the tribe to pivot DACA and who've been at gutu Eveningstar and Morningstar, gave birth to syndicate, a little girl named rain standard.

Unknown Speaker 27:17
So Guru and Paul. The sun and the moon pesky little boy and close man was born. Children were placed on Earth. On the banks of its cutting River. This is how the ponies were created, the natural order of things. Stars always shine brightly over their ancient homeland. Anyway,

Unknown Speaker 28:02
as the creator imparted wisdom to all of our MANY tribes. We were each gifted unique origin stories that help us understand how the world came into being, and how we must respect all of creation. Some of us were born of the sun.

Unknown Speaker 28:23
Heat niche to high end CI Nicola ago, say a like a gala de la Guinan like a Wayne sure you

Unknown Speaker 28:31
Amina. Allah you are not the son.

Unknown Speaker 28:36
So not a cocci,

Unknown Speaker 28:38
we are obliged in our cyclical endeavors to acknowledge the need of place any merchants. Once there was nothing. I love all the creatures gathered together and made a song, and only then, was there substance and light. This light illuminating the straining backs that the origin creatures, heart and work, delivering the song, our existence.

Unknown Speaker 29:09
Sachi Johan were

Unknown Speaker 29:13
the first to oblige this attempt was the beaver. And then the fish. So it was to be the humble crayfish, who first descended and brought forth the earth, dark and trembling from the depths

Unknown Speaker 29:32
QuakeCon cha cha for now. Yo winaday bado hey don't always watch

Unknown Speaker 29:40
the wondrous buzzer, who wing the air to form and dry the earth, upon which the sun spilled her blood to ensure our being in a place where repeated whisperings became reality. A place for the creatures to rise from the blood to seeing in the light of the moon, and to dance in the warmth of the sun. It is from the blood of the sun, that we rise daily sin, the hill. Children of the Sun.

Unknown Speaker 30:13
So Yah ha Naina song cannon.

Unknown Speaker 30:17
So yeah,

Unknown Speaker 30:26
our origin stories give meaning and structure to our lives. These stories are always with us. They instruct us on our place within the natural world and how we must value and cherish one another. Some emerged from the earth.

Unknown Speaker 30:49
A long time ago, as we traveled through darkness inside the Earth. When people and animals spoke the same language niche, the moon came to our people with gifts to the woman got on that day, Nescafe sees a Casio kaka Gosney pumpkin. To the man. Gosh, pipe along with tobacco and Flint Nish foretold of our people's journey through a deep darkness, but promised these gifts would sustain us until we were led by tossed into the light of suck the son.

Unknown Speaker 31:38
Tasha, the wolf to help guide us and gave our kadhi our chiefs, the drama and song so our people would follow.

Unknown Speaker 31:56
Once we emerged, we were warned not to look back into the darkness, and to keep moving forward. But Tasha was too curious, and he looked back. There was a great shaking of the earth, and the entrance collapsed. We call this notch icon in the place of crying for those that were left behind. In the end, We will all return to water in our Mother Earth.

Unknown Speaker 32:31
Our tribes receive knowledge from the stars, animals, plants, waters, and the earth. Origin Stories hold this knowledge. They teach us to act responsibly. We look to the animals to know how to live,

Unknown Speaker 33:00
who in the beginning, what kind. God created the clan relatives to open Missouri people follow to this day, from rushing water monto first upon near arrogant and strong. He led his clan along the shores of freshwater. They see rally tracks and follow ready to attack strangers girl we feel good. Hope, we are alone and will not hurt you. Join us we have prepared a meal for you. They traveled and came upon the elk clan frightened by their strange antlers, they rushed to attack the Houma dog a bugle. Stop. Do not be afraid. Join us, we will feast and dance.

Unknown Speaker 33:49
Yeah, no, no, we, we got a yo, yo, hey, hi. Hey, God. God way. Yo, yo, yo, yo want to praise Wakanda, we are here. We call upon you to teach us how to live Wakanda says the days ahead will be hard, and you will help each other always. You will use this pipe to keep peace among you. They traveled together and came upon a village where the clans of buffalo owl pigeon and Snake live together. Take a dog and greets the new relatives. He offers their pipe to monto monto refuses. Take a doggy explains Wakanda brought us together in peace we will live and thrive as one tribe for way. Whoa, hey, hey, yo, yo, yo, hey, hi yo, hey, whoa, whee Ha, we are yo, yo, I can't Wait,

Unknown Speaker 36:01
you're on mute legend.

Unknown Speaker 36:04
Okay, can you hear me any better now. Yeah. Excellent. I'm so sorry about that, um, hopefully it's been remedied. Thank you so much for sharing that are part of our origins theater. It's very special to us, and we just see I'm trying to I need to keep track of the questions and stuff to everyone. And so let me start, let me just back up very quickly, again, I'm sorry about my audio earlier, and my name is Leslie halfmoon, and I work with the first Americans Museum here in Oklahoma City, whose mission it is to relate the combined stories of Oklahoma 39 tribes. And like I said from our cosmological origins to present day. And so this is part of their very the kickoff to our entire exhibit our opening exhibit, like I said we just opened this year and so why we thought it was important to share, was because, you know, the first Americans museum collaborated with communities from among 39 tribes in order to tell these stories in an authentic way, the fam origins theater is monumental in that it's groundbreaking. It's an immersive fully immersive theater which is the only way to do it. And the beautiful thing about it is, and we can literally talk about this is that you know you'll notice, you probably know this, That the aesthetic is completely different for each of these stories, and it's authentic to each of these stories and that is because, you know, we worked with tribal community members from each of these four or five on every level, and that's from how old we get it can't number one is approaching a time and pain, can we tell your origin story which is a weird thing to ask. And then having to come back and say yes if it's appropriate. And then, you know, selecting individuals from among those communities to say, this would be good for writing that narrative, the draft that script. This is who we think should be the Narrator This is who we think should, you know, this is how it should look. This is the our I mean, on every level, community members were kind of activated in the storytelling, and it makes it very unique and very special and so I'm glad we were able to share it with you. And like I said, we have our linguist, our ut kind of immersion language director, and in Haley. And then also, Jessica Rosemary Pardo was just phenomenal, multi talented women. Dr Virgil is also an artist and did the graphic design work, you saw in the final story there so, and then Megan is with that one and Robin productions and they are the wizard who specialized in these incredible immersive environments, and this was a big move for us. We have 30 pieces of media in our entire exhibit but we wanted this one to be huge. We wanted it to be special and so if you could talk a little bit Megan, about the design of the theater and also anything you want to add your introduction which was probably spotty on my end because it's everything.

Unknown Speaker 39:48
No, no. Great. Well, hi everyone so I've lovely introduced us that one Robin is a multimedia production company and we have a wide range of clients, and we usually work on projects, starting in any phase. So when the fan team brought us on, we were tasked with this incredible challenge of helping to tell these origin stories that were so specific to 39 tribes and funnel it into something that could be 10 minutes long or less. Something that a visitor could understand quickly, but was representative on a larger scale, so working with Leslie and the whole curatorial team, as well as all of the, these tribal advisors. We work to craft this one singular experience and it was truly an honor because we had the privilege of working with so MANY talented people, all donated and contributed so much of their time and effort and love to make this one single expression and it was just a beautiful inspiration. And when we were introduced to artists like Jessica and narrator's like Haley. We were just inspired, and we work with them to figure out how to tell a story and let their advice and their own inspiration kind of guide us in the direction of how we should go and where we landed was we picked for our type. A typical story, and then said, well what would represent that and started to hone in on artists who would maybe be representative of those tribes, and that's how we got to where we are today.

Unknown Speaker 41:36
Quickly, what the, what are the dimensions of that gallery, it's about 320 degrees,

Unknown Speaker 41:42
but, yeah, yeah, let's talk a little bit about the physical expression so that's 80 feet wide and 10 feet high, which is truly massive, and the projection surface is nearly 9600 pixels wide and 1200 pixels high. So, a lot of content, for sure. And what we did was we mapped it all out and use these pre visits, these 3d visualizations to help us give a sense as to what it would feel like in the space. But once we got on site is when we really dove in and played with the timing and the pacing and the movement and this alludes to one of the questions asking about how are we careful about how we animated the piece of that it was accessible to most to most, audience members and by being in this space and sitting there and kind of talking it through with the team that's how we got to where we were in terms of movement and animation.

Unknown Speaker 42:44
Thank you.

Unknown Speaker 42:49
Yeah, so I'll let me. Oh sorry, I was just gonna say but the team it ranged from, like, three to four people from each tribe helping us tell the story, and I think that's kind of the perfect segue to introduce the two other people on this panel, Leslie, you and I take it from there.

Unknown Speaker 43:12
Yes, thank you so much. It's so hard. There's so much to tell in such a short period of time. And so, for the pani story, for example, Walter FL hop Who is he helped to draft that narrative as well as a community member named herb Adson another gentleman who I worked with and Zacharias, who's also Pawnee. He's our linguist on staff. He, they really helped develop that story, it's beautiful I wish one of them could have been here today. They could, I mean, the story is epic, and as we saw in the film, and they come down from the stars and it's a beautiful thing and then we go right into the YouTube story, and I want. Hello to speak to that process, I just wanted to kind of introduce that story also so MANY years ago, when some I was sitting at work late, and Richard Ray Whitman, who is one of our point people for the UC community he's also an actor and he's well known and in Oklahoma and Indian country I feel like he's such a star and he is the James Earl Jones of voice. He's the James Earl Jones of Indian country when it comes to his awesome voice, and so I knew right away. You know, of course you want to work with him but all those years ago he came, while I was sitting at work one day, nobody else was here so we just started chatting, and he told me that you see origin so he thought I was researching origin stories, and he told me, just one on one, they use the origin story and I held on to it all these years and I was like, That is phenomenal and I just know that we want that in here somehow. And so, um, but when it came down to production. And we asked, you know, would it be appropriate, Would you like to narrate it he said absolutely, I'd love to, but you know, ever since I was a little kid. The only way I heard it told was my grandmother, or a woman, a female basically telling the story and not only that but they told it in YouTube, and I think that's the way it should start. And so of course that informed and of the beautiful things like that that's the only way that these stories became authentic is because community had a voice in the appropriate way to tell these stories what fell, I love that about it. And so that's how he introduced us can relate who joins our project. And so let me go ahead and let you speak and talk about your process there.

Unknown Speaker 45:46
Sanjay Silla Halle is a De Anza de neci San lei Ave Dipali get the latest hace Uwg Holly on ZD goway de a Hindi kala Naga Nietzsche, go hand in a way on Yoshi les Catherine i. So thanks to Leslie and the team. I'm honored to be here and also to be part of this project, you may have been able to hear my voice in the UT video. Speaking in UT as Richard Ray Whitman was narrating the English, and Richard Ray was actually raised as a UT language speaker and I think he was timid to do the full up version but brought me in, as he said that this is a woman's role often to tell our, our legends our stories, and that we're a matrilineal peoples so this is how he heard it and he wanted to pass it on. So, my work has been in revitalizing our ut language working with our elders, and learning these stories in our language, and there's so MANY layers of meaning that you don't pick up on in English, and so this is part of why I work with our children and youth to learn them in our own language, and there's so MANY things in our worldview that's communicated. And I can mention a few of those. First off, in this, and the UT origin story the, the sun, the moon, the stars. They are grammatically living persons just like any human. And in our language we have a pronoun for UT people and non ut people. So in this story those beings are all non ut people, just like all of you on this call, we would use the same pronouns, and the sun is female, for us, and you saw that with the sun's menstrual blood dropping to the earth and creating our ut people. That's how we came to Earth, and our store our elders tell us that if we don't carry on our ceremonies our language, then the sun will rise and look for her up children but if she doesn't see us she'll go back down, and the earth will be dark, so it's a, there's so much in this story that tells us our, our instructions, you know what we need to do, how we need to live. And also these creatures in the story you saw chutzpah, that's the crowd Ed was the big hero for diving down and bringing up the earth. At first, the Earth was full of water only and Shazza dove down brought up the earth and created land, and no one thought that chutzpah could do it, he was the most humble and unsuspecting hero. And I think that's a message for us as well. So I could share more. If there's time but I know we're, we're short on time, I'll just mention that our languages and isolate, which means it's unrelated to any other language in the world. And it's a completely unique and ancient language without a language family, so sound like Yasuda.

Unknown Speaker 49:36
Awesome, thank you and I'm so glad you said that and it's also a good segue into. So we can introduce Jessica, thank you so much. When we were recording this, I have to say, I was like, I just want to stop and I want everybody to recognize that what we're hearing and her lay telling this story to us and he is such a, an honor and a gift you have no idea this is an ancient language, linguistic, isolate that survives so I'm just calling on somebody to translate something takes lifetimes, and millennia, you know, to continue to even have that to even have a delay to call on So, and it's the same thing with our art, it's the same thing with our aesthetic, you know, understanding of the world, and so we have a real honor working with Jessica Rose my heart and like love to speak to the upcoming Missouri origin story net to bring an authentic design aesthetic to the story to let it, you know, bring it to life. So, Jessica, can you talk about your process

Unknown Speaker 50:40
there. Yes, good afternoon everyone. My name is Dr. Jessica Moore Harjo fan. I am a graphic designer, educator and researcher. i If Megan you can share some of those images from the Otoe miseria origin story, what my role in all of this was to provide those illustrations for that fourth story that we saw on that video, which was all be clan animals that are representative and the Otome is area tribe. And I thought like the process to get to this, these final results was very engaging and very thoughtful. Because if we're you know, We talk about origin stories being illustrated as one thing but then to be animated. As a whole new level of portraying origin stories amongst MANY, MANY tribes, specifically you know these four tribes here, at least, speaking on behalf of the ultimate area tribe, we have not had anything animated for origin stories or any story of that sort. And so we were kind of talking about, you know, thinking critically. From my point of view as a designer as a Digital Designer, how to animate those stories, appropriately, kind of thinking about, like, as you can see in this specific instance on that top image where the the bear and the buffalo are kind of coming together and meeting and he's offering that pipe. You know, we had to kind of have another version because originally it was placed on the ground. And, you know, kind of came back and was like, Well I don't think the pipe should touch the ground at all, even though there's not really a ground space in the blackness that you see just the idea of like you know that just that cultural value that we all learn throughout our uprising. You know those little moments within the stories that you don't think about outside of what is being told from you is something that was really cool, I guess for my, My apart part in this, because we're always from the beginning. These origin stories have been oral, you know they're spoken in the tribal languages and now they're being translated to English and being passed down and shared amongst our youth today, son of the origin stories have been depicted and art through paintings through different interpretations by different artists. And now we're kind of like at this time, like with this new technology that we can animate stories. And so I really am proud to be part of this process and thinking about how that has come to life and how these like animals interacted with each other. And another part of that process was thinking about how we do you approach that depiction on the screen. And if you go back to the snake. Megan, or even the bear. You can see like the way I chose to illustrate all these and working with Megan was to illustrate them in a way that they're, they look like they're beaded. So each one of those colors are constructed by a row of beads to mimic the way that we sew on to our regalia, or on to these actual artifacts that we see in the museum. The museum space on current display at the first American museums actually there's a, there's a several pieces that are being borrowed from the Smithsonian, that have, are pieces from the past that are glass beads beaded onto wool pieces, and that kinda is where our conversation started and trying to portray like what the aesthetics were for these different clan animals. We wanted it to be on the back, black, dark background to make the, the animals pop the story pop. Make the beads, really delicate but

Unknown Speaker 55:30
design them in a way where they can be animated, and I know that's where we had some issues there, too, because I wanted to make all these little outlines on them like the bear we see like four little outlines around the outside of him, because I was always taught when we do have animals and different important design motifs be added on to pieces of meaning that when there is a white outline that surrounds this piece, it's meant to be connected spiritually, or it has a really significant presence in the story that it might represent. And so I wanted to, you know obviously all of our clans within the ultimate area trapper. Of equal importance but you know specifically that bear. So I'm glad they kept the outline of the, the white on the bear because that's the first clan animal that kind of comes and leads the way throughout the story. So that's a little bit I know we're running out of time, though, of like the process that I was involved in. And I forgot to mention in the very very beginning of all this before I was brought in as an artist, we had a conversation with Richard White. Ray Whitman and arrow Batson and different elders like Dr Henry had a man about, kind of like what would, if this would even be appropriate to digitize to animate to show, which was kind of what we were talking about before. And I thought that process is really integral into my understanding on, like if I am going to create these illustrations to be seen for everyone and the world or whoever comes to the museum that I'm doing it appropriately and I have, I guess in a sense, a permission, that it's going to be okay.

Unknown Speaker 57:44
Wonderful, thank you. We were so excited about this one in particular AdvoCare is part of the curatorial team we knew that this kind of Missouri these tribes that also shared that similar kind of real floral beautiful design aesthetic we couldn't wait to see that, you know, brought to life and it's scary territory I'm happy I'm Cabo. And so we also did the Cata story and I have to say I've never been more stressed out and fearful to mess up my own tribes story because and and like Jessica, like Dr Hajah was saying I'm sorry, but I, it hadn't ever been done before. And it's a heavy weight and everybody working on this project felt that heavy weight, you know, we all felt it. So it took a lot of courage for everybody who participated the seniors, you know the narrator's as well as all of the artists, you know, and then the most, one of the beautiful things that I loved about working with Batman and Robin was their ability to just sit and take it all in and really listen to what we were asking for what we needed and help us figure out a way to bring that forward and so I will be forever, forever grateful. Of the, you know, just the respect that they showed, and their patience. Because things in the Indian world don't move like at the speed of light, especially when you have to ask an entire tribe permission for something you know. And, but, anyway, it has been wonderful.

Unknown Speaker 59:30
Let me. We were truly honored truly honored, this is a project of a lifetime for, for me to participate in so I can only share my gratitude to everybody for allowing us to be a part of it.

Unknown Speaker 59:45
Awesome. You know what, let's, let's go ahead and go back to that real quick, and then maybe if anybody has questions they're typing in here and I tried to ask, answer them but let's do the outside of the theater from the PowerPoint. So that everyone can see. So this is the inside and we thought, you know how you would see it on the inside, but the outside and I just dropped it in there, did I. Yes. So this is the outside of the origins theater, and because it's like a vessel we designed it to be like a piece of pottery like a catoe pot, and the nod to the indigenous some of the indigenous tribes from Oklahoma like the academy in Wichita, and it was designed by our, our very own Geraldine redcorn who's part of her family is also okay. But she's Katelyn so anyways, even this, even the outside of the theater was treated in a way that was, you know, a nod to our communities here and it's huge, and it is a big moment in our, in our exhibit, and it just turned out lovely.

Unknown Speaker 1:00:58
All right. So do you guys have anything else to add or I think we're right out three. If not,

Unknown Speaker 1:01:23
no. I feel like you've covered I think you've covered everything from DNRs perspective.

Unknown Speaker 1:01:32
Well, I want to thank everybody for joining us, and I appreciate your time and please, if you have any questions, I think that the conversation can continue and we're on another platform. And thank you Tim Kong who said that, you know, he expressed his appreciation for our process and for asking permission to tell these things you guys didn't read it to you and, and I appreciate you, even seeing that in the work that we've been doing related relational spaces are different in due time, with weight, and so much opportunity for future generations. So yes, thank you. Thank you. All right, I think that concludes our discussion. Thank you for joining me.

Unknown Speaker 1:02:26
Thank you everybody.

Unknown Speaker 1:02:30
Do Hey, thanks a lot. Thank you.