Native American Cultural Symposium, Outdoor Film Series set for June 2-4


Jill Rohrbach, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

The Museum of Native American History in Bentonville will host its debut Native American Cultural Symposium and Outdoor Film Series on June 2 – 4 with the theme, “The Wisdom of Black Elk’s Reunification Prophecies and Environmental Awareness.”

The Symposium will feature noted speakers, authors, and performers, including:

  • Gayle Ross, direct descendant of legendary Cherokee Chief John Ross, an internationally renowned storyteller.
  • Joseph Marshall III, the celebrated Rosebud Lakota author of “The Journey of Crazy Horse: The Lakota History,” “Walking with Elders: The Wisdom of Lakota Grandfathers,” and 12 other books.
  • JR Mathews the youngest Tribal Chairman in the history of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma and co-founder of the American Indian Theater Company.
  • Sam Scinta, founder and editor of Fulcrum Publishing, who will fill the Museum lobby with books.
  • Bobby Bridger, author and musician, who will perform his epic ballad, “Lakota,” with legendary guitar virtuoso John Inmon on Saturday evening before the outdoor cinema feature on the museum’s lawn.


    John Inmon

The Symposium will also offer a writer’s workshop focused on indigenous writers, followed by a film workshop for youth hosted by Celia Xavier from Tribal TV. A “Prairie to Table” dining experience will be held on the lawn with food by Chef Justus Moll of Rivergrille Steakhouse benefiting Downtown Bentonville, Inc.

The Outdoor Film Series features a film on the museum’s lawn on three consecutive Saturday’s, the first showing during the Symposium. Playing on the big screen will be:

  • “The Cherokee Word for Water” on Saturday, June 3. Based on the true story of the Bell Waterline Project, this film is set in the early 1980s in a rural Oklahoma Cherokee community, where many houses lacked running water. Led by Wilma Mankiller (played by Kimberly Guerrero, A&E’s Longmire) and Cherokee organizer Charlie Soap (played by Mo Brings Plenty, Netflix’s House of Cards), the community of volunteers built nearly 20 miles of waterline to save their community. The successful completion of the waterline, using the traditional concept of gadugi — working together to solve a problem – led to Wilma’s election as Chief, Wilma and Charlie’s marriage, and sparked a movement of similar self-help projects across the Cherokee Nation and in Indian Country that continues to this day. In April 2014, the film won the Western Heritage Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
  • “Playground of the Native Son” on Saturday, June 10. During the 20s and 30s in Oklahoma, there was an All-Native American Professional Football team consisting entirely of Native blood to form a team called ‘The Hominy Indians.’ Twenty-two different tribes were represented, some played for one game, some for years. Founded and financed by two Osage brothers, Ira and Otto Hamilton, the team had a 22 game winning streak and the chance of a lifetime to play against the World Champions, the New York Giants, in 1927. John Levi, was their star player and then coach. Jim Thorpe called him the greatest athlete he had ever seen. What happens during the pre-game speech by the coach to inspire this team to dig deep is a speech so motivating that it will be used in locker rooms for generations to come. This is their story. written by Executive Producer Celia Xavier.
  • “She Sings to the Stars” on Saturday, June 17. The endless desert. A Native American grandmother lives alone tending her corn. Her half-Mexican grandson and a white, aging magician are stranded. No water. A river of stars. Everything changes: anything is possible.

The rain date for the film series is Saturday, June 24. For the full schedule and time of symposium events, follow announcements on and the museum’s Facebook page,, call 479-273-2456 or email

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