Te AtaDVD - 2017
It is based on the inspiring true story of Mary Thompson Fisher, a woman who traversed cultural barriers to become one of the greatest Native American performers of all time. Born in Indian Territory, and raise on the songs and stories of her Chickasaw culture, Te Ata's journey to find her true calling led her through isolation, discovery, love and a stage career that culminated in performances for a United States president, European royalty and audiences across the world.
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My name is Te Ata, bearer of the morning. I am Chickasaw and storyteller and this is my story. There are horses of many colors, brown, black, yellow, white, yet they're all one horse. There are birds of many colors, red, blue, green, yellow, yet they are all one bird. So with cattle, so with all living things, so with men, and this land, where one was only Indians, are men of every color, yet they're all one people. That this should come to pass was at the heart of the great mystery.
I met with this Seminole woman after my last performance, and she asked me if I could tell the stories of her people. Now word is spreading and I'm meeting with various tribes wherever I go. They share their stories with me so that I may share them with the whole world.
You speak sparrow?
- Um, my accent's a little rough.
And what did our little friend have to say?
-She was wondering why she left the nest.
Miss Davis: Because it's the only way to learn to soar.
In the beginning, everything was covered with water. The only living were a few small animals, afloat on a raft. Not knowing what to do, the crayfish volunteered and dove off the raft into the great ocean. He tried every day to reach the bottom, and on the fourth day, he did. He built a great mud chimney that stuck up above the surface of the water. The mud spread out and created a newly formed Earth. It is from this mud chimney that the Chickasaw and the Choctaw people were allowed to come and live upon the new surface with all the animals.
Charm will deceive. Beauty will fade. But a woman with conviction will last forever.
We are all sparks from Ababinili. He scatters us out here and there to make light. And when we die, he gathers us up, so as to make one big blaze to show us the house of Ababinili.
My daddy told stories of our trail of tears, how in 1837, we arrived in new lands called Indian Territory. It was hard times. But like my daddy says, the Chickasaws will never be conquered. But to live is to change, and that is what happened in 1906. We now faced maybe our biggest challenge. They were breaking up our government for one of their own, a state called Oklahoma. When the world was still young, there was but one man upon it. Seeing that he was lonesome, the Great Spirit sent a son. They walked upon the Earth and found it good, but it was too cold. There were no trees and no flowers to make the world beautiful. One night the young brave had a dream, and he told his father it would be through sacrifice that beauty will walk upon the Earth. "I'll give myself to the Great Spirit," said the son, and from his grave sprung the first pine tree, and from that came all the other beautiful trees.
Old Earth maker made everything the way that he wanted. But one day, he looked
down and he saw Rabbit shivering in the cold. Rabbit did not want to be this way so he began to make a little song and a little dance so that he could try to tell Earth maker how he wanted to be. Happy as Hernia, wheresoe'er' er she “es ( Shakespeare: Happy is Hermia, wheresoe'er she lies,. For she hath blessèd and attractive eyes), for she hath blessed and attractive eyes. How came her eyes so bright? Not with salt tears. If so, my eyes are oftener washed than hers. No, I am as ugly as a bear, for beasts, when they see me, they run away in fear!
Let your people pull themselves up by their bootstraps and join the future, like the rest of us have.
-I assure you, sir, my people do not need lessons in hard work, grit or making a living off the land.
Should you ask me ... these legends and traditions, I should answer, I should tell you, in the bird's nest of the forest, in the hoof print of the bison, in the airy of the eagle. Listen to these Indian legends. Like a death web spun twixt the setting moon and the rising sun, our glory sinks like the sinking moon. The red man's race shall perish soon, for feet shall trip where the web is spun, for no dawn shall be ours, and no rising sun. No dawn is ours and no rising sun!
It's so nice to see OCW (Oklahoma College of Women) accepting all types.
-Yes, we Indians are very grateful.
Right now, we're walking between 600 and 700 miles per hour, based on the constant
rotation of the Earth. Why waste the momentum?
-Dare I say? I never thought of it that way before.
It is imperative to open people's minds to new things. Ignorance breeds fear, and the only way to conquer that is to make the unknown known.
Centuries ago, before the white man, our people, restless and tired, searched desperately for a place to call home. And every night, at the end of the long journey, they stuck a sacred pole on the ground so that it pointed straight toward the heavens. And every morning, whichever way it leaned, they traveled, until finally, it leaned no more. The pole did not bring us here. The white man forced us here. But now, this is our home, and we don't have to wander anymore, and neither do you.
-I love that story, Daddy. And that's why I have to go, so that I can tell our stories.
The music, was it real?
-As real as life itself. To me, the music that I heard was the music of the spirits come to save my life. And ever since that day, I have made it my life's work to bring the music of the Indians to people everywhere.
I want to focus on Broadway.
-Dr. Clyde Fisher: Maybe it's not about what you want to do. Maybe it's about what you were meant to do.
Mary Frances Thompson is for the name of my daughter, not a performer.
-What about what Uncle Doug used to call her, Aiukla Ohoyo?
-- Oh, no, Mama. People have to be able to pronounce it.
-What was it Aunt Mary called her when she was a baby?
-Te Ata? I love it. What... what does it mean?
Bearer of the morning.
That's because you started crying every day at the crack of dawn for hours, and nobody could shut you up. I mean she was like a dang rooster,
There's nothing wrong with nice or normal. But we brung you up to know your own mind and to follow where God leads you, and if that means going cross-country and getting up on a stage, well, then you best get up on it.
Once there was a young maiden, and she lived by a beautiful stream. One day, she looked into the stream at her reflection. "Oh, my," she said. "I'm beautiful enough for
any man." So she walked down to the riverbank. "Anybody 'round here want a wife?" And somebody answered, "I want a wife. I want a wife." "Well, what shall we live on
if we live together?" "We will live on grass." "Oh, I couldn't live on grass. Grass is much too coarse for a good looking girl like me." So she walked on down the banks
of the river and sang again. "Anybody 'round here want a wife?" Someone answered, "I want a wife." "What shall we live on if we live together?" "We will live on seeds." "Oh, I love seeds." She was so pleased with him and he was so pleased with her, and together they flew down the banks of the river, because they were the first birds of spring.
My father is Chickasaw. My mother is of German descent.
- Then you are half Chickasaw.
No, ma'am. My heart and soul are 100% Chickasaw.
-Hmm. With the Indian Offenses Act, are songs and dances like this illegal?
The Bible says God's words brought the world to being. We Chickasaw believe his
words came as a song, and if sharing this song is illegal, well, there's not much else
to sing about then.
We can't have Americans engaging in unsavory activities that the U.S. deems illegal.
Pagan dances, witch doctor rituals. No tribal mumbo-jumbo. Come on now, Johnston, don't you want to pull your people up out of the dark ages? Imagine, one day, with proper governing, the Indian acting, looking just like the white man, one nation under God, not several nations under numerous gods.
Do you know how l made astronomy interesting to adults? By making it interesting to
a child. If a child could understand it and enjoy it, an adult could too.
Long ago, my people, they were searching for a place to call home. Ahead of them was a great white dog, Ofi Tohbi.
Mm-hmm. He traveled far ahead of them, always on alert, and always warned of any dangers. He was their faithful guardian, scout. And then one day, they came to a great river. They called it Misha Sipokoni.
Hmm. They knew home was across the river. They knew home was somewhere on the other side of the wide, wide river before them. So quickly, they assembled rafts to cross. The first raft carried a group of men and the beloved white dog. But the raft, it broke apart. All the men made it to shore, but the beloved white dog, standing proud on drifting wood, vanished down the river.
-Did they ever find out what happened to the dog?
No. But some say he can still be seen, guiding our people.
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