The Telluride MountainFilms Symposium on Friday morning opened with the National Anthem being sung by lovely 12 year-old Tonisha Draper in her Navajo language. In a crystal clear young voice the strange-sounding lyrics with off-beat sliding phrases to the old familiar almost-impossible-to-sing notes was born into something refreshingly new and exciting.
Later we were able to view a National Park Experience film called Canyon Song PBS in which the Draper family shares their story in a deeply moving 12 minute piece. Look it up on Vimeo or under PBS. It's well worth watching.
Given the brutal and duplicitous history of the struggles between the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management, related governmental agencies, and the Native American peoples -- plus the continuing questions yet to be resolved, it was moving to listen to what was a combination of innocence and Knowing-ness of the Ages in the voice of this lovely child of Antiquity.
Tonisha's generation of Native American youth appears to be finding their place among the youth of the country. Social media is proving to be fundamental in breaking down the old and crumbling walls of separation that have held us captive for so long.
For whatever reason, the Draper family's presence at the Festival was clearly effortless and comfortable, and caused me to reflect and appreciate that I, too, felt in no way "exotic" as of old, but a legitimate contributor to the goals of the Festival. The universality created by technology combined with a growing sensitivity and a respect for cultural differences now evident among members of the emerging society of today turned up in many forms throughout the Festival.
It is my firm belief that-- if humanity is to be saved -- it will be through the Arts; with Science and Technology a close second. Theology or Philosophy may be a distant third, but the order shifts depending upon a variety of revelations that pop up with disconcerting regularity these days. Telluride was crazy-making on that score. Holding onto my Humanism was a struggle in the face of the stunning beauty of the physical world of snow-capped peaks and miles and miles of the chartreuse of just-budding aspen. Who knows what would have happened had night clouds not hidden the brilliantly star-filled skies at 9000 ft. above the earth!
I will be in a state of awe for weeks by having shared this experience with those who believed that my place might well be among them. That my truth, also, represents that of others long unappreciated and now slowly but surely beginning to be recognized as a valued and contributing part of the aggregation that calls itself America.
There is still a long way to go, and much resistance in some areas of the country -- to the much-needed change necessary in order for justice to prevail, but measured by how far we've come -- I am hopeful. That hope has been increased tenfold by having experienced Telluride MountainFilms 2016.
The child in me felt a strong connection with Tonisha, and still does. That much came down the mountain with me and still whispers in the quiet moments ... .
"We've come a long way, Baby!"