Niicugni in Minneapolis/St.Paul this week

This Sunday, April 21 at 7pm
Doors at 6:30. No late seating.
The O'Shaughnessy Auditorium , 2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul
Co-presented by Northrop and O'Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University
Tickets here


I can only tell you what I know.
Niicugni is many things. It is a dance. It is a story made of many. It is a word that instructs us to listen. There is hope here, and death; monsters and laughter, salmon, bear, blood, and a never ending attempt to pay attention.
I think of the land beneath our feet. I think of everyone in the world.
Three years ago, when I saw an exhibit of fish-skin work at the Bunnell St. Gallery in Alaska, I wanted to learn. Harvesting wild salmon has been part of my family's life for thousands of years. I still return every summer for the Sockeye run. We fish, then clean, fillet, de-bone, strip, brine, kippur, freeze, smoke, can, and feast on the fish that will feed our family for the year. There is thankfulness in this process, and now, we also sew.
The lanterns for Niicugni were made by volunteers and friends in Vermont, Alaska, California, Arizona, and Minnesota, and for their work, their time, their interest in making something and learning the skill of fish-skin sewing I am so grateful. Making the lanterns became the dance itself. So Niicugni is also people gathering to sew.
When my dad received his land via the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, he put a map on the kitchen counter and the questions arose: How do we build a relationship with this land that has been in our blood always yet is far from where we live now? Can our bodies decipher the lines on this map? Or would it make more sense to be there, feet standing on the ground? And what of the owning? The de-marked lines? The cutting up of land? Why is this how we have chosen to make sense of the world?
Niicugni was made as these questions arose so they permeate through. I found no answers, of course. Only more questions: Can we continue to cut up the land, forgetting it is made of our ancestors? Can we recognize the importance of every creature - see ourselves as part of the whole? Can we absorb that everyone we see is here now and will be gone? Can we be a tiny part of the world and at the same time our whole gigantic selves?
Niicugni is for my dad.

.....it has been an incredible honor to tour this work for the past seven months and share it around the country.  We continue to learn what this work is and how it intersects with people and places as we perform. This dance has been nestling in, making itself at home all over the US...in Tallahassee, at MassMoca, in New York, at Keene State, in Phoenix, and Miami..thanks to all of you who come see, join in it, write about it, think about it, send me emails about it, and follow from afar...we think about the incredible network of people who are invested in Niicugni now, who have gotten to know it, have taken a moment to get close to it and we feel blessed - thank you.

Notes from tour...I have a friend who wanted to write a book. And he did. He wrote a beautiful book. He put his prose and poems together and made a book that settles down on you. So the thing that amazes me is getting something like that done. Getting all your words down - or at least the words you have at the moment. The effort - I enjoy thinking about the effort it takes us all to make things, to get things done, to get things pondered about...So we've been on tour for the past three months, and I've meaning to write to you, of course. But we get hammered in - getting somewhere new, fimding the post office, the grocery store, doing the show, then packing it up, saying goodbyes, packing the van -  and we start driving...and it's a little bit of a time warp - my friend Kris mentioned yesterday a feeling of diffusing forward and backward in time -- it's like that. You root somewhere, then you go. And suddenly, I have thousands and thousands of miles to ponder. I watched the high plains of Texas meld into the desert, kept my eye out for a coyote and got to say hello to one. My favorite thing to do on the road is to see if I can catch the moment where there is snow on the ground...and you are driving...and driving...and then, there is no snow. That moment, from snow to no snow. It's always my challenge to notice it. Oh yes, there was a waterslide one day, and a mountain we hiked, and a crayfish boil. There were alot of puppies, one of which almost adopted me. No bedbugs - thank god - but I do always check just to make sure. The rally in DC attended by tens of thousands to oppose the - really the only word I can find rightnow is: shameful Keystone XL Energy pipeline some people want to build - and then as if to prove some horrific point, a pipeline burst in Arkansas, gushing oil down a residential street. Did you see that crazy video? Controlled skies?  Weird things happen in this world: weird, sometimes beautiful, sometimes crazy, terrible things. Oh, oh, oh New Hampshire! We all got caught up in that big blizzard. Aretha was stuck in Northampton because the busses weren't running. We tromped through snow on our unexpected snow day. Librarians, students, farmers, knitters, fish-skin sewers, and photographers joined us on stage at Keene and I saw Aretha's solo show in New York,  a brave, gorgeous, hilariously sad show - I mean that is just my description, you should see it yourself! In New York, at Baryshnikov Arts Center,  we sold out our run. A year ago I was scared no one would come. Thank you - all of you who came and to you who joined us: O LOVE! The laughter when then kids came onto stage - that moment when the audience dropped into " oh...yeah...we are all just HERE. human." Oh god, I loved that. I was standing on stage with Aretha and we were slowly rolling to the floor when Max pushed in the door to let the kids and their moms in. The energy - both the rambunctious energy of little kids running and saying things little kids say, but also the quiet, soothing energy of being held, I took to the rocking -- the slow rocking back and forth. In Miami I loved dancing; just pushing our hearts to work - there is this sweat that happens there - and I met people in class and workshops who joined forces to help me make the show happen - and it had to happen, my parents were coming all the way from Alaska! Have you ever met someone you are so inspired by that you have no idea what to say? That happend to me in Arizona. It's uncomfortable, right? But I guess, why not hold it, too? The awkward silence...maybe more is said there than in a rumble of words.

Quyana to everyone in New York, at Keene St., at ASU, and in Miami. We have enjoyed making and performing THIS for you.

Love,
Emily