May 25, 2019  

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University Forum to Feature Native American Performance Artists

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Native American cultural performers will present a collaborative performance art piece at the next Southern Miss University Forum Tuesday, Feb. 22 as part of the Education through Cultural and Historical Organizations’ (ECHO) 11th annual Performing Arts Festival, hosted by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. (Submitted photo)

A unique opportunity to witness and learn about the customs and traditions of Native American and immigrant cultures will highlight the next University Forum Tuesday, Feb. 22 at 6:30 p.m. in Bennett Auditorium, on The University of Southern Mississippi’s Hattiesburg campus.

Cultural performers from Mississippi, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and Alaska will come together for the event to create a collaborative performance art piece, based on the shared theme “Celebrate — Song, Dance & Story!” The event will highlight how stories, music and dance convey cultural traditions and knowledge from one generation to another and across geographical borders. Admission is free. 

The event is part of the Education through Cultural and Historical Organizations’ (ECHO) 11th annual Performing Arts Festival, hosted by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI). The university’s Center for American Indian Research and Studies is supporting the Southern Miss Honors College’s presentation of this forum.

“We’re excited to work with our ECHO partners to bring this group of Natives to our area to share their stories, their songs and their culture with Hattiesburg area youth and our Southern Miss community,” said Dr. Tammy Greer, associate professor of psychology and director of the Center.

“This is a chance to witness a bit of diversity among American Indian communities in the U.S.,” she said. “It is not easy, and maybe not possible, to otherwise experience in one hour the diversity in song, in dance and in stories that exist among these disparate tribes located in very different parts of our country.” 

Casey Bigpond, a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and staff member of the Department of Chahta Immi, will perform with the festival. Bigpond was raised in the Pearl River community and developed an interest in tribal arts at a young age.  He is a skilled craftsman, chanter and traditionalist and will promote the culture and heritage of the Mississippi Choctaw at this event.

The MBCI Department of Chahta Immi is a grantee of ECHO, a project of the U.S. Department of Education. This award is shared by six partner organizations, including  the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage, Alaska; the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii; the Inupiat Heritage Center in Barrow, Alaska; the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians in Choctaw, Miss.; The New Bedford ECHO Project in New Bedford, Mass.; and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass. 

The partners create culture-based learning experiences for students, teachers and communities through public programs, teacher resources, student programs, publications and internships. ECHO partner organizations seek to enhance appreciation of regional heritage and to facilitate dialogue and understanding between communities and individuals. The performance group will travel to each of the partner organizations.

The University Forum series is presented each fall and spring semester by the Southern Miss Honors College. For more information about University Forum, contact the Honors College at 601.266.4533. For more information on the festival, online visit www.choctaw.orgor; or call the MBCI Department of Chahta Immi at 601.650.7440.