On the chilly night of January 20, an attentive audience took a journey of history, culture and unity with guest speaker Jack Gladstone in the University Center Annex at UNC Pembroke. A member of the Pikuni-Blackfeet Indian Nation of Montana, Gladstone was the first speaker of the 2010 Native American Speaker Series.
With guitar in hand, ponytail and turquoise shirt decorated with American Indian patterns, he spoke in his native tongue as he proceeded to greet the audience with “hello friends.”
In his introduction, UNCP’s American Indian Studies Professor Dr. Jay Vest paid tribute to his longtime friend by mentioning the multitude of accomplishments Gladstone has made over the years. Dr. Vest noted Gladstone’s stand-out skills in the “poetry of oral tradition and mysticism.”
Gladstone is a man of many talents: storyteller, poet, singer, songwriter and student of culture. He is well known for his CDs, award nominations and honors and with his mission to spread cultural history and the importance of tradition. Known as Montana’s troubadour, Gladstone entertained the audience with songs of his tribal history, experiences of cultural change and the importance of family, community, values and storytelling. Interacting with the audience, Gladstone invited them to sing along with him, while teaching traditional hand motions, animal sounds and the language of his people.
“Awaken within your identity and your culture,” he said.
As the evening continued, Gladstone intertwined his performance with lessons in history. War, politics, protection of the earth and spirituality were touched upon in song and lecture. Mentions of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Columbus’ discovery of America and the Navajo Code Talkers were all a part of the show.
The self-proclaimed “tour guide of the Great Western Plains” shared his philosophies on aspects of life.
“I think vision can be had without literal image of light,” Gladstone said, while discussing the importance of the darkness and light in relation to the spirituality in American Indian culture.
As the night came to a close, the song “Buffalo Café’” played. Gladstone painted a portrait of nature’s wonder and beauty along the plains of his ancestral home, delivering a message of connection to not only the earth but to mankind. As he discussed the importance of this particular song, Gladstone said, “Through our diversity, we become stronger not weaker,” reminding the audience that “We are the humble caretakers of this land.”
When asked how she felt about the night’s event, Native American studies major Ryann Cummings said, “I think it’s a great thing he has done. I like how he incorporates folklore, legend and myth to bring people together in culture.”
The Native American Speaker Series continues in the Main Reading Room of the Mary Livermore Library at 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 28, with North Carolinian author Marijo Moore. Admission to the series is free.
Justin Walker is a senior Mass Communication major.