Transcript: Muriel Miguel's #LegacyLeaders Video


MURIEL: We’re not the ones, we’re not the, the beautiful white ladies, most of us.


MURIEL: We’re coming from a different class and a tougher way of looking at things.


MURIEL: My name is Waga Nadili. My name is Bright Sun. These are all my native names. I am 77 years old. I am, uh, a mother, a grandmother, a two-spirit woman an actress, a, a director, a teacher I am Kuna and Rappahannock.


MURIEL: I came out of a group called, uh, Open Theater. It was the avant-garde of the, uh, seventies. When I left Open Theater, I, uh, I really was interested in carrying on the idea of storytelling. But how do you change it? And I realized at that point, that you could start at the end of a story and go forward. You could start at the middle and go two ways. You could start at the beginning. And so I start to—I started to cut and paste, what I wanted people to say at what time.


MURIEL: People would say to me, “You’re such a wonderful storyteller.” And of course I was a wonderful storyteller. I had been listening to stories and telling stories since I was a baby under the kitchen table, where—that’s where you find out all the things about your family…




MURIEL: My sisters were 12 and 13 years old—they said, “You can do anything you want. And we’re going to make sure you do anything you want.” So I was a round, brown dancer.


MURIEL: When I was growing up, and I, I was, you know, doing stuff on, off Broadway, and, uh, agents wanted me, right? And uh, they would call me up. They had this great role, this wonderful role. And I’d get down there, and there’d be an Indian princess. They had accents. They, they were stupid. All—it was a terrible thing. What do you do? You take the role. You try to fight it, and tell people that people don’t talk like this. This is degrading. Going down for an audition, when I know it’s going to be an Indian princess. I wasn’t interested anymore. I, I never did them anymore because people have their own idea of what native people are…


[Archival Images]

GLORIAL MIGUEL: And we were part of the circus.

LISA MAYO: And one of the sideshows was my family’s snackwell show.

GLORIAL MIGUEL: Here we had Indian village with tipis and children running around. People eating and

LISA MAYO: I looked up all day and I saw this whole bunch of people. They were all tourists. They said, “hey! Come here come here come here! Look! Look at the Indians eating!”


MURIEL: I was in Sweden one year, at, at an international, uh indigenous women’s conference. And it had, uh, Spiderwoman, and all the rest were one-woman shows. There was a Sami woman, that had a one-woman show. There was a woman from, uh, uh, Greenland, had a one-woman show. There was a woman from North Africa, who had a one-woman show. And there was a woman, uh, from the other side of the Ural mountains. And uh, she would be called a Soviet, right? But she did not—she was an indigenous woman, from the villages there. What astounded me, was that every one of us went to the four corners at some point in our pieces. And none of us realized it, you know. And we started to talk about the four directions, and how important four directions are to indigenous people.


MURIEL: At some point in your life you look for those directions. And, uh, I guess that’s how I feel about identity. It’s that they’ve worked very hard in taking identity from native people.


MURIEL: I was trying to figure out why I was so, not offended, but furious, enraged, at men poking me, and, and making noises at me at this time, walking down the street. And, and I realized that I was almost—I was going to get in trouble, because I was at the edge of socking someone, and, and assaulting someone. And I started to really look at that. Really look at, you know, the violence from me, and the anger from me, and how anger could bushwhack me—could come up and, and absolutely envelop me. It was pretty bad at that time. The, the American Indian Movement was using women like recreation. The whole idea of, of women, uh, being raped and abused, was right out there, and nobody was saying anything about it.


MURIEL: With the feminist movement, we have come far. There’s zero tolerance now. You know, if you beat your wife, if you beat your woman, uh, there’s zero tolerance with, with pornography. But that is not on the reserve or reservations.


MURIEL: I had a very close friend. We grew up together, and this was Josephine Mofsie, and she was the beginning Spiderwoman, uh, with me. When I first started to think about how to change, uh, storytelling Josephine wanted to tell the stories of Spiderwoman—the creation stories. That’s how Spiderwoman began. It was the whole idea of creation stories, and, and, and the idea that nothing’s perfect.


[SINGING: ...the moonlight, the silvery moonlight that shines upon...donky donky donk...I walk with my shadow I talk with my echo but where is the one that I love…]


MURIEL: It had to have humor. If you do not have humor, no one’s going to listen to this. If you harangue, nobody listens after a while. If you keep on hitting somebody over the head, all they do is say ow. Which meant we told dirty jokes. Women didn’t tell dirty jokes. We did dirty gestures. Woman didn’t do dirty gestures. We did obscene gestures. Women didn’t do obscene gestures. And we took things all the way to the absurdity.




MURIEL: When I started Spiderwoman, I didn’t want to take something, like a huge set with me. So I was given at the Sundance many quilts and many pieces of material and uh, my sister Gloria just came back from Kunella. She had a huge mola like this, but it was like this big. I started to play with them on the floor and piece them together, because I knew that I wanted this as a backdrop, as we got older, we would ask women that passed through, women that we were working with, if they would put something into the backdrop. Until you know, the whole backdrop was just pieces of, uh, from women that worked with us.


MURIEL: We took women and violence to, um, a festival in, uh, Baltimore, and uh, polarized the festival. And we were like really shocked that, that it would—people would be so offended, or people would just think it was great Luis Valdez was there. And um, they were looking for people to go to Nancy. They asked Luis, who would he recommend to go to Nancy. And he said, if you don’t take Spiderwoman, forget about anybody else. And that was the beginning. We, we came—we were supposed to be there for like a couple of weeks, and that was like a couple of months. And we were asked to be all over the place…


MURIEL: World Festival of Theatre in Nancy…Amsterdam—the Festival of Fools, Brussels, Berlin, Rome and Luzan…that’s an amazing - That’s an amazing tour!


MURIEL: We were tall. We were short. We were skinny. We were fat. We were gay. We were straight, funny, wacky, zany, take no prisoners and damned good actresses. We talked about abortioN, having an affair, with a married man. Seven women going across Europe, in a time where no one thought of feminism. Out there, the world said, “No, you can’t.” And we said, “Oh yes we can.”


[LISA MAYO SINGING: Da da da da da da da da...makes me feel like standing in the rain...Everybody is gotta da da da da da da da da da that’s the story, learn it live it love it. But stronger than that...]


MURIEL: Storytelling is a way of relieving and releasing. It’s a great release. And people don’t have that unfortunately—time to do that. We are all told to shut up. We‘re told to shut up, keep quiet, don’t talk about it. 40 years ago, I was through with that….


Muriel: I want to do my own things. And that’s what I, I think I want to say to young people. You have to do your own thing, because you, you, you’re fighting this all the time. You’re fighting the agents and the pollution really, but you have to find out your own voice and I think sometimes it comes from um, your own nation or sometimes it comes from your nation and other nations. And listening to other nations. I’m working with, that’s the other thing, working with younger women in, in this new piece, Material Witness and how exciting it is, because it feels like the old Spiderwoman, when we were all young, you know. I can’t get up and dance anymore. But, you know, they do it for me, you know…


MURIEL: When I’m working with native, uh students, I realize, it’s more than just teaching theater. You know, it’s, it’s teaching respect, teaching generosity, vulnerability, you know, trust. All those things, you have to teach. It’s important that wherever you are, you thank the people of that particular land. And we a lot of times don’t do that.You know, or have the prayer from those people from that particular land. And if we don’t keep up those kinds of traditions, you know, everything gets out of hand. Other people can take over. I’ll teach anybody. The confidence and the curiosity, and um, the hard ass that I am. You know? I want to pass all that on, because it’s, it’s more than anything—it’s, it’s, it’s not leaving. It’s the giving that’s, that’s important to me.