Poet weaves lives together after terrorism of Sept. 11

Thursday, April 25, 2002

Pat Reagan brought a weaving she made incorporating her thoughts about her family. Amy Kephart showed the marriage vessel she made when Pueblo artist Nora Naranjo-Morse was in residence at Southeast two weeks ago, an experience that began and ended in reverence for the clay.

In advance of her talk Wednesday night at the University Museum, Cherokee poet and essayist Awiakta asked people to bring something that has been meaningful to them since 9/11.

"This is where we start weaving our lives together," she said.

Brenda Douglas of Advance, Mo., and her daughter, Soncire Pitts of Poplar Bluff, Mo., brought a double-woven Cherokee basket they made together, inspired by Awiakta's book, "Selu: Seeking the Corn Mother's Wisdom."

Delilah Tayloe recited the poem she wrote 37 years ago about feeling cut off from her true self.

Billed as "An Interactive Evening with Awiakta," Wednesday night's discussion with the writer was at times emotional, a give and take in which she played a drum, recited her poetry and sought wisdom about the national tragedy from the 80 people who attended.

Respect for corn

The wisdom of the Corn Mother refers to the truths to be found in corn, the Native American staff of life. Corn teaches respect, strength, adaptability, cooperation, unity and diversity, Awiakta said.

"If you don't apply those ... you won't have any corn to eat," she said.

This is the fifth time Awiakta, who lives in Memphis, Tenn., has visited Southeast. Her meeting with then-president Dale Nitschke in 1996 led the university, whose male sports teams are called the Indians, to broaden its interest in Indian heritage.

Wednesday, a ceremonial table honored the vessels in the university's acclaimed Beckwith Collection of Mississippian pottery. "These are more than priceless archaeological objects," said Dr. Carol Morrow, an associate professor of anthropology at Southeast. "They are sacred objects."

The objects represent one ideal, and the statuary in the museum represent another, observed Dr. Stanley Grand, the museum director.

Awiakta agreed. "The energy is good in this place," she said.

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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