On August 21st, 2015, Katharina of One Spirit Germany used the occasion to set up an information desk at the Karl-May-Museum in Radebeul. As special guest within a series of events hosted by the museum during the summer Mitch Walking Elk came there for a concert.
On the porch of the so-called "Villa Bärenfett" (Villa bear fat) she found a table already set in place which goes back to Patty Frank who was one of the founders of the museum back in the early 20th century. She was given permission to show our flyers, information material about One Spirit and postcards with gorgeous motives of the Lakota artist Robert Lee Apple. As a padding for the material she used Gaby's handmade quilt. The nearby railing was superb for placing single sheets of information for the many programs One Spirit offers. She also put jewelery from Pine Ridge onto the display which attracted quite some guests right from the start.
Anyway, this was Mitch Walking Elk's evening and naturally this great artist of Cheyenne-Arapaho heritage drew all attraction to himself once he started singing and playing. The singer-songwriter had an eventful life from being brought to boarding schools when he was a kid, to several stays at jails and his work for AIM and indigenous rights in America. He talks about his experiences in his songs and also carries messages to his audience with them. His music is very diversified. He sings sentimental ballads, sociocritical rock songs and also traditional native songs. Furthermore, blues and folkrock is not unknown to him. He already won several American music awards.
After the official welcoming of the guests by the head of the museum, Ms. Kaulfuss, Mitch started right away his performance, explaining the structure of traditional Native songs and also singing some, while he accompanied himself on a tabor. Of course, he spoke English so the museum provided Ms. Anne Barnitzke, one of their employees, as translator. Smirkingly he explained that he already found out that Europeans are crazy about Native "Heya-Songs" but he had decided to present songs from his other repertoire as well. Shortly after singing some traditional songs, his music suddenly sounded more rock-like and he gave his poor guitar a hard time.
After 45 minutes there was a brake giving the audience the opportunity to visit the museum's exhibition about North American Natives. To get to this exhibition they had to pass by at our stand and hence Katharina had lots of possibilities to present the work of One Spirit and talk about the situation on the reservation.
Some people used the break to get themselves some bratwurst and a mug of beer (don't be shocked - in Germany beer belongs to the staple foods rather than to alcohol), then came back and read our flyers. Katharina even found out that some of the visitors had already heard about One Spirit, knew the programs well and the website. This fact was a bit astonishing but nevertheless very positive to hear about. The picture postcards showing motives of Lakota artist Robert Lee Apple as well as his quilled earrings were admired and purchased. So the donation box started to fill and the pile of flyers became smaller and smaller.
After the break Mitch started with some very nice love songs before he changed again the style and took out his blues songs. The audience became more and more elated, they clapped along and in the end of each song, Mitch got lots of applause. Between the single songs Mitch talked about what it means to live as a Native in the USA today, about different Native cultures and explained the meaning of some of his texts. One of his songs was about a buffalo who spoke to the Lakota, in another one he specified individual Native tribes and the crimes they had to suffer from the white people, occupying their land. This was a very moving and long song!
Right after he finished, a small incident happened - a tiny spider had started to weave its web on Mitch's guitar. He took the spider cautiously and placed it on the cover of the teepee. After that he went back to some real loud songs while he and his guitar gave everything. Katharina was impressed by his voice which proved to be very alterable - singing a song clearly and with emotion, another one smoky and easy-going and a further one stirringly - he put a lot of emotion into the performance of his songs. At the end of the concert, Mitch was obviously exhausted (on this day he had come by car from Erlangen which means to drive 200 miles on some overcrowded highways) but he played 3 extra songs without which the audience wouldn't let him go.
Afterwards he told a story that during his last stay in Germany he could watch a film based on the books of Karl May for the first time. The way Natives were presented in the film was far away from reality but they were shown in a positive way so he understands that these books and films are the reason why there is such a great interest in American Natives all over Germany and Europe and without them, he wouldn't have had a chance to perform in Radebeul.
However, Mitch asked to pay respect for the Indian way of life which is a spiritual way that is only open to Indians. He told the audience that he is praying for a good performance and the well-being for his family back in the States before every tour. The tiny spider which wove its net unimpressed and calmly while Mitch was playing his guitar hard, meant for him a hint from his ancestors that they also watch over him in Germany. At the end he had to tell a joke which is very common among America Natives: there are more medicine men in Europe than in America. Words worth to think about!
After the concert people could buy his CDs and his impressive biography which he signed. Everyone who is interested in the daily life of American Natives living today and the incomprehensive circumstances on the reservations should read his biography named "The will be no surrender".
It was a very successful evening with great and varying music in a beautiful surrounding - teepee, log cabin, torches.
We from One Spirit Germany are saying "Thank you" from our hearts to the team of the Karl-May-Museum for allowing us to be a part of this nice evening and the opportunity to present One Spirit to the guests. WOPILA TANKA!
Click on the pictures to enlarge them
Picture credits: The first 2 photos on this side by courtesy of Ms. Barnitzke, Karl-May-Museum; all others by K. Schacht, One Spirit