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Feb. 17, 2004

Thunderbird Theatre to dramatize American Indian creation stories

Contact: Patrick Lebeau or Tina Urbain, American Indian Studies Program, (517) 432-2558 or (517) 432-2582; or Kristan Tetens, University Relations, (517) 355-5633,


EAST LANSING, Mich. � Thunderbird Theatre, an all-American Indian student dance, storytelling and drama company, will perform �Songs of Life� at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18, in the Wharton Center for Performing Arts' Pasant Theatre.

Admission is free and families are encouraged to attend the performance by the drama company from Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas.

"Songs of Life" combines the traditional American Indian arts of dance, song, drumming, sign language and storytelling with the theatrical arts of pantomime and stage movement to depict features of the American Indian and Alaskan Native way of life as they are expressed through ancient teaching stories. The production was created through the use of improvisational theatre techniques.

��Songs of Life� is a collection of native stories of how things came to be,� said Pat Melody, Thunderbird Theatre�s artistic director.

�How the sun came to be in the sky, why the buzzard has a bald head, why fire must be respected, how the flute came to be. But the stories also tell how all the people of the earth, even the �two-leggeds� must live in harmony with each other, with the earth, and with themselves so that all things may be made right. These are the teaching stories of the Native American people and the teaching is done not through lecture but through visual storytelling, often with a great deal of laughter.�

Founded in 1974, the Thunderbird Theatre explores and expands the direction and form of American Indian theatre, and trains American Indian theatre professionals. Thunderbird alumni direct and perform with American Indian and Alaska Native and mainstream theatre companies; have written theatre, motion picture and television scripts; and work in all facets of the media from acting to television production.

About Haskell Indian Nations University

In 1884, 22 American Indian children began an educational experience designed to prepare them for assimilation into the American mainstream. What was once an institution that promoted assimilation is now an institution that takes pride in promoting the philosophy of self-determination for American Indians and Alaska Native people and nations. Surrounded by the historic structures of its National Landmark campus, Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, combines the intellectual, physical, social, emotional and spiritual components of American Indian life into a unique university experience. Supported by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Haskell's unique nature is characterized by a tuition-free education, a culturally based curriculum and a culturally rich multi-tribal student body. The university enrolls more than 1,000 students each semester who represent federally recognized tribes from across the United States. They select programs that will prepare them to enter baccalaureate programs in elementary teacher education, American Indian studies, business administration and environmental science; to transfer to another baccalaureate degree-granting institution; or to enter directly into employment. For more information, visit the Haskell Indian Nations University Web site at

�Songs of Life� is sponsored by the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers and the American Indian Studies Program at Michigan State University.