What happens when you make a mistake?
Updated: Sep 16
This is America:
Another visit to Oatman, Arizona, and my mind is on mistakes. Racism in Arizona is alive and well in subtle and not so subtle forms. In my blundering way, in my white way, writing a play about a white woman adopted by the Mohave Tribe, I have made a few mistakes as well.
In previous posts I thank the Aha Macav Cultural Society, and I would like to do so again, and apologize for performing material that "disparages our people", as one tribal member commented after reading an early version of the script. Some of the text of an earlier version of the play which I performed in Humboldt Co. (before I felt confident enough to travel to Arizona) has been edited out in light of cultural feedback. I apologize for this mistake and am glad for the opportunity to compare "artistic license" with "cultural appropriation".
Additionally, in earlier versions of the play I wore makeup illustrating the traditional tattoo that Olive Oatman bore after her assimilation into the Mohave Tribe. Again, as an actor of European heritage I did not conceive of this as anything but stage makeup. However I have since learned that the spiritual significance of these markings is not something that a person can just "take on and off", and subsequently stopped doing so (with a bit of clever dialogue to retain the story's authenticity).
I am grateful for this process. Working on accepting and understanding a different way of thinking has enriched my practice and challenged my creativity. I have always learned better by making mistakes (ie: this is NOT what it is).
Finally, the title of this one-woman historical drama about Olive Oatman, Mormon settler and Mohave Adoptee, is now changed to The Secret Life of Ms.Oatman. On this website it is reflected in my updating of various headings, but not previous blog posts because I think that mistakes should be acknowledged, not edited out. And so there are still publicity stills on the webs of me in those facial tattoos and of the original title of the play.
Like the history of genocidal action that American Indians have endured for many generations now, it is my belief that this needs to get talked about. Now.
Why don't we tell our children the truth?