The idea of being out of balance, whether we speak of the Earth or society, is one with which we are unfortunately quite familiar. The causes are myriad, and bound up with our urge to progress and 'get ahead.' Balance maybe a goal, but not one we prioritize. Native Americans, on the other hand and even in the face of centuries of violence and oppression, have long-sought harmony with the environment, their history and ancestors, and their very-real connections to death and re-birth as signified by the changing of the seasons. Their reverence for the vernal and autumnal equinox, for example, when day and night are of near-equal length, give clear expression to the importance of balance. For centuries, displaced Native Americans have been returning to their ancestral homelands in the Southeast each fall, to honor their ancestors and commune with the sacred land they once called home.
Later this month, UGA, the Institute for Native American Studies and the Lyndon House Arts Center will present an exhibition and attendant events to highlight this return. Timed to coincide with the equinox, Return from Exile will be a celebration of cultural heritage and re-birth:
The exhibition features art representing the five tribes removed from the Southeast in the 1830s: the Creek, the Cherokee, the Choctaw, the Chickasaw and the Seminole.
"Featuring those five tribes and in Athens is particularly apt because the Oconee River was the traditional dividing line between the Creeks and the Cherokee, so Athens straddles that territory literally in Georgia," said Jace Weaver, the Franklin Professor of Native American Studies, director of the UGA Institute of Native American Studies and one of the exhibition's curators.
The exhibition and symposium are bookends to related events designed to highlight the equinox and the celebration of Native American cultural heritage and return to the region.
In addition to the art on view, the documentary, "This May Be the Last Time," and the AIR talks in September are both not to be missed. I stress the underlying concept of balance, as it seems to be one of modern society's greatest struggles, one that we are at a loss to confront much less correct. And yet, among us are groups of our fellow citizens who just might have some ideas we need to think about.
Image: Blue Moon, by J. Dylan Cavin, pencil and ink on paper, 22" x 18"