It is easy for us, as humans, to look at the earth around us and feel almost like a stranger on its soil. It is easier still to move unintentionally through each and every day without so much as a passive thought of the earth below us. Like a dream, fading through the cracks of your memory as you wake each morning, we take this planet for granted. In contribution to Dreaming the Land, a land-based arts initiative focused on mending that bond between human and earth, Elder and founder of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force, Sharon Day, guided a small group of trusted colleagues, family and community members through a meditative journey to bring humanity’s internal connection to the land back to the forefront of their consciousness through the transcendental power of dreams. Dreaming the Land invited ten international Indigenous artists to “examine the values that inform the connection of humans to the land itself.” (France Trépanier, artist and curator) The Big Dipper Stories and Earth Mound, Sharon Day’s contribution to the Dreaming the Land project, came to her in the form of a dream, many years ago. According to Day, the idea started as a piece that would be enacted at the Fort Snelling Upper Bluff site “as a tribute to the Dakota people who were interned there in 1862”. When the project went unapproved by the “powers that be”, Day held onto the idea until she was approached by France Trépanier and the Dreaming the Land project. “It came back to me as something I could literally create on my own land”, and that is exactly where it all started.
The night went as follows: Participants were invited to join Day for a home cooked meal; a communal dinner filled with conversation, laughter, and
to not only relax the mind, but to prepare both mind and body for the night ahead of them. The foundation of the night was laid here with great intention, taking the form of questions such as “What are our responsibilities to the many beings, both humans and non-humans, that share this land? How can the trauma of the land be healed? How do land-based, time-based, immersive artistic events impact the experiences of the audiences? How does the knowledge of the land itself inform the process?”
With these intentions of “deepen the links to Indigenous epistemologies, territories, and customs through community relationality and embodied artistic experiences” firmly set in their subconscious through contemplation of said questions, the group made their way to Day’s backyard where they would remain for the rest of the night. First, the group was tasked with simply taking in the majesty of the land around them, finding their own place within the terrain, on which Day had built (with the help of many beloved friends and volunteers) her own Big Dipper mound, placed precisely below where the Big Dipper appears in the August night sky. Once settled, it was time for a bonfire; Stories, emotions, and thoughts are shared by all without judgment or hesitation, as the essence of fire and sacred herbs anchored them both together, and to the earth beneath them. As they conversed, participants were asked to revisit some of the questions/prompts that were discussed earlier, as well as the curatorial vision that drove Day to create this initiative in the first place: How can art deepen our connections not only to each other, but to the land itself?
As the night closed and the flames of the fire turned to embers, members found their way back to their places of connection and peace within Day’s backyard to sleep underneath the stars, holding these shared thoughts and feelings in their minds as they dreamt. An act of truly bonding with the earth, as it holds them safe and close as they drift into a peaceful slumber. In the morning, the ensemble gathered once more to share their dreams and what they invoked within each of them, and how those invocations will be passed on through the groups’ various artistic expressions.
Pangea World Theater’s Co-Executive Director Dipankar Mukherjee was granted the opportunity to dream amongst this group of trusted visionaries. When asked about his experience, Dipankar had this to say:
“It was such a privilege to participate in Dreaming The Land, and to accept Sharon Day's invitation to dream under an open sky is an opening of a portal to imagination and accountability. Lying next to the Great Dipper that Sharon built on the land that is hers, the unbounded shower of intentional blessings held between the sky as a ceiling and the earth’s depth as a bed. I felt a deep sense of gratitude that Sharon Day lives at this time when I do; With Ancestors as listeners, songs as rituals, We shared, listened and learnt within a capacious space for love and kindness.”
We here at Pangea have always valued connection; whether it be towards our fellow ensemble members, our community within and outside the Twin Cities, or to the land itself, it has been our philosophy that our work starts with maintaining and cherishing these connections. This is because we know, deeply and truly, that we are not alone in this world. If we stand a chance at making it a better place for all to live and thrive, that work starts with holding and honoring those connections. We would like to express our thanks to Sharon Day for inviting Pangea to be her local partner in Dreaming the Land. We progress together, we grow as people together, and we will continue to change the world together.