“Thank you so much Tom! I’ve been singing your praises in my English classes. I’ve shared many times what MAPP has done for me with the educators here. I credit immensely you and your workshop for my vocabulary and exposure to Shakespeare. I credit immensely to you my ability to compete at a university with confidence and ambition. It is because of MAPP I knock on the door of the world seeking opportunities and understanding. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

My’Kel Johnson – MAPP Young Playwright/ Mentor Alumni, Nez Perce Tribal Member, currently enrolled at Washington State University

In the bigger picture of MAPP’s work in creative education, community development, and around issues of social justice and human rights, we will never forget the personal stories that unfold in the midst of our movement. In fact these stories are the beat of the heart of our work.

We want to take a moment to highlight one of our Mentor Artists – MAPP young writers, My’kel Johnson. She is the daughter of education specialist Verna Johnson and Nez Perce Tribal Chairman Anthony Johnson. Just over 10 years ago I met these two amazing people at an Indian Educators Conference hosted by CD’A Tribe Director of Education Dr. Christine Meyer on the Coeur D’ Alene Reservation. In a performance held at the C’DA tribal longhouse, Verna and Tony were impressed by the performances of plays written by CD’A Tribal School youth and performed by professional actors, through our MAPP program. Verna approached my producing partner Myra Donnelley and me right then and there, and determined that we had to bring this to the Nez Perce Rerservation as soon as possible.

We went into development (funding), and approximately 2 years later we were able to produce our first MAPP program at Lapwai High School on the Nez Perce Reservation.

There was a 12 year old girl in that first program. She was full of energy and enthusiasm. Though most of the young people in the room were a few years older than her, there was a maturity in her thinking and an extraordinary commitment to the creative work we asked for, that inspired us all. That first play, about the moon and a young wolf, expressed beautifully the sense of responsibility this girl felt for her family and her community.

For the next 6 years, she would return to our yearly programs and we would watch her grow into a stunning young woman. She continued to write heartfelt plays that expressed her hopes and dreams. Below is an example of her unique and powerful voice:

A Monologue by My’kel Johnson

Time: Near dusk during a summer evening

Place: A small HUD home on the reservation that is barely lit. Pow wow posters, pictures, and calendars hang on the wall. There are many smells of kous kous, tobacco, and peppermint that hang in the air. Pendleton blankets cover every piece of furniture. Hundreds of newspapers lie near the fire place and TV. Sounds of old westerns and buzzing of a fan can be heard from miles away.

At rise: The old man sits in his rocking chair singing and repairing his dip net. Any sound of an approaching car makes his old body jerk up in anticipation. His bag is at the ready as he waits for his son. However with each false alarm he cannot help but think to himself:

Old Man

“I have waited for three summers now. All I want is to dip my net in the river one last time. I want my son to see the old man still has some fight. I still got it. Age may have crept up over night but I still got it. I need one more memory to leave with my boy. I may need help down the rocks to the river… hell I may need help out of the truck. Just to see the river and watch the fish jump is enough for me. I’ll show my son all the fishing holes and how to repair a dip net under a minute. We will do all the things he promised he would learn when I turned an old man. I fear that is the problem. I loved my son so much I let him choose his own path. I did not force the teachings or traditions. I am an old man and my son promised this would be the year he’d take me. If he can just bring me to the river one final time I can die happy. The doctor said I have a few weeks until I cash in. Well it has been more than a few weeks so it’s a good thing I went sweat. I have to go now because I heard the salmon are really running this year. I want my son to feel the rush of catching one. I want him to feel the warmth in his heart that I felt as a young man when I provided for my people. I just want to see my son. If he never shows up the teachings will stop here. My dip nets will sit in storage and my ways will die with me. Will my son regret not taking me when his son asks him to go fishing and he knows nothing? Will my son regret not spending my final days with me? When I die will my son think I was a warrior regardless? He will not know who he is. When he looks in the mirror he will not see me. My son will not know his father unless he sees me fish. My son will not know me. My son will not know himself. When my son gets here I’ll tell him how much this means to me and that I love him. When I die he will get my dip net if he shows. If he doesn’t I’ll dream about it in my sleep. If he doesn’t show I will just teach some Sayapoo’s up in heaven. There’s always some half so called Cherokee’s eager to learn. If he does show up though . . .an old man just may die of a happy heart.”

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