FORT YATES, N.D. (KXNET) — Oun is an indigenous-led nonprofit that supports community development on Standing Rock and in nearby urban communities.
The Oun hosted the internationally acclaimed Silk Road Ensemble on Standing Rock.
The Ensemble came to learn about the Lakota land, language, and culture with the help of Standing Rock culture-bearers.
“Standing Rock is a vibrant cultural hub,” said Billi Jo Beheler, co-founder and executive director of Oun. “Our nation is deeply invested in sustaining to Lakota language and culture. What you see here today is Silk Road and local indigenous artists coming together to collaborate.”
The Silk Road Ensemble is a Boston-based nonprofit with the mission of creating music to spark radical cultural collaboration and learning.
“The collaboration that is happening here today is grounded in mutuality and respect and I think that is the most important message,” said Beheler. “To see these musicians come together today to create and develop new musical ideas.”
This was just one day of the three-day retreat. And, it’s all a part of the Silk Road’s six-year initiative, the American Railroad.
“The American Railroad is a multi-year, multi-media concert and commissioning educational series,” said Alicia Robinson, director of education and social impact for Silk Road. “That will amplify the voices of the black indigenous, Irish, and Chinese immigrant population who helped to build the continental railroad or were forcibly removed to make a way.”
She says the project will help redefine the historical narrative.
“It will challenge what it means to be America, what it means to be American,” said Robinson. “America we know is a global community. The stories that we are uncovering about the American Railroad will help tell those stories.”
Haruka Fujii plays percussion for the Silk Road Ensemble and is originally from Japan.
She says it’s been exciting to experience Standing Rock and listen to the storytellers of the area.
“Somehow this place has a very strong powerful emotional moving triggers from just looking at the sky and looking at the view to meeting each people,” said Fujii.
Music was a huge part of the retreat.
Billi Jo Beheler is the co-founder and executive director of Oun. She says her favorite part was seeing everyone come together to create music on Standing Rock.
“It feels like the earth is talking to us. We are coming together, creating amazing music that was gifted to us from the earth,” said Beheler.
Robinson says Silk Road was founded more than 20 years ago.
The organization answers the question of what happens when strangers meet.
According to Robinson, this happens when there is an exchange of music, cultural traditions, and customs.