Sacred Land: A Tribute to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, had its world premiere Nov. 16 in Nampa and a second showing at the Morrison Center Nov. 17. Composed by Jim Cockey, the piece tells the story of Idaho's American Indian tribes.
The performance opened with a creation story acted out by Ballet Idaho dancers in beige uniforms blending the origins of flora, fauna and the humans who would come to inhabit southern Idaho. The act was set to a throbbing drum beat and featured choral accompaniment by Boise Philharmonic Master Chorale. In the second act, the dancers broke into groups and began to interact and mingle as tribes.
The third act described the forced relocation of tribes by the U.S. Army to Fort Hall. A white sheet enveloped the dancers and was back-lit with red light to symbolize the violence of the forced march. The brief final movement, "To the Healing of All People," tied Sacred Land up with a bow.
This was the opening event of Boise 150, the celebration of the city's sesquicentennial, and Cockey wrote Sacred Land to commemorate Boise as a point of intersection for European and Native American cultures. As he explained at a panel discussion Nov. 17 at Boise Art Museum, composing music about that intersection required an open mind--and open ears.
"My major job in developing this piece is listening," he said.
For research, Cockey traveled to Fort Hall, where he found recorded indigenous music that inspired his own composition.
His project was met with some skepticism. As Ted Howard of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribe explained at the panel discussion, "One hundred and fifty years isn't a long time for our people, and the events of those times are still fresh in our memories."
"We always feel like our culture is being commercialized. We always feel suspect," Howard added.
Ultimately, the collaboration will be judged on whether it did right by its subject as a step toward bridging the gap between Idaho's past and present.