New play aims at scarcity of Native Americans in Hudson celebrations

To highlight the neglected Native American “view from the shore,” Pace University has commissioned a dramatization of the early encounters that conveys feelings on both sides.

PREMIERE THIS THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 17. MEDIA WELCOME. At the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York, 1 Bowling Green. Reception, 5:30-7:00 p.m., performance 7:00-8:00 p.m.

Media should RSVP to Samuella Becker, 212-346-1637, cell 917-734-5172,

MEDIA ALSO WELCOME AT PUBLIC PERFORMANCES LISTED BELOW. Please RSVP to the media contact at the relevant campus.

New play aims at scarcity of Native Americans in “Eurocentric” Hudson quadricentennial celebrations

Portrays fatal culture clashes, stresses of first contact

Pace University commissions work by Native American writer Joseph Bruchac

Invitational Premiere Sept 17 at Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, public performances Sept. 24-27 in Troy, New York City, Poughkeepsie

NEW YORK, NY, September 14, 2009 – “It is shocking to see how dreadfully little in this year’s celebrations even acknowledges the populations who watched the mutilated native drown in the Hudson’s tides.”

So says Geoffrey L. Brackett, the Provost of Pace University, speaking about this fall’s continuing quadricentennial celebrations of Henry Hudson’s voyage up the river that now bears his name.

The mutilated brave, his hand cut off by Hudson’s crew, was a member of the Native American tribes who greeted the explorers and traded with Hudson. Then came misunderstandings, mistrust, and fatal exchanges of arrows and gunfire.

To highlight the neglected Native American “view from the shore,” Pace University has commissioned a dramatization of the early encounters that conveys feelings on both sides.

“River of Tides” is written by the prolific Native American novelist, storyteller and poet Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki), who based it on events in the journal of Hudson’s first mate, Robert Juet.

An invitation-only premiere (media welcome) is being presented by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York, the George Gustav Heye Center, this Thursday evening, September 17. Reception 6:30-7, performance 7:00-8:00 p.m.

Three free performances will then be presented at locations along the route of Hudson’s journey: Thursday morning, September 24, at the Sage College campus in Troy, NY (in collaboration with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), Saturday evening, September 26, at Pace University’s downtown Manhattan campus, and Sunday afternoon, September 27, at Marist College in Poughkeepsie.

A “talkback” session with the director and actors will take place after each performance to air some of the perennial questions the play raises about encounters between strangers.

The diverse troupe of actors, including several Native Americans, is being directed by Ruis Woertendyke, an off-Broadway director who heads Pace’s department of performing arts.

Further information on locations and times is available from the institutions.

Pace and the museum will present a shorter version of the play to children in New York City public and private schools at the museum from October 6 through 9.

Obliterated from consciousness

“The Native voice is an essential part of our shared history,” says John Haworth (Cherokee), director of the National Museum of the American Indian in New York (NMAI). “We are delighted to be working with our friends Joe Bruchac and Pace University on this important project.”

The scarcity of native material in the NY400, Hudson 400 and Exploreny400 celebrations reflects a larger issue, namely the “obliteration from our societal consciousness” of the millions of peoples and dozens of tribes who occupied the Hudson Valley when the Half Moon arrived, according to Brackett, the Pace provost.

“We hope this work will help balance the Eurocentric emphasis of much of the celebration of Henry Hudson’s enormously important exploration,” he says.

The work’s characters portray culture shock afflicting natives and a fearful and patronizing crew, escalating into the deaths of one Englishman and 21 natives.

By the end, as Woertendyke puts it, “the ‘civilized’ are savages and the ‘savages’ are civilized.”

Children’s version

The version of the play for elementary-school children, and a teacher’s guide, are being developed by the NMAI and the Pace University School of Education. To register for school performances, educators should contact Ada Torres at the museum at 212-514-3705.

Performance Schedule (all performances are free and followed by a talkback session with the director and cast)

Thursday, September 24, Troy, NY, 10:30 AM, Bush Memorial Hall, Russell Sage College, 45 Ferry St. This performance precedes a public symposium on “The Upper Hudson River Valley: Then and Now” with RPI and Sage Colleges professors.

Saturday, September 26, New York, NY, 5 pm, Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts, Pace University downtown Manhattan campus, 3 Spruce Street (East of Park Row, near the corner of Gold Street). Reservations suggested at or 212-868-4444.

Sunday, September 27, Poughkeepsie, NY, 2 pm, Marist College Nelly Goletti Theatre, Student Center. Contact Hudson River Valley Institute, 845-575-3052,

Tuesday-Friday, October 6-9, New York, NY, adaptation for elementary schools, National Museum of the American Indian in New York. To register for school performances educators should contact Ada Torres at 212-514-3705.


The diverse cast includes several Native American actors, including the actor and storyteller Joe Cross, from the Caddo tribe of Oklahoma, a veteran of network television and off-Broadway and regional theater. The British television and stage actor Jonathan Le Billon will create the role of Hudson’s first mate and journal-keeper Juet. Several cast members are working graduates of the Pace acting program.

Musical accompaniment for the performance will come from The Spirit of the Mountain Drummers and Singers, from the Ramapo Nation.


Joseph Bruchac is a nationally acclaimed Native American novelist, playwright, storyteller and poet of Abenaki descent. His “Dawn Land” historical novels have been described as “the first attempt to reconstruct in fiction the daily life of the indigenous tribes of America prior to the coming of the Europeans.”

He is known for books about such Native American figures as Crazy Horse, Jim Thorpe, Squanto, and the Navajo Marines of World War II, and for his edited collections of Indian myths and legends. His poems, articles and stories have appeared in over 500 publications, from the National Geographic, Parabola and Smithsonian Magazine to the American Poetry Review, Cricket and Aboriginal Voices. He has written more than 70 books for adults and children, including “Keepers of the Earth” (co-authored with Michael Caduto), “Tell Me a Tale,” “When the Chenoo Howls” (co-authored with his son, James), his autobiography, “Bowman’s Store.” His highly praised anthologies of contemporary poetry and fiction include “Songs from this Earth on Turtle’s Back,” and “Breaking Silence,” winner of an American Book Award.


From off-Broadway to campus theaters, Ruis Woertendyke has directed more than 100 plays, ranging from Euripides to Chekhov, O’Neill to Albee, and Handke to Artaud. He developed the BFA Acting program at Pace University and chairs the Performing Arts Department. His own plays have been seen at La Mama and the Samuel French One-Act Festival in NYC, in the Great Plains Theatre Conference in Omaha, Nebraska, and at the California Institute of the Arts.

Woertendyke adapted and performed Anton Chekhov’s “On the Harmfulness of Tobacco” for off-off Broadway performances in New York City and New Jersey, played Arturo Ui at the Hartman Theater in Hartford and Aaron Burr at La Mama. His voice can be heard on Sesame Street and on several children’s DVD’s. He has written more than forty articles of dramatic criticism for The Educational Theatre Journal and for The Villager and the Phoenix.

Media Contacts:

Pace University—Samuella Becker, 212-346-1637, cell 917-734-5172,

National Museum of the American Indian—Ann Marie Sekeres, 212-514-3823,

Sage Colleges – Ardelle Hirsch, 518-244-4593,

RPI — Jessica Otitigbe, 518-276-6050,

Marist College—Tim Massey, 845-575-3174

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