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Cablegate: Turkey Visit by Native American Storyteller a Resounding

Dianne Wampler 04/29/2008 12:29:32 PM From DB/Inbox: Dianne Wampler

Cable
Text:


UNCLAS ANKARA 00800

SIPDIS
CX:
ACTION: PA
INFO: POL PMA ECON AMB DCM

DISSEMINATION: PAO /1
CHARGE: PAS

APPROVED: A/DCM: KDEBLAUW
DRAFTED: ACAO: JANDERSON
CLEARED: A/PAO: EMCKAY

VZCZCAYI116
RR RUEHC
DE RUEHAK #0800/01 1200558
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 290558Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 6099

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 000800

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/PPD ALTMAN-WINANS, EUR/FO FOR DAS GRAFFY, R/PPR FOR
GRETCHEN WELCH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OIIP SCUL KPAO TU
SUBJECT: Turkey Visit by Native American Storyteller a Resounding
Success

1. Summary: Embassy Ankara hosted Native American storyteller and
singer Redfeather Woman for 21 performances from April 7-20, 2008.
Redfeather Woman (AKA Rose Haywood) performed to over 4,000 high
school and university students in eight cities in southwestern
Turkey and in Ankara. The program was part of an Embassy-sponsored
series of visits by U.S. storytellers, supported by R supplemental
PD funds that Mission Turkey received for youth outreach activities.
Redfeather Woman's presentations helped the Embassy counter the
strong anti-Americanism felt by the majority of Turkish youth and
foster a dialogue about minority issues and Turkish identity (end
summary).

Performances Soared Above Expectations
2. Rose, a Turkish student interpreter, and an Embassy officer
visited schools and universities in Izmir, Aydin, Manisa, Denizli,
Isparta, Mugla, Antalya, and Ankara. At each venue, Rose told two
stories, one of the origins of the peace pipe, and another about the
importance of respecting different cultures. She also performed an
original song and ended each show with a circle dance involving the
audience. In planning the venues, the Embassy expected about 50-100
students for each performance; however the actual attendance often
exceeded 500. In total, over 4,000 young people attended her
performances.

3. Several performances were particularly memorable. In Aydin, a
small city in the Aegean region, Rose was to give two performances
at the university in a hall with a maximum capacity of 150. For
each performance, over 400 people showed up, including classes of
students from elementary schools whose teachers had read about the
event on the university's website. The response was so positive
that Rose added an impromptu third show. the room was full, though
the performance had not been announced.

4. Local press covered Rose's visit at nearly every venue. In
Isparta, for example, the high school principal invited the local
press. Six television, radio and print journalists covered her
entire performance. Performances in other cities enjoyed similar
coverage.

Effective PD Programming in a Challenging Environment
5. Turkey has one of the most anti-American publics in Europe.
Recent polls indicate only 9-15 percent of the population has a
positive view of the United States. Anti-American sentiment is
particularly strong among young people. In many universities, the
Embassy has been unable to program speakers or cultural events due
to resistance or apprehension by university administrators. Despite
the challenging environment, Redfeather Woman's program was
enthusiastically received by students, teachers and administrators,
with many asking the Embassy to sponsor further activities.

6. During each program, Rose gave students an opportunity for
questions and comments. Students took her up on the offer. One of
the more commonly posed questions was whether Native Americans were
bitter over their treatment by the U.S. government. Each time, she
answered that injustices occurred, but happened over a century ago.
She always added that now, the U.S. Government actively supports
Native Americans, including by funding programs to teach native
languages, build museums, and through programs such as her visit to
Turkey.

7. Adding to the program's success was the reoccurring theme that
Native Americans and Turks have common ancestors. Some scholars
believe that Native Americans come from the Turks' ancestral
homelands in central Asia. Several audience members pointed out
similarities between Native American and traditional Turkish
culture: symbols found in Native American beadwork is similar to
those found on Turkish carpets; both Turks and Native Americans have
medicine men as part of their tradition; and the Native American
religion is similar to that practiced by Turks before their
conversion to Islam.

8. The Embassy's involvement in the program was also highly
visible. The American officer introduced Rose for each performance,
and at the conclusion of each performance, Rose specifically thanked
the Embassy. Each time, the audience applauded the Embassy for its
support of the program.

A Tool to Explore Turkishness

9. Ethnicity and minority rights (including language and cultural
rights) are highly sensitive and divisive topics in Turkey, which
has fought an ethnically-based, separatist terrorist organization
for over 24 years. The program gave participants an opportunity to
reflect on Turkishness and it fostered a dialogue on what being a
Turk means.

... and reflect on Genocide

10. In response to students' questions, Rose acknowledged that
genocide had been committed by "the Americans" (students' emphasis)
but--she added--that was well over 100 years ago, the nation had
moved on and today the Native American population celebrates its
rich cultural heritage. The distinction between the US handling of
this topic with modern Turkey's sensitivity to publicly discussing
the tragic events of 1915 could not be missed by the adults in the
audience.

Upcoming Programming


11. To build on the success of Redfeather Woman's visit, Mission
Turkey will organize two additional storytelling programs later this
year. At the end of April, an African American storyteller will
visit schools and universities in southeastern Turkey and in
September another storyteller will perform to students in the Black
Sea region.

12. Post thanks R for the supplemental funding that made this
program possible. This project helped break stereotypes about
Americans, and gave us an opportunity to promote discussion and
reflection on topics too hot in Turkey to address directly. The
program gave our audiences a chance to see for themselves that a
strong nation can consist of many cultures, that diversity can be
empowering not threatening, and that acknowledging historical
events, including tragedies, can build dialogue that strengthens
rather than weakens a country.

WILSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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