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~ a message from our President ~
The Michael Murphey Western Institute continued with our mission of education, preservation & perpetuation of the arts, culture, history and legacy of the American West throughout 2018. MWI sponsored or co-sponsored numerous Murphey concerts, public appearances, and media interviews. All or a portion of each event was devoted to fulfilling MWI's mission. Many of Murph's songs are about the history or lore of the American West. Current topics are also covered, such as preserving the grasslands thorough holistic grazing practices, celebrating our cultural diversity, and promoting opportunities for urban families to learn about rural America . We fans appreciate learning about the stories, legends, or issues that inspire the lyrics of both old and contemporary songs and poems. Attendees often stop by after the shows to ask questions or relate personal stories or memories of their own triggered by a particular song or poem. These visits validate and continue to inspire the institute's mission.
Our showcase event last year (July 4-8) was Michael Martin Murphey's American Westfest in historic Red River, New Mexico. The American West was celebrated via the arts of music, poetry, lectures, demonstrations, paintings, sculpture, frontier and contemporary clothing and equipment. Orin Friesen, MWI Advisory Board Member, radio personality and musician from Benton, Kansas, was our MC. Joining Michael Martin Murphey and the Rio Grande Band were iconic western singer/songwriters Michael Hearne, R.W. Hampton, and K.R. Wood. Well known young Western artists Carin Marie, Kristyn Harris, Mikki Daniel, Andy Hedges, and Taos native Max Gomez all performed. Native American musicians Robert Mirabal and Gareth Laffely inspired the crowd with their original music as well as accompanying Murph and the other artists. Ryan Murphey was busy all week with his solo sets as well as playing with the Rio Grande Band. Gary Roller did double duty as both musician and painter/sculpture artist. Karla Morton, 2010 Texas Poet Laureate entertained and inspired us with her original poetry. John Schaffner and family maintained their chuck wagon camp and worked their proverbial tails off keeping up with the demand for Dutch oven stews and cobblers.
The Chuck Wagon Old Fashioned Soda wagon not only had delicious sodas on tap but was a great place to hear some "tall tales", all true of course. Clint Chartier aka "Clint Rides His Horse", well known Native American educator, actor, model, and craftsman performed horseback demonstrations of frontier riding skills as well as educating the audience on the symbolic messages expressed in the various symbols he painted on his horse. Clint's teepee, furnished inside with his hand crafted chairs, clothes, weapons, and camp equipage was often the scene of families aptly listening to Clint describe life on the western plains for Native Americans during the 1800's. Michael traditionally opens and closes American Westfest with Native American artists. The finale was no exception when Robert Mirabal invited all in attendance to join in a traditional circle dance as we all celebrated the circle of life and cross cultural fellowship in the dance. MWI commends the community of Red River for their amazing support of American Westfest. We could not have done it without the countless hours of support from the community citizens, officials, and merchants who volunteered their time, venues and services to help put on the festival. We are looking forward to July 11-13 when once again, Red River will host Michael Martin Murphey's American Westfest.
2018 activities also included 4 weekends of reenactments and lectures commemorating the 150th anniversary of the formation and recruitment of the Forsyth Scouts who fought in the Battle of Beecher Island, September, 1868. You can find previous postings on the MWI Facebook page covering the events at Forts Harker, Hays, and Wallace leading up to the final weekend at the National Beecher Island Battleground Memorial Site near Wray, Colorado. It was, to say the least, an amazing experience to play a small part as a reenactor. Murphey Western Institute was proud to be a sponsor as well as to participate in the events. The Historical Societies from each fort and Wray did an amazing job in organizing, fund raising, and staging those events. Though we reenacted the battle, it was a celebration of reconciliation and unity of spirit as we honored all the participants of the battle. A memorial service at the Fort Wallace cemetery, Sept 9, was especially moving as wreaths were laid for the fallen on both sides, including horses and mules. As the ceremony commenced an eagle was sighted in a break in the clouds. Thomas White, who portrayed Chief Roman Nose, told everyone in attendance that it meant the Great Spirit was present and was pleased that we were all together now.
With that, I'll just say that we have already started working on our mission in 2019, recently returning from the Elko, Nevada, National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and are looking forward to seeing everyone out on the trail, out West. We are endeavoring to raise funds as we continue our quest for an artists' retreat center and research library for our ever expanding book collection. Michael Murphey Western Institute greatly appreciates everyone's support in these endeavors.