ANCIENT FIRE-CARRIERS TO CONTEMPORARY STORY-CARRIER

By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer (Choctaw Nation), Artist in Business Leadership Fellow 2015

 

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Jack Gladstone is widely known as “Montana’s Troubadour.” A citizen of the Blackfeet Nation, Jack illustrates American Indian culture through a mosaic of music, lyric poetry, and spoken word. A former college instructor, he co-founded Glacier National Park’s renowned lecture series, “Native America Speaks” in 1985.

Jack has released fifteen critically acclaimed CDs. He has received the C.M. Russell Heritage Award and was inducted into the University of Washington Alumni Hall of Fame.

In 2015, Jack was honored by the State of Montana with a Governor’s Humanities Award. He was recognized with a 2016 First Peoples Fund Community Spirit Award, and a Governor’s Art Award, Montana’s highest artistic achievement.

 

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Like the ancient Blackfeet fire-carriers, Jack brings the embers of music to the world, to unleash the power of story throughout generations, cultures, and hearts. As a story-carrier, he gathers, prepares, and shares stories.

“While the fire-carrier’s task was to transport living, glowing campfire embers from one hearth to the next,” Jack says, “my duty is to carry narrative embers of Western and Native Americana well into the 21st century.”

His work spans generations as he sees young parents who were children themselves when they first heard his lecture series, “Native America Speaks.” Now they bring their children — even infant grandchildren — to hear the stories. That multi-generational impact is not lost on Jack.

“I hope to contribute to the ecological, cultural, and historical illumination of multiple generations,” he says. “This has become a responsibility as well as an honor.”

“I hope to contribute to the ecological, cultural, and historical illumination of multiple generations. This has become a responsibility as well as an honor.”

Jack is now carrying stories into his most ambitious project to date: “Montana's Troubadour.” These epic stories span history from 1877 to 9/11. He is forging ancient, historical, and contemporary narratives of hero journeys to introduce K-12 audiences throughout Montana to the tenacious resiliency of the human spirit.

Encouraged after attending a First Peoples Fund Native Artist Professional Development Training last fall and receiving his 2018 Artist in Business Leadership fellowship, Jack is bringing into harmony his marketing strategies to diversify and improve his reach and impact with his newest album. He plans to revisit reliable areas from earlier in his career, enabling him to focus solely on the new album. He can focus on the stories.

Within a landscape glowing with stories, Jack carries the embers of story like the ancient fire-carriers of his people. He says, “Story holds the power to cradle and awaken the human heart.”

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