Maria Tallchief passed away Thursday, April 11, 2013. Maria Tallchief. Tallchief was the first Native American, indeed the first American, to achieve the title Prima Ballerina. She was with the New York City Ballet from 1947-1965. Her father was Alexander Joseph Tallchief, a Chief of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma; her mother was Scots-Irish. She described herself as:
But in many ways, I was a typical Indian girl — shy, docile, introverted. I loved being outdoors and spent most of my time wandering around my big front yard, where there was an old swing and a garden. I’d also ramble around the grounds of our summer cottage hunting for arrowheads in the grass. Finding one made me shiver with excitement. Mostly, I longed to be in the pasture, running around where the horses were.
I have been in awe of Tallchief’s strength in her ability to overcome horrific racism against Native Americans. Sadly, there is still so much work we as a culture/community/nation need to do to stand in solidarity with the original North Americans.
In regards to ballet, her life’s work, she said:
A ballerina takes steps given to her and makes them her own. Each individual brings something different to the same role.
Tallchief’s grandfather not only helped to ensure the stabilization of the reservation, but he also helped to secure its mineral rights. I only wish there were more information regarding the indigenous peoples of North America before theNative American Holocaust.
Thank you for your legacy, Mara Tallchief.