‘The People Making It Are Indigenous, but Indigenous Is Not a Genre’

By Siobhan Burke

For the Brooklyn-born playwright Muriel Miguel, a founder of the Native American feminist collective Spiderwoman Theater, the word diversity raises suspicions.

“Diversity means if you check the box, well, you did diversity,” she said in a recent telephone interview. “I’m always a little leery about how do you get diversity? It seems to me that it needs to be more than just checking the box.”

Known as a grandmother of the Indigenous theater movement in the United States and Canada, Ms. Miguel is among the 30 or so artists participating in this year’s First Nations Dialogues New York/Lenapehoking. (Lenapehoking is the homeland of the Lenape, the original inhabitants of the area encompassing New York City.) Taking place at multiple downtown theaters, the Dialogues bring together Indigenous performing artists from Australia, Canada and the United States for a week of performances, discussions and other gatherings, beginning Jan. 5.

After a low-profile first edition last year, the series is returning in an expanded, more public form. Coinciding with the annual conference of the Association of Performing Arts Professionals — which draws thousands of visitors from around the world — it is presented in partnership with 13 festivals and organizations, including American Realness, the Lenape Center, the American Indian Community House and Performance Space New York. Deliberately, it will be hard to miss.