Tribal Culture Is My Livelihood
Our identity is everything to us as human beings. I was born into two tribes, the Omaha, and the Cherokee. I was adopted at birth into the earthen Bison clan (Black Shoulder or Inke’cabe). My name is Ba’gee-zha, which means Bison Mane, literally, but refers to the transformation of an alpha male whose head and neck enlarge dramatically as he must physically fight for the vitality of the tribe. Our goal as Omaha Indians is to live up to the metaphor of our names so that our tribe will thrive. I will spend my life trying to live up to my name for my tribe.
I am a student of our tribal life-ways, and try to help represent the truth in history, art, history, and the humanities. I am a dancer, singer and artist and try to express myself through these mediums the pride and clarity of identity in all I do.
I was recently given the honor of being inducted into the Omaha Eagle Whistle Society; it is one of the highest honors in my tribe. And with such honors come great responsibility. If anyone in the tribe asks for my help, then I am instantly indebted. I could ask for no greater honor in serving my people.
With my art, I only make ceremonial objects that must live in our ceremonies, whether that be prayer fans or war dance regalia, I insist that they be used, to bolster our tribal life-ways.
I often find myself advocating for the true impact of history. Every time I hear “Pioneer” here in Nebraska, I immediately follow up with an explanation of the impact to Native peoples. The dislocation of the Nebraska tribes is a painful and real part of Nebraska history. I recently started portraying Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca in an effort to help educate citizens on this topic.
But mainly I just try to live our teachings; “help one another… be kind to one another… even your worst enemy- shake their hand, and remember they are a human being and that there are those that need and love them.”
Taylor Keen is an enrolled citizen of both the Omaha and the Cherokee Nations. Prof. Keen is a full time lecturer at Creighton’s College of Business, and has served on the National Council of the Cherokee Nation and is a member multiple different traditional societies; include the Tai Piah Gourd Dance Society of the Kiowa, the UmoNhoN Society and the Omaha Native American Church.
Taylor is a veteran dancer, singer and artist and loves to share this passion with younger members of the tribe, in the hopes of it always thriving. Taylor is active in board/trustee governance with the Humanities Nebraska, the Nebraska State Historical Society and is Chairman of the Board for the Blackbird Bend Corporation, the hospitality / economic development engine for the Omaha Nation.