Juliana Brown Eyes Inspires Youth to “Taste” Their Culture

Juliana Brown Eyes is a 27-year-old artist with a mission. She is a bass player for a band called “Scatter Their Own,” a photographer, and an activist dedicated to exposing native youth and people around the world to the beauty of Native American culture. Brown Eyes grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reserve in South Dakota and is a member of the Oglala Lakota, Sioux Tribe.

Music has mass influence on today’s youth. Artists write about love, hate, politics, beliefs, and so many more. Music can be an outlet for young people to be inspired and learn, but many today only listen to what is popular or on the radio. It is enlightening to explore music outside of the trend, especially for youth who may be lost or struggling with issues in everyday life. Juliana Brown Eyes puts a lot of thought and effort into her powerful lyrics in order to teach the Native youth of today that they can accomplish any goal they set their minds to.

Many of the songs that Brown Eyes writes for her band speak about concerns facing Native Americans and promote justice and peace for her people. One example of this is the band’s song “Taste the Time.” The lyrics in “Taste the Time” express how Brown Eyes and her bandmates are feeling about the current status of Native Americans in the US. They begin the first stanza with “times are so unkind for you and me,” expressing how life can be difficult for Native people living today, for example, the clean water crises, poverty on reservations, and high suicide rates among native teens (Huffpost). The song continues “If we close our minds we don’t see all the smiles and possibility”, which could relate to Non-native peoples oppressing natives, and not being open-minded to people who are different from them. However, given Juliana Brown Eyes’ stance on Native youth’s learning to love themselves, the band could also be urging Natives to open their minds to accepting their indigenous arts and practices. The final verse of the chorus states “If we lose those minds we may find all of the things we left behind, if we just taste the time.” If Natives choose to embrace their culture, they will be able to see how beautiful it is even in times of trouble. (Metrolyrics)

TASTE THE TIME MUSIC VIDEO

Brown Eyes and her bandmates also take a stance in the music video for this song. They tackle issues such as the shortage of clean water on many reservations in North America. The video ends with the band welcoming their heritage and doing what they love, which is playing music, showing youth that they can pursue their passions while still leaving room to connect to their native culture.

But Brown Eyes did not stop at making music. She fights for what she believes in by using multiple other mediums, including live performance, photographs, and videos on the internet. She uses many forms of expression to relay the beauty that she sees in her people and nationality. She does what she loves in order to take a stance and make the world a better place for Native Americans who may be experiencing hardship. In this way, she considers herself a “culture bearer” (TSW). Her photographs embody everything that it means to be native, from weddings to children to simply pictures of people expressing their heritage. (jbrowneyes.com)

_MG_0237Photo of Juliana Brown Eyes (on right) in her series “People” http://www.jbrowneyes.com/people

In addition to advocating for clean water in her music, Juliana Brown Eyes also had an active stance in the protests at Standing Rock. She was one of the first protestors of the thousands that came out in support of the Native people who believed that putting in the pipeline would be harmful to the water supply on a nearby reservation. (TSW) Through her activism work and music, Brown Eyes wants other Native American youth to know that they can do anything they put their minds to. “If you’re interested in acting, or modeling, or basketball, just keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s beautiful, just like you are” (Vimeo).

 

Bibliography

“Scatter Their Own – Taste The Time Lyrics.” MetroLyrics, www.metrolyrics.com/taste-the-time-lyrics-scatter-their-own.html.

“Meet Juliana Brown Eyes-Kaho.” Truths She Wrote, 8 Mar. 2018, truthsshewrote.com/home/2017/3/8/meet-juliana-brown-eyes-kaho.

“ABOUT ME.” Browneyesphotography, www.jbrowneyes.com/press. 2018

NoiseCat, Julian Brave. “13 Issues Facing Native People Beyond Mascots And Casinos.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 31 Aug. 2015, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/13-native-american-issues_us_55b7d801e4b0074ba5a6869c.

“Scatter Their Own.” Vimeo, 2013, vimeo.com/79694679.

 

Small Town Girl with a Big World Impact: The Work Of Isabel Coronado

By Jon Harris (Fall 2018)

The activist I chose to research for this project is a truly remarkable young woman by the name of Isabel Coronado. Ms. Coronado is a twenty-one year old Creek woman who has dedicated her life to helping Native Americans navigate the criminal justice system and aiding children whose parents are or have been incarcerated. Coronado, a recent graduate of the Oklahoma State University, began her work at the age of seventeen when she began to investigate injustices with Native American men in her home state of Oklahoma. This interest in injustice has blossomed into, “The American Indian Criminal Justice Navigation Council (AICJNC),” an organization that Coronado started which aims to help reintegrate ex-convict

               

     American Indians in a Prison Complex, circa 2008

back into society; aiding them in job searches, finding a home, etc.

Another key aspect of Coronado’s work is tracing the issues of convicted Native Americans back to the true root of the problem. One of Coronado’s speeches that truly struck me as meaningful and educational is a YouTube video posted on her channel back in September of 2017 titled, “Alcohol Abuse Among American Indians and Drumming Therapy.” In this video Coronado details the bleak and sad nature of the frequent visitors to the one liquor store on her home reservation. Coronado describes “thirty packs of busch light and cheap wine” flying out the door faster than anyone could imagine. Aside from the sad fact that alcohol–introduced by non natives– has ravished the American Indian community terribly, the part of this video that spoke to me most was when Coronado described how her utilization of traditional Native drumming has helped Alcoholics in the community. I found it amazing that even in the face of anguish, sadness and despair, an old cultural staple has helped rekindle the community.

“I do this work because I understand the struggles that every incarcerated offender goes through.”

-Isabel Coronado

The two most significant ways in which Ms. Coronado illustrates her viewpoint is through descriptive imagery as well as sharing her own personal experiences with the issue at hand. In an interview with Muskoke Media, Coronado’s deep personal experiences– that tend to

     Coronado in 2018

move the viewer or listener– are on full display,  “What we’ve learned is when a person is more involved with their case and understands what’s going on, then they’re not taking plea deals that give them so much time in prison…My mother came out of it and became one of my number one role models.” Another example of Coronado’s ability convey the struggle of native life in a meaningful manner is detailed in a recent interview with Teen Vogue. Coronado details her life growing up with a single mother who ended up going to jail when Coronado was only seven years old. Coronado continues in the article to describe how her experience with a mother in prison prepared her to help herself as well as– in the future– with today’s youth, she states,

“I still look back and am amazed of where I was as a child and where I am now — from living in public housing and using food stamps and medicaid to now sustaining myself. I was fortunate to graduate from high school at 16 years old and received my bachelor’s degree at 21. I’ve overcome both statistics of becoming a teen mother and becoming incarcerated myself. I did this by staying on birth control and making education my number-one priority. I am proud of my background and am no longer ashamed to share my story. I know that other children in my position are not always as lucky, and I believe every child does not have to follow their parent’s footsteps, whether good or bad. It’s up to them how they want to change the course of their story.

This introspection into the life of someone with an incarcerated parent helps the viewer/reader connect with Coronado’s, experiences, goals and passion for her cause. The most important job of any protester, writer or journalist is to push their audience to walk a mile in their shoes; this does just that.

By showing the reader or viewer that she has first hand experience with the issue, Coronado captures the minds of those who do not know much about the issue. Experience is an important tool when trying to gather supporters for a cause; something Coronado seems to have a great handle on. Secondly, Coronado’s descriptive nature helps create an image of some of the true horror American Indians face. Many of Coronado’s viewers are not Natives to reservations who truly know what life is like there. And while no one can ever truly replicate that life, Coronado does an amazing job of describing the stark nature of life on a reservation and the life of an American Indian. As mentioned above, in her video detailing the nature of alcoholism and the effects of drumming therapy, Coronado manages to set the scene perfectly and convey her message elegantly and accurately to the audience.

“My mother came out of it (prison) and became one of my number one role models.”

-Isabel Coronado

Coronado’s message, her “I say”, is quite obvious once reading a view of her interviews and watching a video or two of hers. That message could be summarized as  “The issue of Native Americans being targeted by law enforcement and treated unfairly in the criminal justice system is very real, we must not ignore it and let authorities tell us it is not an issue. We must work together to educate native youth, convicts and ex-convicts alike to deal with the difficulties they very well may encounter.” The message of the opposing side, or the “they say” in this case can be summarized as, “Native Americans are not being targeted or treated unfairly in the American criminal justice system. The fact that statiscally a greater population of native americans is in jail than that of white people is just a coincidence; one that reflects cultural values.” The difference between these two messages is quite obvious to me; Coronado’s preaches education, awareness and equality, whereas the “they say” leans towards ignorance and apathy. In a situation like this, it is important to see the viewpoint of people who have experienced the system firsthand. It is detrimental to all parties if a viewer decides to ignore a side completely for the sake of ignorance and non-chalantness.

 

Useful Links

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

  • Coronado, Isabel. “We Need to Talk About Oklahoma’s Mass Incarceration of Indigenous Peoples.” Teen Vogue, TeenVogue.com, 17 Sept. 2018, www.teenvogue.com/story/mass-incarceration-problem-indigenous-people-oklahoma-op-ed.
  • A Champion for Change – Mvskoke Media.” Mvskoke Media, mvskokemedia.com/a-champion-for-change/.

 

    • “Alcohol Abuse Among American Indians and Drumming Therapy Final 2.” YouTube, YouTube, 28 Sept. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wnX9_z4aCE.
    • Incarceration Rates For Native Americans, Native America, 2009, Native American Times
    • Champions for Change, The Aspen Institute, 2017, The Aspen Institute, theaspeninstitue.org/blog

 

  • Okla Court Case Could Determine Future of Crime Convictions on Indian Land, Native Times, Native Time Current News, www.nativenews.com

 

“Isabel Coronado-Jones.” YouTube, YouTube, www.youtube.com/channel/UCj-Y2KW7Glqt0kYzXUnCoDA.

“All Red Everything”: The Story of Frank Waln

When we think of hip-hop in the modern sense, it is usually identified with the struggle of African Americans in society today, however this doesn’t encompass the full scope of hip-hop like I once though that it did. Frank Waln (Born August 2, 1989) from the Sicangu Lakota tribe, who grew up on a reservation and knows what the constant struggle of reservation life is comprised of and strives to be both an activist as well as a rapper to bring light to the struggle of Native Americans in Chicago, after he dropped his pre-med major at Crieghton Unviersity in order to pursue a degree in music at Columbia College Chicago, where currently stays, as well as the U.S. as a whole. Waln has been garnering an unprecedented amount of attention from the media as of late, from his story about dropping his childhood dream of medicine to do another kind of healing, the healing of other native peoples emotions and spirit through rapping about a different kind of struggle faced in America, one that has been going on longer than the founding of the U.S.

 

Frank Waln has done a lot of activism for the Lakota and Native Americans in general through his music, from helping suicidal kids on reservations as well as in schools and during events that are often held within Chicago to activism for stopping the oil pipeline recently. One of his most influential songs, Oil 4 blood (All Red Everything), shows a blend of some of his most recent work, talking about both growing up on a reservation, the impact that it has on children and how hard the struggles of “rez life” can be as well as the impact of the pipeline and what it would mean to the Lakota and Native Americans as a whole if the pipeline is successfully built and is put into use.

The song starts out with the repetition of “Everything’s red, all red everything” over the beat, which evokes a whole range of themes starting out. It carries color imagery in a variety of ways. Native Americans are often described as having red skin and this is usually in a negative connotation, which is attacked in this line. The idea that the Lakota are also known as the “Red Nation” is also alluded to, which ties a positivity to the line as well. Red for anger over the pipeline is apparent through the use of the voice inflection as well as the beat to which the song is set to and the blending of all three of these themes creates loaded language which is prevalent MO of Waln throughout all of his music. He continues to talk more about these themes throughout the song with certain lines to emphasize the depth of the struggle within the Native American community, before the pipeline crisis and how the pipeline crisis puts a even deeper burden on an already worn down community. We can explicitly see this through the lines “our kids underfed…” (1:14) and “Your oil is mud, they want the earth dead.” (1:16) Respectively.

Although it is argued that the pipeline wouldn’t be that bad for the reservation and that native American problems aren’t bad as they are never portrayed in the media until the pipeline crisis, I once thinking myself that tis was the case, it has been proven that the scars of the Native American community run deep. In, Rebel Music | Native America: 7th Generation Rises (Full Episode) | MTV we get a true glimpse into how deep the struggles of Native Americans go. In this episode many facts about Native Americans are revealed, like, “Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual violence”(1:53). This is important because it ties in with Waln’s songs about how life on reservations is often more difficult in often less conceived ways and oftentimes in greater depth than could be imagined from the outside. Another example of this would be, “Native Suicide rates are the highest in the country.” (2:01) A lot of Waln’s activism is central to the idea of giving an outlet to native children who are currently going through the struggle and his music acts as both a comfort and relief in children that they are cared about but also as a form of activism to bring awareness to the situations that many people are unaware of for reasons stated earlier like mainstream media attention amongst others.

We get an even deeper understanding into the argument for activism for Waln with and his motivations behind his music. In an interview with In These Times, Waln was asked about growing up on a reservation to which part of his reply was, “As indigenous people, we’re born into historical trauma and systems that were built on the destruction of our people.” (WBUR) This shows how his fight for equality and acknowledgement that systemic racism against Native Americans is personal for him, seeing as he suffered through this same system himself.

 

It is clear that Frank Waln has risen up the prophecy of the 7th generation and that the work he is doing is making strides in the right direction for the Native American Youth and the Native American community as a whole. His contributions to the movement through the unconventional means of rap has forever molded and etched the story of the modern Native American in the media.

 

Works Cited:

“Frank Waln On Understanding The Native American Experience Through Hip Hop.” WBUR, 6 Apr. 2016, www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2016/04/06/native-american-rapper-waln.

Koski, Jessica. “Meet the 25-Year-Old Native Hip Hop Artist Who’s Using Music to Combat Colonialism.” In These Times, In These Times, 26 May 2015, inthesetimes.com/article/17935/frank-waln-hip-hop-on-the-rez.

MTV, director. Rebel Music | Native America: 7th Generation Rises (Full Episode) | MTV. YouTube, YouTube, 7 May 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aRwprNai4A.

Powless, Ben. “Frank Waln.” Www.Flickr.com, Flickr, 21 Aug. 2014, www.flickr.com/photos/peoplessocialforum/14998946295.

Waln, Frank, director. Oil 4 Blood. YouTube, YouTube, 29 June 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KCqdsso98o.

Looking Beyond the Geometric Shapes

By: Tierney Lanter

Featured on Bethany Yellowtail’s Instagram.  

The notorious Victoria’s Secret fashion show became an image of controversy in 2012. Karlie Kloss, who is a model for Victoria’s Secret, was walking on the runway wearing an indigenous inspired headdress. Included on the headdress were indigenous motifs such as feathers and turquoise jewelry. Since Victoria’s Secret originators nor are Karlie Kloss from indigenous descent, this headdress was misused and misrepresented an indigenous culture. Misuse of culture is considered cultural appropriation. After many outbursts from those who oppose, Victoria’s Secret had to apologize for misrepresenting, or appropriating, one’s culture (Willett) One fashion designer of Crow and Cheyenne descent, Bethany Yellowtail, is attempting to combat cultural appropriation and create clothing that is appreciated by all. Although Business Insider states that Yellowtail’s brand–b.yellowtail–is intending to “push back against the fashion industry that copies her culture,” she collaborates, designs, and sells culturally appropriate indigenous objects to create conversations and make solutions for native issues (Willet/Linn).

Bethany Yellowtail is no stranger to cultural appropriation. In 2014, the London based contemporary fashion brand, KTZ, recreated a dress using Yellowtail’s original geometric that contain a significant meaning to her Crow tribe. With KTZ being a non-native brand, Yellowtail on the surface level calls people to boycott the brand. Yellowtail, however, goes far beyond the surface level in this indigenous issue. Instead of being defensive of her specific geometric shapes being recreated for a different purpose/brand, she created her own culturally correct collection called “The Mighty Few” (Willet).

“I simply want to carve out space where an authentic voice and an authentic representation of Native America exists and thrives.”

This quotation is taken from Yellowtail after being asked how she felt about KTZ taking her design. She merely argues that she is tired of defending her culture and wants to take action to create new ideas surrounding indigenous cultures (Willet). 

When being asked in a KCET, a news broadcasting center, interview how cultural appropriation affects her as a designer, she argues that

“we’re constantly having to defend ourselves, to justify our belonging”.

Yellowtail further iterates that her goal for b.yellowtail is not to be “centered around cultural appropriation,” but instead continue her passion of creating clothing that accurately represents her culture. Since Native American artists have to be defending themselves due to cultural appropriation constantly,  Yellowtail believes this limits an artist’s piece of work and eliminates the deeper meaning behind their pieces. She strives to stop defending her culture and urges people to look beyond the cultural appropriators when seeing the creativity in her brand. Yellowtail states that

“This is what I do as a designer, as a creative person. I’m creating solutions. I’m creating conversations” (Linn). 

In doing so, she is combatting cultural appropriation; however, her brand contains a more profound message of indigenous cultural appreciation by creating designs meaningful to her tribe and native community. According to KCET, Yellowtail explains the importance of geometric shapes to her Crow tribe. The most important of the geometric shapes is the tipi design which resembles an hourglass. She expresses that the hourglass represents the balance of spirituality and physicality, and at the center is where the Crow find their balance (Linn). Most of Yellowtail’s designs come from her youthful experiences of growing up in Montana on the Crow Nation and Northern Cheyenne reservation drawing back to her firsthand experiences of being a young indigenous woman.

This video represents what Bethany Yellowtail’s brand is about showing that it is more than just clothing, but a conversation starter about indigenous issues. Created and uploaded by b.Yellowtail.

Not only is b. Yellowtail representing Yellowtail tribe, but it is inclusive to several other indigenous artists and their tribes. During an interview with KCET, Yellowtail reveals that she opened her door to other native artists when a man approached her with a set of beaded earrings asking for $15. This man stated that her $15 would be going strictly towards gas money. His situation so emotionally moved her that she opened her business to different tribes and people (Linn). All people are encouraged to wear her collection and to understand the cultural significance of indigenous culture in a vibrate/trendy way (Willett). By doing so and buying her merchandise even if a person is non-native, the consumer is promoting cultural appreciation and support for indigenous issues. Bethany Yellowtail encourages people of all races, backgrounds, and spiritualities to join her movement in representing her culture in a beautiful positive way. Needless to say, b. Yellowtail is an all-inclusive brand creating multi-issue designs which encourages all people to make solutions and conversations.

This video is a series of youtube episodes showing the one year in the life of Bethany Yellowtail as she is producing a collection. The producer/director is Billy Luther. This is the first episode of a six-episode series.

One example of Bethany Yellowtail’s fashion that started a conversation about indigenous’ issues is the “Women Warrior” scarf. During the Women’s March in Washington D.C. in 2017, a group of indigenous women gathered in the “Indigenous Women Rise” movement and wore Yellowtail’s scarf. This scarf was created along with another indigenous artist to symbolize the power of women by using the Crow’s most powerful ceremony: “Shoshone War Bonnet Dance.”

“The two together gave me an overwhelming feeling… It was so beautiful to clearly see the continuity of our people.” (Willett)

This quotation is from Bethany Yellowtail after witnessing a “Shoshone War Bonnet Dance” firsthand and noticing how beautiful her culture is. This moment inspired her to begin designing this scarf (Willet). 

There are so many powerful symbols in the scarf which represent important the Crow culture themes such as what the bonnet and dance symbolize. Women who dance in the “war bonnet” style have achieved the highest honor for a woman within their culture. The bonnet is worn during this sacred dance ceremony. The women in the scarf can be seen wearing the sacred bonnet in a circular style which represents the way indigenous people think of life: circular, not linear.  In addition to the significant symbols, the scarves color, turquoise, is symbolic of the native themes of friendship, unity, and peace.

Women's March 0762

This picture represents the Women’s March “Women Warrior” scarf worn by women (and men) participating in the “Indigenous Women Rise” in 2017 in Washington D.C. The photo was taken by Edward Kimmel. 

With all of these powerful symbols, the scarf accurately represents what the Women’s March is trying to portray: respect for/of the women and empowering women for better. Exhibiting this scarf during the Women’s March creates a conversation about how to treat indigenous women with this same empowering and respect.

Bethany Yellowtail is a 28-year-old Crow and Cheyenne woman who is representing her indigenous heritage, creating tough conversations, and coming to solutions through her active participation in the fashion industry.

Works Cited

“Alter-NATIVE.” ITVS, itvs.org/films/alter-native.

“B.YELLOWTAIL.” B.YELLOWTAIL, byellowtail.com/.

Linn, Sarah. “Bethany Yellowtail Belongs to a New Generation of Native        Designers Blending Tradition with Couture.” KCET, 8 Nov. 2016, www.kcet.org/shows/artbound/bethany-yellowtail-belongs-to-a-new-generation-of-native-designers-blending-tradition.

Paniogue, Tara. “L.A. Designer Bethany Yellowtail Creates a Silk Scarf for Women’s March on Washington.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 21 Jan. 2017, www.latimes.com/fashion/la-in-Bethany-yellowtail-20170120-story.html.

Willett, Megan. “A Native American Designer Is Pushing Back against the Fashion Industry That Copies Her Culture.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 28 May 2015, www.businessinsider.com/native-american-designer-byellowtail-2015-5.

Millennial Power: How a Teenager is Fighting for Her Sacred Land

– Mert Özbay

Most people consider Native American issues a thing of the past: Boarding schools are closed, genocide is over, Native people go on with their lives at the reservations. We can close this shameful chapter of American history and not think about it again. There isn’t anything holding back the native youth from living their lives as typical teenagers.

This is as far from reality as we can get. While the forms of oppression might have changed, the culture and history of Indigenous people are still under threat by the US government, even to this generation. Fortunately, there are young activists like Naelyn Pike who stand up for the rights of their community and work to change the course of history for the generations to come.

 

Naelyn Pike (right) in Oak Flat                                                                  (Photo by Instagram user @naelynpike)

 

Naelyn Pike is a 19-year-old (as of September, 2018) Chiricahua Apache from San Carlos, Arizona. She is a proud member of her community, a student at the local Mesa Community College, but most importantly, she is one of the leading voices of the movement Apache Stronghold.

Apache Stronghold aims to protect the area called Oak Flat, which is considered sacred by the Apache, from being sold to a foreign mining company. According to the movement’s website, the efforts to pass the bill that would allow the land to be handed over to the company Resolution Copper failed to garner support in the congress since it failed to address the environmental impact and the Native perspective. However, after the bill was slyly added into a much bigger land exchange as a part of the National Defense Authorization Act, the portion concerning Oak Flat was overlooked, leaving the area to be exploited by the corporation (“About”).

Apache Stronghold protest in front of US Capitol              (Photo “Apache Stronghold #SaveOakFlat Rally on US Capitol 7-22-15” by Flickr user Wendy Kenin)

As a part of Apache Stronghold, Naelyn marched across the country including stops such as Times Square and the US Capitol, and gave speeches in conferences, all in hopes of drawing public attention to the threat facing Oak Flat. One memorable speech of hers is from the 2017 National Bioneers Conference. In her speech, she starts off with why Oak Flat is important to her. She tells that her grandmother was sent to a boarding school, her grandfather and mother resisted to protect their identity, and that now it is her turn to stand up in the name of her identity, and consequently, Oak Flat: “Those lands are who I am and where I come from. The place where I can feel free, as being Nde, as being Apache. Because that freedom was taken away from me and the generations before me’’ (Pike). Since native lands such as Oak Flat were forcibly taken away and native communities had to endure years of efforts at assimilation, holding on to whatever is left and resisting against the oppression is a part of her identity. Another thing that makes Oak Flat important is the sheer fact that it has been a sacred place for the Apache for many generations. In an article by Native News Online, she explains, “Over hundreds of years our people have been here, and so if someone were to hike around Oak Flat, they would see petroglyphs, intricate petroglyphs that that our people have actually written a long time ago – ‘the ancient ones’ ’’ (Jacobs), showcasing the ceremonial importance and the continued inhabitance of the land. Under these circumstances, it is crucial for her community to protect this place that is an important part of their identity. 

Naelyn Pike’s speech at the Bioneers Conference 

(Youth Leadership Keynote: Naelyn Pike | Bioneers 2017 by Bioneers)

Establishing the importance of Oak Flat is important when we consider her immediate audience. She is giving a speech to a group of people who, while eager to help and not ignorant by any means, possibly have no exposure to the issues surrounding the San Carlos Apache. After acquainting the listeners with Oak Flat, she moves on to her next point, and she argues for the universality of the issue in an effort the reach out to the audience and also get them involved with the resistance: “We all have one issue and we all can relate. And that’s that we need to protect this Earth” (Bioneers). While staying true to her Indigenous identity, Naelyn also realizes this is an issue concerning the environment, therefore concerning everybody, and the response should be given by all the communities if actual impact is to be created. She fights against the notion that conflicts seen in Mauna Kea, Standing Rock, and Oak Flat itself are just native issues. “We have to understand that protecting Oak Flat and protecting all these other sacred places will set a precedent to the future  of this country, to the future of our people, and humanity, and the future of this Earth” (Bioneers). She hopes to unite others on this common problem and call everybody to action since the situation in Oak Flat can only be solved if the issue is taken into mainstream, and similar issues can be solved once examples like Oak Flat are present. While her purpose of creating awareness and pushing people into action regarding the safety of Oak Flat is pretty specific, she appeals to her much broader audience through the universal implications of her particular aim.

As a very young speaker herself, she realizes the importance of youth in bringing change to the world. As she identifies herself with the past and her ancestors, she also sees that the same line extends to the future through her and the other youth making a better future and protecting what is sacred to them for the generations to come. While addressing the potential environmental harm in Oak Flat and other places, she states, “These generations behind us had told us this prophecy. But there is another prophecy: That the youth is going to stand. And that’s us today. That’s us here and now” (Bioneers). She understands and emphasizes the responsibility put on her generation’s shoulders in response to the current threats. While validating the prophecy that these issues would arise, she also validates the idea that the youth has the power to stand up against such urgent problems and take the actions needed. Her call to the youth during her speech is even better understood within the context of Apache Stronghold movement. Among the other activists (including her grandfather), she is the young face we see of the movement, and therefore she plays a crucial role in reaching out to this particular audience. Apache Stronghold’s efforts at appealing to the new generation is also evident in the movement’s use of hashtags and images to go viral on the internet (Gatewood), and Naelyn is an instrumental part of this.

 

Naelyn Pike in Times Square
(Photo from a New York Times article)

 

Another things that makes Naelyn such an inspiring Indigenous activist is how proudly she represents her culture. Cultural representation is an important part of Indigenous activism since Indigenous communities have always been in danger of assimilation. Naelyn uses her native language frequently in her speeches. We might call her an Apache, but she uses the word “Nde.” She also wears her traditional clothing in speeches and marches. In a picture of her that has gone viral on the internet, she is wearing her Apache moccasins, holding a bow and arrow, and standing in the middle of Times Square. In an interview by Native America Calling, she tells about the symbolism behind the arrows, explaining that different arrows represent different tribes standing together (Gatewood). Talking about her heritage and Apache symbolism during her speeches and interviews, and supporting her traditional clothing, she manages to introduce her culture to the general public. In the picture taken during the march organized by Apache Stronghold, her Indigenous outfit creates a strong contrast to the overwhelming crowd and the concrete jungle that is New York City with all its modernity. This contrast also reminds the viewer of the situation Oak Flat is in: Countless years of history and tradition seemingly engulfed by profit-seeking international corporations and selfish politicians. However, her strong posture and the determined look in her eyes, in response, remind us of her strong stance against a long history of oppression by government and corporations, and assure us: Oak Flat is here to stay.

Naelyn’s is just another voice among this generation that calls out on the injustices Indigenous people face and the atrocities committed against them. It is now the reader’s work to disseminate this message for the sake of a future which Indigenous issues are recognized and dealt with.

_____________________________________________________________

Works Cited

“About Us.” Apache – Stronghold , www.apache-stronghold.com/about.html.

Gatewood, Terra. “Making Native Messages Move Forward.” Audio blog post. Native America Calling. Koahnic Broadcast Corporation, 27 July 2015. Web. 17 Sep. 2018.

Jacobs, Arthur. “Voices of Oak Flats.” Native News Online, 1 Mar. 2016, nativenewsonline.net/currents/naelyn-pike/.

Bioneers. “Youth Leadership Keynote: Naelyn Pike | Bioneers 2017.” Performance by Naelyn Pike, YouTube, YouTube, 20 Nov. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIvJ4tvwKJQ.

 

Sarain Fox: The Megaphone of Indigenous People

by Hyesun Jun

A megaphone amplifies someone’s voice and directs it in a certain direction. Sarain Fox is the megaphone of the indigenous people. Sarain Fox amplifies the voice of indigenous people through dancing, activism, acting, art, and choreography to the rest of the world. She could convey the indigenous people’s voices by reporting and fighting against the conflict in the process of the construction of oil pipelines in the Standing Rock reservation eventually leading the pipelines to be evicted. (Boutsalis, ellecanada.com)

Sarain Fox, Host of ‘RISE’. (SBS)

 

Sarain Fox is a 30-year old indigenous Canadian activist from the Anishinaabekwe nation. (Boutsalis, ellecanada.com) Her background sparked her interest in activism for her community. Raised by a single mother, Sarain Fox was taught from a young age to fight for what she believed in. Her mother was politically active, which led Sarain to lead her to have an inherent responsibility to her community to amplify the voices and her people. (Cabot, YouTube.com)

By following her mother’s example as a political activist, Sarain began to feel a strong and inherent responsibility to her community to amplify the voices of her and her people.

“The future is Anishinaabekwe”, Sarain Fox’s Instagram

Sarain Fox utilizes social media to spread/share her opinions as well as her people’s opinions and culture to the world. She posts Instagram pictures with other activists with the hashtag of ‘waterislife’ or videos of her playing cultural music raising awareness of the indigenous culture. She claims that through social media, she has been able to connect with so many inspiring First Generation activists around the world and could open her heart and spirit. (Cabot, YouTube.com)

Related image
Sarain Fox, Dancer

Sarain Fox claims that conveying the important stories of her community is the key to what keeps her to dance in front of the audience. At the age of 18, she moved to New York City and attended The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and The New York Film Academy. (Flare) As a professional dancer, Sarain Fox produced a piece called ‘Cut My Hair,’ a story of an indigenous girl’s experience in a residential school, with her creative movements. She, herself, experienced the residential school life as well as her Father, Grandmother, and her ancestors. (DemocracyNow) Sarain Fox explains that the government forcibly removed the children from the community to build a society, where it actually removed the culture from them. Moreover, not only their hair was cut but also they were sexually abused, could not speak the indigenous language, and even died from the nuns and priests. (DemocracyNow) She has experienced the tragic reality of residential schools, rendering her dance to be more engaging and impactful to the audience. Because the video is on Youtube, it can connect audience from all different backgrounds not only indigenous people or dancers. With the visual presentation of her dance along with the narration of what the movements resemble, it provides a better understanding of the dance and her opinions to the audience. In the narration, she emphasized that land has spirit and “creativity is the spirit, and it is the spirit of the land and of the people that give us these stories.” (Debnath, YouTube.com)

“As an aboriginal artist, I’m inspired by all of creation.”

(Debnath, YouTube.com)


“As a professional dancer, telling such important stories with my body is incomparable, indescribable. It’s what fuels me till the moment my feet touch the stage.”

(Debnath, YouTube.com)

She is a presenter at VICELAND and a host for documentaries like “Cut Off” and “RISE”. (Cabot, YouTube.com) “RISE” is a documentary that focuses on the indigenous communities that rise up to protect their sacred land and water. Sarain Fox was involved in this documentary by taking stance with this community. She highlighted the conflict at Oak Flat, which is near the Apache reservation. (DemocracyNow) The government is destroying their land in order to get resources to make arms. Sarain Fox raised the Apache people’s voice by asserting that Apaches were left to deal with the aftermath and was not considered in the process of the plan. She has introduced this in an interview with “Democracy Now”, which was posted on Youtube. Sarain Fox was the megaphone of Apache, by letting out the topic to the public with the medium of a Youtube video of her interview. The video would be able to inform both indigenous and non-indigenous people because it is easily accessible on the Internet. Moreover, the audience would be captivated and more focused due to her first-hand experiences and the captivating visual presentation of the issue.

Apache Stronghold #SaveOakFlat Rally on US Capitol 7-22-15, Wendy Kenin

Many people do not consider the land and water having spirits. However, Sarain Fox refutes that common belief by addressing her own beliefs as an indigenous Canadian. Her people believe that water has a spirit and that water is the most important thing because it carries life. She would post photos on social media with ‘#waterislife’ to raise awareness in protecting water. Indigenous people do not try to own the land but instead, try their best to protect it. Her community is on the border, making the nation to divide in two. It is divided into Canada and Michigan, but this separation is because of the water, the Great Lake (DemocracyNow). Therefore, water reminds of her of her home and the idea that it should be protected.

“The land is what has taught me love, and water has taught me love, and that’s why I fight so much for water”

(Boutsalis, ellecanada.com)

Many people assume that the suicide rates in the indigenous communities are not that critical compared to other communities that are well known. In the documentary called, “Cut Off” produced by VICELAND, it addresses the reality of youth suicide among indigenous communities. Sarain Fox claims that, “the suicide rates in the indigenous communities are some of the highest in the country, if not even the world”( DemocracyNow). She emphasizes that the intergenerational trauma and suicide rates “are very real parts of my life today” (Cabot, YouTube.com), stating that her Father and her auntie have committed suicide. The generation that has not experienced residential schools directly are having trauma because “they feel, as though they are not able to live as indigenous people”(DemocracyNow). Sarain Fox highlights the indigenous youth also have to go through poverty saying that, “62% of First Nations children live below the poverty line”. (DemocracyNow)


“By learning other people’s stories of their life, I could recover and by doing this job, I could directly and continuously recover and change the narrative as an indigenous person.”

(DemocracyNow)

 

Just like Sarain Fox has been inspired by the creation like land and water, other indigenous youth have been inspired by her creative stories in the form of activism, dance, acting, and choreography.

 

 

Reference

  1. Boutsalis, Kelly. “Meet Canadian Indigenous Activists Waneek Horn-Miller, Sarain Fox and Alethea Arnaquq-Baril.” Elle Canada, 5 Mar. 2018, www.ellecanada.com/culture/society/article/meet-3-canadian-indigenous-activists.
  2. Cabot, Joanna, director. Rise and Indigenise with Sarain Carson-FoxYouTube, The QUO, 27 July 2017, youtu.be/SXvC3uIi6Ns.
  3. Debnath, Ratul, director. Chimera ProjectYouTube, 17 Mar. 2013, youtu.be/ZxkLNny_1T8.
  4. “From Standing Rock to the Red Power Movement: New Series ‘RISE’ Focuses on Indigenous Resistance.” YouTube, Democracy Now, 28 Feb. 2017, youtu.be/JGoeT6izuJI.
  5. “Sarain Fox, Host of ‘RISE’. (SBS).” SBS, 28 July 2017, www.sbs.com.au/guide/article/2017/07/28/sarain-fox-everyone-wants-be-native-until-its-actually-time-be-native.
  6. “Sarain Fox, Dancer.” Working It Out Together, workingitouttogether.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/12400589_10153895754263674_8729798368173842526_n.jpg.
  7. Kenin, Wendy. “Apache Stronghold #SaveOakFlat Rally on US Capitol 7-22-15.” Flickr, 22 July 2015, www.flickr.com/photos/greendoula/19337929004/.
  8. “#HowIMadeIt: Sarain Carson-Fox, Artist, Activist & Storyteller.” Flare, 17 Sept. 2017, www.flare.com/how-i-made-it/sarain-carson-fox/.
  9. Fox, Sarain. “The future is Anishinaabekwe” Instagram, 17 Sep. 2018, www.instagram.com/p/Bn2RJPoBAUI/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=j6r684f4sm7x

 

 

 

 

Shut Up and Dribble: How Bronson Koenig uses Basketball to Inspire the Native American Community

In America, dating back to the 1900s, sports have always been an important cultural facet of our society. This point is proven nn a recent study done by Reuters, stating that that states ion-in-2012-idUSN1738075220080618″>“The entire global [sports] market was $141 billion. The U.S. alone accounted for almost half of that.” With the large market and influence that American sports posses, athletes throughout American history, from Jackie Robinson to Muhammad Ali, have called upon the foundational American principles of liberty and freedom to bring to the forefront of public discussion poignant issues that plague under privileged and underrepresented communities.

However in today’s charged political climate, current President Donald Trump has put-forth the “stick to sports” narrative, originally a term coined by conservatives who viewed sports as a societal safe space, where real life political situations and qualms are put aside or ignored. With the silencing of Colin Kaepernick and the degradation of professional athletes such as Lebron James on a national scale because of their political activism, this narrative is once again gaining strength in American culture.

However one athlete who in the face of those, is using sports as a platform is Bronson Koenig, a former collegiate basketball player at The University of Wisconsin. A member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, Koenig is one of 40, Native American collegiate basketball players and is using the national relevance he has gained through sports to bring issues facing the Native American community to light.

Koenig, originally from La Crosse, Wisconsin, is currently a professional basketball player in the Montenegrin first division, but he became a household name across America while leading the University of Wisconsin’s men’s basketball team on two thrilling final four runs in the NCAA tournament. Throughout his college career, Koenig endeared himself to the nation with his underdog mentality and feisty spirit. He burst onto the national scene during his sophomore year, but truly rose to prominence throughout the 2016 NCAA tournament as a junior, culminating in his improbable and heroic step back three pointer to upset second ranked Xavier, advancing Wisconsin to the Sweet 16.

With Koenig’s heroics on the national stage being widely publicized, he began seizing the opportunity to use this newfound fame to advocate for Native American communities across the nation.

One main issue that Koenig has been brought to the forefront of public discussion is the degradation of Native Americans that comes with stereotypical sports mascots and insensitive team names that are found across the country. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, a nationally recognized sports magazine, he emphatically spoke out against these mascots and slurs, stating that, “when a Native American kid sees that growing up and sees the disrespect, it lowers their self-esteem and puts them in a lower place in society,” He continued, “It’s honoring them? It’s not racist? How are you going to say that when you’re not a Native American?” Koenig went on to specify that the “term comes from when we were skinned and our flesh was red,” adding that he doesn’t “see how that is honoring us in anyway.” Koenig’s nationally published interview with Sports Illustrated came in response to a series of policy decisions by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who has consistently made it more difficult for high schools and colleges in Wisconsin to shift away from degrading teams names and Mascots. “In 2013, Walker signed a bill that makes it harder for public schools to change racist mascots and names. The law, which he claimed to support to defend the First Amendment, requires 10 percent of a district’s students to sign a petition within a 120-day period to earn a hearing regarding changing a mascot name.” While the state Government of Wisconsin is adamantly opposed to Koenigs view, his message is being supported and promoted by the population at large. Said Susan Schmitz, a University of Wisconsin alum and resident of Madison, “I am very proud that the team has players like Bronson, who is willing to take a stand against racist mascots. This is especially important as our governor has continued to attack American Indians and all working people in the state.”

More important however, than Koenigs outspokenness regarding plights faced by the Native American community is Koenig’s place as a role model, particularly for native youth. This was exemplified in the fall of 2016, when Koenig made the trip to Standing Rock to support the Sioux Tribe and their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. This pipeline not only will pollute vital water supplies that are crucial for the native Sioux Tribes sustenance, but will disturb ancient Native American burial grounds.The morning after he arrived, Koenig began exploring the camp and found kids playing basketball with a makeshift hoop on a dirt hill. As Koenig began playing and talking with the kids, word spread of his presence and soon over 50 kids were playing on a dirt hoop.


Bronson Koenig joins members of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests near Bismarck, North Dakota on September 17, 2016.(Photo by Alexandra Hootnick/The Players’ Tribune)

Koenig went on to host a series of basketball camps for native american youth at the sight. He also hosted a clinic at a local predominantly native american high school that filled out the gym.


Bronson Koenig hosting a Basketball Clinic at Standing Rock (Photo by Alexandra Hootnick/The Players’ Tribune)

While speaking with the attendees of the clinic, he was asked if he had any Native American role models growing up. “The question stopped him in his tracks.” After a long pause he responded, “No, I didn’t grow up with any Native American role models. It’s not that they didn’t exist, but just that they weren’t on my radar. They weren’t celebrated in popular culture.” And that is what he believes is the true impact of his activism, “that if I could be someone who even one kid from Standing Rock looked up to, I’d be prouder of that than of anything I had ever done — or might ever do — on the basketball court. Looking out at the kids, I was proud that they were seeing someone succeeding who looked a little like they did.” As stated eloquently by NBC Sports contributor Rob Dauster, “the work Koenig is doing promoting the causes is invaluable, but it’s not as important as the self-confidence he gives Native American children around the country, the belief that they can make it out, they can be successful in life, they can put themselves into a position where they can give back to a community the same way that Koenig has.”

As one of, if not the most nationally recognized Native American in american sports, Koenig recognizes his responsibility to advocate on behalf of his kin and has forged his own path to show the oppression that Native Americans face daily in American society.

References:

Ward, Brian. “The University of Wisconsin’s Point Guard Says Change the Mascot.” The Nation, 23 Nov. 2015, www.thenation.com/article/university-wisconsins-point-guard-says-change-mascot/.

“What I Found in Standing Rock | By Bronson Koenig.” The Players’ Tribune, 1 Dec. 2016, www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/bronson-koenig-wisconsin-basketball-standing-rock.

Davis, Seth, and Luke Winn. “Wisconsin’s Koenig: ‘I Would Die for My People.’” SI.com, Sports Illustrated, 8 Dec. 2016, www.si.com/college-basketball/2016/12/08/bronson-koenig-wisconsin-activist-dakota-access-pipeline.

Reckert, Levi. “Wisconsin Standout Basketball Player Bronson Koenig to Be Honored as Courageous Advocate.” Native News Online, 15 Sept. 2017, nativenewsonline.net/currents/wisconsin-standout-basketball-player-bronson-koenig-honored-courageous-advocate/.

Dauster, Rob. “’I Am A Role Model’: The Inspiration behind Bronson Koenig’s Native American Activism.” CollegeBasketballTalk, NBC Sports, 23 Sept. 2016, collegebasketball.nbcsports.com/2016/09/20/i-am-a-role-model-the-inspiration-behind-bronson-koenigs-native-american-activism/.

Autumn Peltier: The Water Warrior

“Water is Sacred. Drink something sacred. This is my campaign to get Natives to drink more water. If it works, it will all be worth it.”-Duane Brayboy-Williams, Tuscarora

The issue of poor water preservation is prevalent all around the world, and on the rise. There’s an abundance of activists making speeches, starting fundraisers, and spreading awareness on the topic. However, what sets water rights activist Autumn Peltier apart is her age and strong Native American heritage.

 

The inspiring thirteen year old has been advocating for clean drinking water all across Canada since the age of eight (Alex, “Meet Autumn Peltier”). Indigenous to the Anishinaabe tribe of Northern Ontario, water holds a sacred meaning to her and her people. She believes that advocating for the quality of water is an honor to water itself and Mother Earth (Kent CBC). She enjoys meeting people from all different places and learning about issues specific to them, and furthermore seeing if there’s any way she can make a difference in their lives (Peltier CBC).Given her young age, she has a lot more insight on water preservation than people would expect. Much of her knowledge about the pressing water crisis is due to her Aunt, Josephine Mandamin. Mandamin has been an advocate for clean and sacred drinking water for a long time, and passed down her line of work to Autumn (Johnson CBC).

 

Autumn has already made a name for herself both in the Native American community and clean water activist community through the amazing opportunities she’s worked so hard for. Her momentum started in 2015 when she took part in a cultural camp in her community that focused on educating kids about natural resources (Johnson CBC). Through the camp, she was invited to represent indigenous youth in Canada at the Children’s Climate Conference in Sweden, and she spoke directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the AFN’s annual winter gathering (Alex, “Meet Autumn Peltier”). This in addition to her nomination for the 2017 International Children’s Peace Prize, and her Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers (Marchildon Global Citizen). Most recently, she was given the honor of delivering a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on World Water Day, March 22nd (Kent CBC).

 

UN “Warrior Up” campaign, photography by Linda Roy

 

In her speech, she not only spoke to the factual aspect of the issue, but spoke about a lot of the cultural significance behind her anger. It’s not traditional to be personal or vulnerable in a United Nations address, but it helped her get her message across. The United Nations is used to having world leaders using bureaucratic language, according to spokesperson Brendan Varma (Kent CBC), but Peltier still made an impact on them.

There are some indigenous communities that have been without access to clean water for over thirty years, and it still seems as though government officials haven’t been taking them seriously. Water has held a sacred value to Autumn’s people for many generations, and in her address she explains why. Her elders taught her that water is sacred because it’s the basis of so many living things (Peltier CBC), and even humans are almost 70% water. It’s so highly regarded she explained in her speech,

“Many people don’t think water is alive or has a spirit. My people believe this to be true. Our water deserves to be treated as human with human rights. We need to acknowledge our waters with personhood so we can protect our waters” (Peltier).

http://CBC news. “Autumn Peltier, 13-year-old water advocate, addresses UN”.  Youtube, March 22 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zg60sr38oic

Multiple times throughout her speech, she wanted to stress the fact that she was advocating for the rights of everyday people, not just rich people. She was specifically invited to speak as the “representative of civil society” (Kent CBC). Peltier went on further talking about her concerns not only about the present, but how this crisis will carry on and affect her people in the years to come. She expressed to the United Nations,

 

“No one should have to worry if the water is clean or if they will run out of water. No child should grow up not knowing what clean water is or never know what running water is. One day I will be an ancestor, and I want my great-grand-children to know I tried hard to fight so they can have clean drinking water” (Peltier).

 

Overall, it seems as though the Assembly at the UN had a receptive reaction to her address. Her age and social status made it all the more alarming and “in our faces” (Henk Ovink).

Her approach to her speech to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in December of 2017  was slightly different. Her audience changed given that Trudeau has already supported a number of pipeline projects in the past (BBC news “Teen Activist Autumn Peltier”). He promised to solve this crisis in 100 First Nation Communities by 2021 (BBC news “Teen Activist Autumn Peltier”),and Autumn touched upon it in her speech. The goal seems far from in reach and she reacted to this issue saying, “I’m very unhappy with the choices you’ve made” (Peltier). Her two big speeches had different tones due to the fact that Trudeau has a lot more experience with the water crisis specifically pertaining to Native American communities. Peltier was clever in her approach in these two different settings, and it shows her understanding of audience, tone, and message.  

At the age of thirteen, Autumn peltier has made enormous strides for clean water advocacy not only in indigenous communities, but all around Canada and the United States. She’s spread her agony by formal speeches like to the United Nations, but also personally going around in local communities and schools. One could question the accuracy in her information and her credibility due to the fact that she’s so young and comes from such humble beginnings, but I think it makes her intentions pure. Not to mention the history of water advocacy in her family. She’s not doing any of this for money or fame, but for the reason that water is in her heart, as she stated to the UN general assembly.

Autumn Peltier crying while addressing Prime Minister Trudeau, photography by Perry Bellegarde.

 

References

Marchildon, Jackie. “Canada’s 13-Year-Old Indigenous Water Advocate to Speak at United Nations.” Global Citizen, 18 Dec. 2017,

www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/canada-water-advocate-united-nations/.

Alex, Cathy. “Meet Autumn Peltier – the 12-Year-Old Girl Who Speaks for Water | CBC Canada 2017.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 21 June 2017, www.cbc.ca/2017/meet-autumn-peltier-the-12-year-old-girl-who-speaks-for-water-1.4168277.

Kent, Melissa. “Canadian Teen Tells UN to ‘Warrior up,’ Give Water Same Protections as People | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 23 Mar. 2018, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/autumn-peltier-un-water-activist-united-nations-1.4584871.

Johnson, Rhiannon. “Anishinaabe Teen Only Canadian up for International Children’s Peace Prize | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 5 Oct. 2017, www.cbc.ca/news/water-advocate-up-for-childrens-peace-prize-1.4339789.

 

Daunnette Reyome: Breaking Stereotypes

By Anneka Rose

Every culture has some sort of power dynamic between young and older people. Usually, the gap between generations causes elders to look down on the youth. In any culture, ignoring the youth is easy because they have no authority or power in society, so their voices are easily swept aside, using their lack of experience as an excuse. The relationship between elders and young people is particularly prominent in Native American communities. When given the opportunity to use it, young indigenous voices can often be the most powerful. Daunette Reyome’s presence in the media is no exception. Daunnette Reyome, a 16 year old (according to her Facebook page as of September, 2018) from Nebraska and a proud member of the Omaha tribe, took the modeling world by storm at a young age. She has appeared in multiple pieces by Teen Vogue, where she gained a lot of media attention at 13 years old. In addition to modeling, Reyome speaks out for her community and young Native Americans everywhere by telling her truth as an indigenous person living in the United States today. She fights against cultural appropriation, which is an ongoing issue in the fashion industry, and the many stereotypes that have been thrown onto Native Americans. Her presence in the modeling industry has shattered the conceptions of what the beauty standard should be as well as shed light on many hardships Native Americans must endure in the United states.

In a video with Teen Vogue in 2016 entitled “Daunette on What Being Native American Means to Her,” Reyome discusses her relationship with her identity. Having grown up in Nebraska on a reservation, Reyome’s Native American identity is something she takes a lot of pride in. She acknowledges the values her community has instilled in her, emphasizing her connection to individuals, her community, and the earth because of her culture’s spiritual beliefs. When approaching how the rest of the world sees her community, Reyome is quick to say that she wants her presence to be recognized in society. She is also adamant on breaking stereotypes of Native Americans, refuting the idea that her people get free handouts from the government or that all indigenous people have long hair and live in teepees. Especially being a part of the fashion industry, Reyome finds cultural appropriation insulting as she constantly sees others wearing headdresses and traditional Native American accessories without understanding the significance and meaning behind the pieces. Reyome keeps her culture close to her heart, exemplified by the eagle feather and traditional garments she wears in the video. She shows her pride saying, “I wouldn’t have the story I have if I wasn’t Native American” (Daunette on What Being Native American Means to Her).

 (Photo “Daunnette Skating Rink” by Flickr user cwjphoto624)

In an interview she did with Change Makers, Reyome ruminates on what happened after the Teen Vogue video came out and goes into further depth on some issues the Native American community faces in the United States everyday. Reyome goes into detail about how much she values the sacredness in her culture, especially certain traditions such as pow wows and peyote meetings. She describes the sacredness behind Native American headdresses as well, noting that each eagle feather on a headdress must be earned. She explains her frustration with people who don’t take the time to understand the honor it is to wear a headdress and wear something they in no way have earned. She equates the situation to if she were to wear a purple heart, a prestigious military decoration. Her own words best explain it: “A headdress is not supposed to be fashion; it’s our medallion” (“Daunnette Reyome”).

(Photo “Daunnette Skating Rink” by Flickr user cwjphoto624)

In the same interview, Reyome reflects on how her Teen Vogue video was received. She got an abundance of positive comments from people around the world, both indigenous and not. That feedback made her hopeful for the future, but other comments made her cautious. She received many offensive comments such as “Go back to your teepee,” making her slightly more apprehensive to continue moving forward. But with this interview and other similar articles, Reyome began obtaining the platform she needed to spread awareness. When asked about mental health issues on reservations such as depression, suicide rates, and addiction problems, Reyome gave an informative answer at only 13 years old. She explained that, in her opinion, Native Americans suffer from these issues because of the endless cycle between poverty, unemployment, and isolation from major cities. Because reservations are so far away from metropolis cities, transportation is necessary, but many households cannot afford a car. She prides herself on being so involved in her community, though. She believes she was born with a power that others don’t have because she was born Native American. She has a story and she is ready to share it with the world (“Daunnette Reyome”).

(Photo from Daunnette Reyome’s Facebook https://www.facebook.com/daunnette.reyome.96)

In 2017, Reyome spoke at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City at the Day in a Girl Summit. According to the transcript of her speech, provided by Indian Time, she explained her motivations to start modeling and her views on how our society needs to change in order to respect Native American culture. She reminisces on how she used to strut around her house when she was little in her mom’s high heels, and how she remembered never seeing a Native American girl in the fashion industry. Frustrated that she had no one to look up, Reyome became determined to be that role model for other Indigenous girls: “I believe it’s important for children to have a figure they can relate to and connect with that resembles who they are and where they come from” (Reyome).

(Photo of Daunnette at the Day of the Girl Summit, from Daunnette Reyome’s Facebook https://www.facebook.com/daunnette.reyome.96)

As Reyome and her friends were given the chance to vocalize their truth in a video series entitled #askaNativeAmericangirl, they received a lot of support along with backlash. Reyome mentions in her speech that a middle aged man even dedicated a seventeen minute video to criticizing her views. She took those hateful comments with grace, however, saying that those hateful words were just “an immature attempt to devalue everything we had to say.” She used the negativity to her power, using to to further her point that ignorance is an epidemic in America. Reyome discusses how she often hears people tell her move on and to not dwell on the past. To that she asks “how can we get over the past when those that tell us to get over it still show the same disdain towards us after all these years?” Reyome believes that for change to happen, the US government must start changing how we teach the history of our country in schools: “US History started with Native Americans so teach about us in entirety.” In addition, she encourages younger generations to educate the older generations. As a young person herself, Reyome has exemplified how powerful a youthful voice can be. Reyome doesn’t just ask for change, she demands her people to be heard, seen, and respected. “We are not just people of the past but people of the present and future” (Reyome).

Sources:

“Daunnette Reyome on What Being Native American Means to Her.” Youtube, uploaded by Teen Vogue, 21 April 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-0WCV_d_CI

“Daunnette Reyome.” Change Makers Women, www.changemakersunite.org/project04.

Indian Time. “Daunnette Reyome Speaks at Day of the Girl Summit.” Indian Time, 19 Oct. 2017, www.indiantime.net/story/2017/10/19/news/daunnette-reyome-speaks-at-day-of-the-girl-summit/26068.html.

“6 Misconceptions About Native American People.” Youtube, uploaded by Teen Vogue, November 29, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHdW_LVfn28

Politics and the Pipeline: Tokata Iron Eyes’ Fight for Environmental Protection

“I got my future back”

Tokata Iron Eyes, a 15-year-old environmental activist from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has spent most of her adolescence fighting to protect her home. Iron Eyes grew up on the Standing Rock reservation, a region now known for the infamous grassroots protests over the governmental placement of the Dakota Access Pipeline. For Iron Eyes, protecting the environment is second nature. In an interview with Teen Vouge, Iron Eyes claims, “As an Indigenous people, I know no other way. My grandmother has taught me how to live off the earth.”

Growing up, Iron Eyes was taught the importance of her personal history, something that inspired her to lead the Standing Rock protests in later years. She cites learning about the initial plans for the pipeline in school, and immediately knowing she refused to be complacent in the destruction of the land her ancestors fought and died to protect (Iron Eyes).

Iron Eyes rose to prominence in the political movement after a video of several young children on her reservation went viral. The video, a part of the “Rezpect Our Water” campaign, shows the details of the Dakota Access Pipeline in text over pictures of the beautiful and serene reservation. A young girl sings a tribal song, as horrifying facts flash across the screen. According to this video, the proposed project would transport 570,000 barrels of crude oil over the Missouri River, which is located less than a mile from the Standing Rock Reservation, every single day. The video concludes with Iron Eyes’ call to action: “respect our water, respect our land, and respect our people,” she says. Iron Eyes goes on to detail how to join the fight against the implementation of the pipeline (Jean). This quotation by Iron Eyes stands out as particularly rhetorically effective. The use of anaphora in the repetition of the word “respect” invokes strong emotions in the viewers. By choosing the word “respect” to be repeated, Iron Eyes focused the video back onto the thesis of the movement. It is about respect for the environment, for the people of Standing Rock, and for the generations of Indigenous people that fought hard to protect the Earth.

The audience that this video reached was key to the protest’s success. By aiming it generically at the public, it turns a lens on the viewer, forcing them to either take action or feel uncomfortable in their complacency. If they had chosen to market the rhetoric toward a specific group, say, only indigenous people, the message would have been much easier to ignore. This video makes one thing clear: the youth at Standing Rock will no longer be silent, and neither should you.

Photo: Rezpect Our Water campaign youth leaders (left to right) Tokata Iron Eyes, AnnaLee Yellow Hammer, Precious Winter Roze Bernie and Winona Gayton. Photo by Kettie Jean

In the months following the video, the youth at Standing Rock, led in part by Iron Eyes, began a political crusade. The Standing Rock protests gained support from outside people and organizations and soon went viral. Iron Eyes was leading an entire movement in large part due to the popularity she gained from the video. A camp was built where protesters stayed. Groups would pray about the cause together, and ceremonies were often held. Millions of Americans across the country who weren’t there physically would “check in” to Standing Rock on social media to voice their support. Almost every aspect of this protest was organized by youth, and Iron Eyes played a large role in not only kickstarting the movement, but by inspiring passion in others to continue the momentum (Rosenmann).

Despite outside support, the Standing Rock movement still faced criticism by many, and was massively underrepresented in the media. The news outlets that did report on the protests focused on pushing a one-dimensional narrative about life in Standing Rock (Ahtone). BBC news wrote that life on such a reservation was “marked by a combination of crushing poverty and chronic alcoholism”. This idea was pushed through the minds of the public, making the movement seem illegitimate, forlorn, and unimportant.

In spite of the negativity chronicled by the mainstream media, Iron Eyes’ speeches to the protesters helped to show that poverty is not the defining characteristic of the movement. By employing a young perspective, the movement’s narrative was eventually shifted back to how it was when they created the video: a narrative of hope. The youth at Standing Rock led by Iron Eyes created pivotal turning point in the way the public perceived Native Americans. The story shifted from one of despair to one of power, and the Indigenous community gained more control over the way that story was told.

“I’m standing here for all the Indigenous people who couldn’t be here today. This is my purpose, this should be all of our purposes – to protect our Mother Earth.”

After months of protesting, Iron Eyes and the rest of the Standing Rock youth were finally granted justice; their demands were met. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers eventually stated that they were no longer allowing the pipeline to be worked on in this region. After this announcement was made, Iron Eyes gave one last speech to the protesters set up in the camp. “I’m standing here for all the Indigenous people who couldn’t be here today. This is my purpose, this should be all of our purposes — to protect our Mother Earth.” Tearfully, she explains in a video that was later posted to Facebook, “I feel like I got my future back” (Rosenmann). However, this does not mean that Iron Eyes’ fight is over. Despite the announcement from the government, President Trump has pushed for further development on the land (Javier). We can be rest assured, however, that wherever the Dakota Access Pipeline reappears, so will the Standing Rock youth to work against further environmental damage.

Since her involvement in leading the protest, Iron Eyes has continued to fight for land and water protection, including speaking at the 2016 Climate March and collaborating with celebrities and other Native protesters (Doerer). Iron Eyes has spent her childhood fighting against not only environmental damages inflicted upon her people, but the stereotypes attached to her reservation. Her activism has inspired many Indigenous youth to join the fight and do the same. Her work will continue to impact and inspire for generations to come.

Photo: The DAPL protests. Photo by Gabriel San Roman

 

References:

Ahtone, Tristan. “How Media Did and Did Not Report on Standing Rock.” GCC News | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 14 Dec. 2016, www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/12/media-report-standing-rock-161214101627199.html.

Doerer, Kristen. “Hundreds of Youth Activists Marched on Washington, D.C. to Fight Climate Change.” Teen Vogue, TeenVogue.com, 22 July 2018, www.teenvogue.com/story/youth-climate-change-activists-marched-washington-dc.

Iron Eyes, Takota. “I Led a Movement to Protect My Land.” Magzter – World’s Largest Digital Newsstand with over 10,000 Magazines, Jen Abidor, 2016, www.magzter.com/article/Fashion/Seventeen-US/I-Led-a-Movement-to-Protect-My-Land.

Javier, Carla. “A Timeline of the Year of Resistance at Standing Rock.” Splinter, Splinternews.com, 14 Nov. 2017, www.splinternews.com/a-timeline-of-the-year-of-resistance-at-standing-rock-1794269727.

Jean, Kettie and Rafe Scobey-Thal, directors. Rezpect Our WaterYouTube, YouTube, 19 Apr. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-uFIBewhNg.

Rosenmann, Alexandra. “’I Got My Future Back’: One of the Young Leaders of the Standing Rock Movement Sheds Tears of Joy.” Alternet, 5 Dec. 2016, www.alternet.org/activism/i-got-my-future-back-13-year-old-behind-standing-rock-movement-sheds-tears-joy-over.