A Look into an Indigenous Future: Jordan Cocker’s Empowerment of Native Youth

-Julie Zhang

While the violent genocides against Native Americans no longer exist, widespread oppression and racism are still very much present. Most people see present-day America as a place free of prejudice and as a land that has made peace with its past horrors against Native Americans; many believing that the struggles that Native Americans face were a thing of the past. Members of the general public often see no reason to empathize with Indigenous youth, maintaining the belief that someone who grew up within a Native American community is no different from a person who did not.  

In the midst of the ignorance that still plagues America, there stands young activists such as Jordan Cocker. Cocker has worked to reeducate people on a common misconceptions surrounding the life of Native American communities: Indigeneous youth share vastly different problems and difficulties in everyday life and should have the resources that support their efforts to heal. Moreover, she advocates for the recognition of the racism and injustices that the Native American community continuously faces. 

Jordan Cocker, a trainer for the Indigenous 20 Something Project, talks about living in balance during a session on Friday at San Juan College Henderson Fine Arts Center in Farmington.
Jordan Cocker, talks about living in balance during a session on Friday at San Juan College Henderson Fine Arts Center in Farmington. (Photo: Noel Lyn Smith/The Daily Times)

Jordan Cocker is a twenty seven year old activist who was raised as a part of both the Kiowa and Tonga tribes. Cocker grew up in Oklahoma often visiting reservations, maintaining a strong presence in both communities. After graduating, she moved to New Zealand obtaining a degree in museum and heritage practice. Cocker went on to co-found a nonprofit organization that focuses on teaching the next generation of Native youth how to heal. The Indigenous 20 Something Project promotes healing utilizing ancestral knowledge. I20SP brings young Indigenous people together creating community healing that has been effective in helping Indigenous youth honor their ancestors. Through their Wellness Warrior Camp, I20SP brings healthy collaboration and interaction to Native American communities. Cocker discusses the prevalence of alcoholism and drug abuse in Indigenous communities and her choice to lead a healthy lifestyle free of alcohol and drugs. Cocker describes drugs and alcohol as

“part of the historic and present day biochemical warfare against indigenous people” (I20SP).

By practicing healthy habits, Native youth may reclaim their identity from the harmful practices created by colonists. 

Jordan Cocker posing for the Smithsonian’s article, “To Indigenize the Western World” (Photo from Smithsonian article)

As apart of the Indigenous 20 Something Project, Jordan Cocker’s efforts to indigenize the western world has spread. She preaches that the scars of the Native American community run deep across generations. The struggles that seized the lives of Native Americans years ago continue to affect the lives of young adults today. Although what happened was atrocious, it may not be changed. With their land and country stolen, Cocker encourages people to move towards indigenizing the western world. The violence that continues to smog Native communities today must be addressed: violence towards Native women, racism, cultural appropriation etc… 

For many Americans learning about Native Americans, they are conditioned to associate Native Americans as poor and helpless. Jordan Cocker offers a different story: a story of strength, courage and resilience. Throughout their history in the United States, Native Americans were subjected to horrors such as genocide, discrimination, compulsory attendance to boarding schools, and effacing of cultural traditions and beliefs. Nevertheless, Cocker emphasizes that indigenous communities are still here and can make an impact. Moreover, she urges to keeps spirits high, offering the help of her ancestors. When asked to share a message with the youth in her community, Cocker says,

“You are strong and resilient. Take the time to heal and focus on your healing, because you are that powerful and can change the future. Higher education is cool, but our ancestors had all the answers” (Zotigh).

Cocker reminds Native youth of the importance of tradition and recognizing your ancestors. Cocker lives a live honoring her ancestors, she has a “passion for travel, like [her] ancestors who traveled the plains and the ocean since time immemorial” (Zotigh). She follows a nonlinear career path, working wherever she may continue the fight that her ancestors died fighting.

Jordan Cocker’s Tedx Talk

( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DsipPjkVHQ)

“Seminole, Creek, Potawatomi, Kickapoo, and Shawnee nation,” Jordan Cocker starts her Tedx Talk highlighting the nations whose land the audience was currently standing on (Cocker). She establishes a tone that grabs the attention of her audience, reminding them of the stolen land they currently live on. Cocker then continues to recognize her roots and her ancestors, naming her ancestors one by one. By doing this, she is honoring her ancestors and reminding people to honor theirs as well. 

Cocker spotlights the ignorance of Native American culture she had experienced growing up.  As a young girl, Cocker was shocked by how the museums portrayed her ancestors: “didn’t the museum know that this cradle survived the darkest days of the Kiowa people? Didn’t they know that Indian agents imprisoned and separated families?” (Cocker). She quickly learned that the stories of Native Americans were rewritten to fit the narrative that the museum wanted to render. The museum employed white Anglo voices that reduced her ancestor’s culture and removed their sense of humanity. The blatant use of Native American culture for profit is displayed throughout Cocker’s speech. Jordan Cocker exposes the present day attempts by institutions to silence Native voices, revealing that

“museums contribute 50 billion dollars to the US economy each year” (Cocker).

Cocker includes these statistics to add credibility and realism to what she is trying to accomplish. Many people do not view preserving Native culture as important and continue to profit from misrepresenting Native American culture. In response, Cocker works towards the goal of restoring the humanity and recovering the beauty of Native communities. 

Cocker ends her speech speaking directly to the people who have the most to lose: Native youth. She uplifts them by reaffirming the power that they hold from their ancestors. Even though their Native identity seems to be lost within the corruption created by profit-seeking institutions, Jordan Cocker advocates for a world where Indian values are still preserved, and where Native youth may finally heal the scars of their ancestors.

Works Cited

“Indigenous Futurisms: Cultures of Radical Love, Jordan Cocker, TEDxOklahomaCity” YouTube, 7 May 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DsipPjkVHQ.

I20SP. “ SPOTLIGHT: Jordan Cocker.” I20SP, I20SP, 8 June 2018, https://i20sp.com/i20sp-spotlight/2018/8/23/spotlight-jordan-cocker.

Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/blogs/national-museum-american-indian/2018/06/01/interview-jordan-cocker/.


The Athlete and Activist: Tracie Léost Gives Silence a Voice

by: Raven Nesbitt

The stereotypical athlete is usually seen as a jock, obsessed with sports culture with no regards to any other subject, often referred to as “musclehead” or “musclebrain” or even “meathead.” So you don’t usually envision an athlete encompassing both their running shoes and their voice as a way to raise awareness for an important cause.

However, this is the narrative that should be accepted because athleticism and intelligence aren’t mutually exclusive. Athletes are allowed to be more than their label and they can use their athletic prowess as a platform for advancement. Advancement for the minority and the underrepresented.

Tracie Léost (born 1998) is a Métis woman who encompasses both. At this time (2019), Léost is a three time track and field medalist, retired hockey player, and Indigenous youth coach who uses her athletic gifts as a means of advocating for missing and murdered Indigenous women. Since she was seventeen, she has orchestrated numerous events to raise awareness around this tragedy. Léost is no stranger to activism in other ways, as well. Some examples of her work include donating hair to people with cancer who have lost theirs due to treatment to creating a mental health club at her school,

Tracie Léost posing for her Indspire Interview in 2018.

Léost became interested in social activism after taking an Indigenous studies class in 2015. Her teacher assigned the class to research a missing or murdered Indigenous woman and to tell their story. She learned that over 4,000 Indigenous women have gone missing or been murdered each year since 1980. Léost realizes how this issue has yet to be prioritized by citizens of Canada and the Canadian government. She explains, “People normalized the fact that there were thousands of Indigenous women missing and they would just eat their dinner and just listen to it” (Léost, “Manitoba Teen”). Léost recognizes the severity of the issue and people’s inability to do anything. She expresses concern because these women are more than a statistic, these women are mothers, sisters, wives. These women are people and their lives matter just as much as anyone else’s.

Léost realized how each report of a missing or murdered indigenous woman was ignored because it lacked the platform to bring attention to the matter. She understood that indigenous people aren’t voiceless, they just need people to listen. Silence has become a luxury and now flourishes off of those who have created the noise we wish to escape. Meaning that we confuse not being heard with not having anything to say. She recognizes that indigenous youth doesn’t need someone to be a voice for them, they need people to listen, learn, and amplify their voices. While the voices of indigenous people are pushed down and left out, Tracie Léost has grown restless and fought back. Tracie Léost made a seat at the table. She forced conversation and gave a voice to the “voiceless”.

Tracie Léost running during her marathon. (Manitoba Teen).

Tracie Léost was intent on bringing awareness to this issue, so she planned a four day 115 km run from Oak Point to Winnipeg. She was determined to help her people and protect their culture as much as she could, because it was important to her. She ran through her running shoes until the blisters on her feet got so bad that she had to run in her Moccasins, but it didn’t stop her because the blisters didn’t equate to the pain and suffering of the indigenous women. The same way Léost didn’t let her blisters discourage her from finishing the marathon is the same way she didn’t let her age stop her from leading a movement. 

“I wanted to create change and show other indigenous youth that anything was possible” (Indspire, “Tracie Léost “).

Léost raised over $6,000 for the Families First Foundation and amassed worldwide attention. A year later, the Canadian government launched the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Léost represents those forgotten by the rest of the world, and to many she represents hope because she gives a voice to silence.

Since her marathon, Léost has appeared in the music video for Cass McComb’s Run, Sister, Run and spoke on Parliament Hill for Canada Day which ultimately led to her receiving the Indspire award in 2018, “the highest honour bestowed on indigenous youth” (Thomas, “Métis teen activist”).

Tracie Léost is now pursuing a degree in social work at the University of Regina to continue to advocate for her community. At college, Léost continues her work as she continues with smaller projects to support misrepresented groups, like collecting hygiene products for women’s shelters during the holiday seasons. When she’s not acting as a full-time student or a dedicated activist, Léost is able to relieve stress and coach little league hockey. She uses her position as coach to encourage indigenous youth to follow their dreams, despite indigenous youth not being represented in the rink.

 As Léost interviews for Hockey in Society, she explains why she began coaching indigenous youth.“Being a successful athlete is only another barrier for Indigenous people in Canada — a barrier we must break” (Léost, “An Interview with Tracie Léost”). In making this statement, Léost recognizes the lack of representation of indigenous people in the hockey rink. She encourages indigenous youth to push past society’s preconceived notions and break through their glass ceiling. However this call to action was not geared just towards First Nations, but also towards communities and businesses. When these indigenous groups live in isolated communities, they lack the resources necessary and settle with using insufficient equipment which, ultimately, hinder the youth. As a hockey coach, she has found another way to support one of the communities she belongs to.

Tracie Léost is more than an obtuse stereotype of what an athlete is supposed to be as she excels in multiple activities. In such a sports-based world where athletes receive more attention than crisis, it is necessary for these stars to use their platform to advocate for those whose voices have been neglected. Léost has used her athletic gifts for more than just sports, she has created a platform— so when she speaks, people listen. Léost could not afford to be silent in the face of injustice. We can not afford to be silent in a world of unfairness and inequality.


Indspire. “Tracie Léost.” Indspire, 2018, https://indspire.ca/laureate/tracie-leost/. Accessed 9 September 2019.

Szto, Courtney. “An Interview with Tracie Léost: Player, Coach, Activist.” Hockey in Society, 23 August 2018, https://hockeyinsociety.com/2018/06/19/tracie-leost/. Accessed 9 September 2019.

Thomas, Tess. “Métis Teen Activist and Athlete Speaks out for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.” Medium, Malala Fund – Archive, 14 February 2018, https://blog.malala.org/métis-teen-activist-and-athlete-speaks-out-for-missing-and-murdered-indigenous-women-7c34b7eaab55. Accessed 15 September 2019.

“Manitoba Teen Completes 115-Km Run for Missing, Murdered Indigenous Women | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 22 Aug. 2015, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/manitoba-teen-completes-115-km-run-for-missing-murdered-indigenous-women-1.3200623. Accessed 15 September 2019.

“Tracie Léost- Inspiring Awareness.” Youtube. Uploaded by Indspire, 21 November 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7t9VtoSnbbM. Accessed 23 September 2019.

Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres: An Indigenous Youth who will NOT be Silenced.

-Monica ortiz- 

Honduras, a country where death is a consequence of being an activist. As some Honduran citizens have taken a stand to protect their lands, the protest and fight against industrialization has become dangerous. Many activists have been victims of attacks and murders. One well known Indigenous youth, Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres, says that although there is a great danger in speaking and acting out, fear cannot hold one back from fighting. Also, it is up to the United Nations to help create security of human rights in the corrupt governments.

Berta Zúñiga, en una vigilia frente la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) ante un retrato de su madre, asesinada en marzo.

Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres next to a poster of Bertha Cáceres, her mother who was assassinated.

In March of the year 2016, Bertha Cáceres, a well known activist, environmentalist, and feminist in Latin America, was assassinated. Since then, her death, which has been linked to large corporations who she fought against, has not been brought to justice. Her legacy, however, continues on with her daughter: Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres. Cáceres, now a 28 year old indigenous youth, was exposed to the fight for her people at a young age thanks to her mother. Cáceres’ mother fought to protect the territory of her Lenca people until the day she died. Since the death of her mother, Cáceres has taken the role of her mother to continue her fight against the destruction of the land in Honduras. Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres has followed her mother’s steps and continues to fight for her people. Cáceres became the general coordinator of COPINH, Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (Translation: Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras.) COPINH is an organization with the mission to protect the rights and the lands of Indigenous communities. Cáceres uses her platform and voice for her people. She travels around the world to bring in awareness about what is going on in Honduras’ corrupt government and how people should help to take a stand. Although it is a dangerous task to be an outspoken activist in Honduras, Cáceres explains that she won’t let fear control her power to create change.

Image result for bertha zúñiga cáceres
Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres.
Photo by: Mel Mencos

Cáceres’ mother died in the fight to ensure that the indigenous group, the Lencas, kept their territories untouched. As industrialization continues to expand in the country of Honduras, the developing plans cause harm to the environment and to the land in Honduras. One major project in the country was the hydro dam that was planned to be constructed in the River of Gualcarque. This river is located in the land of  the Lencas, Honduras’ largest indigenous group. Although many believe that the construction of the dam can be a step towards development and efficiency, The Gualcarque River , in which it was to be constructed, is sacred to the idigenous community. It plays an essential role to support the Lenca community: “The Lenca’s use of the river is based on satisfying daily needs that have to do with agriculture, fishing, the use of water for domestic and recreational activities,” (VICE) Also, the river has sentimental value to the culture and beliefs of the Lenca people. It is believed that the river holds the spirits of their ancestors. Cáceres holds the same values as her mother in respect to the importance of the river. She believes that the Lenca community has a say to what is to be done in respect to the river. 

Image result for gualcarque river honduras
Lenca community building a human barrier to protect 
the Gualcarque River
Photo by:Edgard Garrido

Cáceres’ mission goes beyond just her local community. Not only does she fight for the rights of her Lenca people but she thinks that this is a fight that the whole nation and the world should participate in. “… El COPINH y nuestra familia somos parte de la campaña para impulsar un tratado de vinculante de las empresas Europeas al nivel internacional. Ya que consideramos lo mínimo que pueden hacer las empresas Europeas es mantener los estándares de derechos humanos los mismos que se aplican a Europa al resto del mundo. En América latina, en áfrica, en Asia, fundamentalmente donde hay muchas de sus empresas. Nosotras pensamos que esta es la manera de evitar que vuelvan a suceder estos hechos como el de mi mami…”(Cáceres) In this video of Cáceres speaking, she talks about how it is important for others to help eliminate corruption in the Honduran government and around the world. Through this video we can see our indigenous youth taking a stand. We can see that she is fierce. She uses her strong voice and knowledge to bring awareness. We can see that she is determined in reaching out to the world and to large European corporations, in particular, to use their resources to help establish security of human rights in Honduras. When watching this video, viewers can feel the impact that Cáceres makes through her words and voice.

Cáceres realizes that there is change to be done in Honduras. It is a place where it is not safe to speak one’s mind. It is a place where one can be attacked in response to being actively outspoken. And a place where attackers will not receive punishment. Therefore, COPINH’s mission extends to communities outside of the Lenca people and even outside of Honduras’ land. However, change can only be achieved if we are not shut down by fear and if the whole world participates in the movement.

Works Cited

Laorden, Carlos. No tenemos miedo porque no se puede luchar asustado. El Pais. 24 October 2016. https://elpais.com/elpais/2016/10/15/planeta_futuro/1476526732_322038.html

Hernanz, Clara. The Indigenous Rights Leader Fighting Back After Her Mother’s Assassination. Vice News. 12 March 2019. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/vbwyxj/indigenous-rights-leader-honduras-bertha-zuniga

Ojik, Anna Van. Agua Zarca: indigenous fight against dam costs lives. Both ENDS. https://www.bothends.org/en/Our-work/Dossiers/Agua-Zarca-indigenous-fight-against-dam-costs-lives/

Meet Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres, Honduras. Nobel Women’s Initiative. 8 December 2017. https://nobelwomensinitiative.org/meet-bertha-zuniga-caceres-honduras/

Trocaire. Berta Zuniga Caceres calls for UN treaty on business & human rights. Vimeo. March 6, 2019. https://vimeo.com/321765698

Erasing Lines: An Indigenous Young Woman’s Resilience Towards Silence and Division

Klamath Louise Henry, a recent graduate from Emory University, is a proud member of both the Shasta Tribe and the Tuscarora Nation of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. Passionate about her own heritage, helping people, as well as inclusion, Henry dedicated her college years to making a change. Henry wishes to increase the presence of Native American populations in higher education and to better support the small populations of Native Americans on campus. Hence, she worked closely with Emory’s Dean of Admission John Latting and the Native American Initiative Working Committee (NAIWC). Henry then went on to organize the Fall 2018 Native American and Indigenous Student Symposium, which featured a vast array of scholars and activists to generate discussion on how Native American situations could be improved. Henry believes that despite the public’s consensus that Native Americans do have a presence on a national scale, and that they are not discriminated against when it comes to education, attention must be brought to and changes must be made regarding Natives’ chances in attaining higher education. Henry recognizes that although affirmative actions do exist, and supposedly benefit Native Americans, she has yet to personally observe a difference being made when it comes to a change in the admission of Native Americans. 

Senior portrait of Klamath Henry. (Photo from The Emory Wheel)

Majoring in Anthropology (minor in Environmental Sciences), Henry was encouraged by Professor Debra Vidali to conduct ethnographic research on the “Three Sisters food system” – traditional crops grown by Native Americans in Northern American tribes – beans, squash, and corn. Corn being the main crop grown by the Tuscarora tribe which Henry hails from. To better understand how the Tuscarora white corn has shaped the people that grow and consume them, Henry spent her junior fall semester capturing “a way of living that [her] people perform daily.” With her talents in photography, film production, and poetry, Henry argues that her hypothesis to be true,

“the Tuscarora white corn and traditional ways of eating are culturally (and spiritually) relevant to the Tuscarora people, and have remained extremely resilient through years of systematic oppression, war and cultural genocide.”

Klamath Henry documents her people’s way of living in a short film. (Video from Three Sisters Resiliency

Henry’s hypothesis is backed by the numerous quotes gathered from the Tuscarora people. There seemed to be a general consensus that the Tuscarora corn has an unparalleled importance in their culture when it comes to preservation and resilience. Many believe that the corn allows them to “restore [their] relationship with the world around [them].” All of Henry’s documentations are posted on her website “Three Sisters Resiliency.” The site sports a clean and sophisticated look, with a simple structure that allows easy navigation. The homepage details her purpose and provides a backdrop for the significance of her purpose. Other than webpages about the project and herself, Henry posted a long poem titled “Nations,” as well as, a collection of short poems. “Nations” is a poem that illuminates Henry’s mission and her essence– to cross the division line, repair the broken ties and history between her people and others, and never forget her roots.

“I stand before you a woman of many nations,

Impatient with the world to which I was born.

They are neglectful, selfish, treaty breakers.

I work to separate myself from becoming a part of the “they.”

A distinctive line drawn between races,

A divide between those who have caused,

And those who have experienced pain.




I have to remember the blood of my ancestors.

For every step is a gift,

Every breath is unearned.”

 Henry’s poetry provide her audience and general web surfers an insight into how her project contributes to her cause through her “feminine Indigenous lens.”

A snap shot of the Tuscarora people and white corn (Photography from Three Sisters Resiliency)


What is safety? And what does it feel like? Safety is when you do not anticipate any form of harm, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional. Safety is wrapping oneself tightly in a blanket, drowning out the dangers and chaos of this world. But imagine a world where safety no longer exists, that world, is precisely what Native Americans are most familiar with, especially women.

Other than her ethnographic research, Henry runs a personal blog on Odyssey that she posts on till this day. Henry posts a miscellaneous assortment of work, ranging from topics of environmental conservation to politics and college life. Around the time of Trump’s election, Henry posted an opinion article titled “A Native American Perspective On Trump Chalkings – The things a Native American fears.” This post centers around a specific “They Say/I Say” that Henry feels strongly about, the idea that Trump’s acts of targeting minority group is generating fear amongst those that are non-white. “Trump’s Chalkings” refers to the sudden spur of chalked walkways on college campuses that supported Trump’s ideologies regarding immigrants with the use of inflammatory language, and hence, fear amongst the student body rose. This fear quickly escalated into somewhat of an international crisis, all news media were covering the same stories, debate over the topic was occurring in every corner of the internet, and change was called upon. Even Emory University, Henry’s very own college, was looking into the chalking phenomenon. However, Henry argues in her article that this “fear” is an everyday reality for Indigenous women, yet no one seems to care. Henry shares that contrary to most people, she isn’t afraid of Trump’s chalkings, but does fear

“the things happening to my cousins, my aunts, my sisters, and my friends. I am not afraid of chalk. Words and presidential campaigns mean nothing to Native Americans. Ignorant white men have been threatening my people for years,”  

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (Photo from Flickr)

With the article Henry also points out the severity of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic (MMIW).  The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic is a prevalent issue affecting all Indigenous communities in North America. Demographic research has revealed discomforting statistics: 4 out of 5 Native women experience violence in their lifetime, in 2016 alone, 5,712 known incidents of missing and murdered Native American women were recorded, and Native American women face murder rates 10 times the national average. With such alarming statistics, one would expect things to change for the better, for the public to be more aware of Indigenous situations, instead, the safety of Indigenous women remain a neglected issue that little even know about. Henry’s article is a desperate reach for her audience to understand and a call for action because the fear instilled in Indigenous women “is not something that is going to wash away when the rain comes down.”

Klamath Louise Henry, a true shero of her generation, a fighter for her people, and is one to keep a lookout for. Henry is someone who understands the strengths of her time, utilizing online resources and platforms to heighten her movement and spread her ideas. It is a talent to be able to move people with one’s words, which Henry finds no problem doing so. Through her writing, photography, and videography, it is evident that Henry cares deeply about her Indigenous identity, as well as the wellbeing of all Indigenous people.  With people like Henry gracing our world, and fighting for equality, it isn’t hard to believe that one day people of all different ethnicities, colors, and backgrounds will be able to cross and erase those division lines that have long bounded each and every one of us.  


Works Cited:

Klamlouise. “3 / S I S T E R S / R E S I L I E N C Y / P R O J E C T.” 3 / S I S T E R S / R E S I L I E N C Y / P R O J E C T, https://threesisterspoetry.wordpress.com/

“Nyá:Wę (Thank You), Emory: Klamath Henry.” The Emory Wheel, https://emorywheel.com/klamath-henry/

Wilson, Robb. “M.M.I.W. — Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.” Flickr, Yahoo!, 26 Jan. 2019, https://www.flickr.com/photos/robb_wilson/46878516581.

“Brittain Award Winner Explores Native American Heritage through Advocacy and Anthropology.” Emory University | Atlanta, GA, 7 May 2019, https://news.emory.edu/stories/2019/05/er_commencement_award_brittain_henry/campus.html.

“Klamath Henry.” Odysseyonline, https://www.theodysseyonline.com/user/@klamathhenry.

Henry, Klamath. “A Native American Perspective On Emory’s Trump Chalkings.” The Odyssey Online, The Odyssey Online, 27 Aug. 2017, https://www.theodysseyonline.com/native-americans-perspective-emorys-trump-chalkings.

“MMIW.” Native Womens Wilderness, https://www.nativewomenswilderness.org/mmiw. 

“CSVANW – Coalition to STOP Violence Against Women.” CSVANW Coalition to STOP Violence Against Women, https://www.csvanw.org/mmiw/. 

“Pro-Trump Chalkings Inflame Many Campuses.” Pro-Trump Chalkings Inflame Many Campuses, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/04/15/pro-trump-chalkings-inflame-many-campuses. 


The Musician with a Guitar and Political Speech in Hand

Jordan Narins

The stereotypical musician is only concerned with fame, affluence, and their ego. Labels associated with the current crop of Top 40 artists are: self-absorbed, emotionally unstable, naïve, and a multitude of other negative characteristics. However, not all musicians behave in a narcissistic manner, as some truly care about how they are representing society and themselves. Young, altruistic musicians like Raye Zaragoza, who is the antithesis of the cliché artist, exploits the wrongdoings of racist, sexist people and utilizes her platform to draw attention to issues pertaining to Indigenous rights. 


Raye Zaragoza performing at Another Type of Groove’s American Indian Heritage Month

Raye Zaragoza is a 26-year-old, award-winning musician of mixed heritage. She is of Japanese and Mexican descent, her O’odham ancestry stemming from her father’s side. Zaragoza has had a fervent desire to enter the music industry all her life, performing in school musicals and composing her own songs as a teenager as well. Her father, a Broadway star, instilled some of his musical affection in his daughter, but she has taken this ardency as her own and flourished in her own right. She is passionate about music, but also about speaking out for what is morally right.  In her own words, she produces “songs for people to listen to when they’re going through so many different issues that deal with politics” (Heussner). Zaragoza isn’t just writing a protest song for the sake of composing a great song; she feels as though it is her duty to sing about the pertinent problems of today. This past year, she was the designated speaker for the preventing sexual violence panel at Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, so she is an advocate for a variety of taxing issues in society, which is so empowering. One of her most inspiring pieces, In the River, emphasizes how it is not acceptable to be a bystander to the horrific events occurring in the present day, rather that it is crucial that people follow their moral compass and speak up against injustice. 

In the River received nationwide recognition, winning the Honesty Oscars’ Award for Best Song, and the Global Music Awards’ 2017 Heretic Award for Protest and Activist Music. This song was written in response to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, protesting its creation, which threatened to contaminate Standing Rock’s water supply and disturb their sacred burial grounds.

Raye Zaragoza performing her song, In the River, in a music video (photo from Billboard)

Zaragoza’s song is potent but not overwhelming; her message is straightforward in that she stresses why the development of the pipeline is detrimental, but her composed, fluid tone counteracts this infuriation. The media wasn’t covering the demonstration at Standing Rock, and Native American people were outraged, fearing that no one would come to their aid unless there was attention from the public eye. Ultimately, their land and (deceased) family was at stake, and society was ignoring their cries for help. She understood their anger, but didn’t want to present their feelings in a manner that would only be misconstrued. Zaragoza herself writes, “we’re fighting for our right. To keep the future bright” (Zaragoza). Her slow, gentle inflection of voice presents her people as strong-willed, courageous individuals. She could have incorporated more vulgar language to communicate what she wanted to say, but her words were meticulously chosen to sway her audience (Indigenous people and anyone moved by her work) into supporting the activists at Standing Rock. She writes, “in the river is our sisters and brothers”, referencing the ancient burial grounds, and then follows with “we are camping out for each other. We are stronger when we band together.” Zaragoza depicts Native people as very amicable people, standing with each other as a united front. The artist purposely portrays the Native American protesters as optimistic about the outcome of the demonstration because she wanted to outweigh the doubt that the protest would ever be unsuccessful. Essentially, Raye didn’t want Indigenous people to be remembered for the malicious actions that took place there, but rather only the peaceful ones. In addition, Zaragoza needed her admirers to understand that Indigenous people would suffer with the construction of the pipeline, and that society should be ashamed of their willful ignorance towards this issue. Reporting on the DAPL through her music composition proves her tenacity, as she was representing Native people during a demonstration where their voices were essentially silenced by the media.

This musician embodies power–staring her haters directly in the face by publishing her work revolving around Indigenous rights. In 2018, Raye toured with Dispatch, an American indie/roots band, and Nahko and Medecine for the People, a world music group, contributing funds from these shows to Generation Indigenous. This initiative was established by President Obama to abolish the barriers enacted by society that  create an environment where Native youth are destined to fail. Raye was born into a more privileged family than others, but she acknowledges the struggles of other Indigenous people. She was conscientious of the fact that she would receive criticism for her work, and still shared her music without hesitation. Even though she doubted herself as an artist when she started acquiring a wider audience, she continued with her artistry because she knew she had something important to contribute to society. She remarks that she had been “searching so long” for her confidence, but it “lived with [her] all along” (Culture Collide); now she can perform before an audience double of what she played when she was starting out (without the fear of failure). She titled one of her songs Warrior, another tie to her O’odham heritage. This words highlights how she overcame her struggles as a musician in the spotlight, and like a warrior swallows and then conquers the fear of death in battle. The artist is implying that she possesses similar characteristics to that of a soldier: resilient, brave, and capable. 

Raye Zaragoza performing her song, Warrior, for the first time at Rockwood Music Hall (photo by PM Studio Company)

Zaragoza’s empowering messages resonate with us all. She reacts to political stances that have impacted her, but also teaches society to do the same. The musician is speaking freely about controversial issues, knowing that she will be critiqued. Being Native and a person of color made it inevitable to be an activist in her line of work. The artist didn’t choose to be a spokesperson for her people, but she was given that right when she so heroically broadcasted her opinions to the world. Raye “write[s] for who [she is]” and her “existence [of] resistance”, so she may not have chosen to be a civil leader, but her tenacity in fighting the stereotypes on Indigenous people enacted by  society prove her to be an authentic political figure (Heussner). She is fearless in all of her performances, whether big or small. She is someone who knows what she wants to gain out of her experiences as a musician and a person of color. She is someone who aspires to inspire. Raye Zaragoza is a conscientious voice for the voiceless.

Work Cited:

Graff, Gary. “Raye Zaragoza Stokes the Spirit of Protest with ‘Driving to
     Standing Rock’ Video: Premiere.” Billboard, 29 Oct. 2018, www.billboard.com/
     Accessed 24 Sept. 2019.


Heussner, Taylor. “Raye Zaragoza Didn’t Choose to Be a Political Songwriter.”
     Westword, 15 June 2018. Westword, www.westword.com/music/
     Accessed 24 Sept. 2019.


Lindsey, Michelle. “Album Review: Raye Zaragoza – Fight for You.” Highway
     Queens, 6 July 2017, highwayqueens.com/2017/07/06/
     album-review-raye-zaragoza-fight-for-you/. Accessed 24 Sept. 2019.


“Raye Zaragoza Embodies Inner Strength in ‘Warrior .'” Culture Collide,
     Accessed 24 Sept. 2019.


“Raye Zaragoza Premieres New Song ‘Warrior’ Live at Rockwood Music Hall.” PM
     Studio Company, 21 Dec. 2018, www.pmstudio.com/music/
     music.html?page=20181221-8542. Accessed 24 Sept. 2019.


Zaragoza, Raye. “My Story.” Raye Zaragoza, www.rayezaragoza.com/. Accessed 24
     Sept. 2019.


“In The River: A Protest Song by Raye Zaragoza.” YouTube, uploaded by Raye
     Zaragoza, 15 Sept. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4eosRdP5gQ. Accessed 24
     Sept. 2019.


“Warrior (Live at Rockwood Music Hall) – Raye Zaragoza.” YouTube, uploaded by
     Raye Zaragoza, 21 Dec. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vytg3kN2yio. Accessed
     24 Sept. 2019.

“Raye Zaragoza”. Rayezaragoza.Com, 2019, https://www.rayezaragoza.com/epk.
Raye Zaragoza Sings Against The North Dakota Access Pipeline. 2016, https://mustangnews.net/raye-zaragoza-returns-roots-atogs-open-mic-night/. Accessed 13 Dec 2019.

21st Century (De)colonization: It’s Time to Learn Our History

by Elexis Fisher

 Does the appreciation of culture have to mean the oppression of indigenous groups? Does history not include all parties―cultures, people, events? Aren’t the people that were forced off their lands to learn in boarding and missionary schools relevant in history and the development of the land today? In the media, and more specifically History textbooks nationwide, the messages conveyed about indigenous people fails to tell their story or represent their lives appropriately. Charitie Ropati, teen activist, identified this as a problem and took a stand against the western education taught in the Anchorage School District.

Native America Calling: 2019 Champions for Change (Photo of Charitie Ropati by Native America Calling)

Charitie Ropati is a 17 year old from the Native Village of Kongignak near Anchorage Alaska. She was a representative of her high school’s Native Advisory Committee and a 2019 Champion for Change (Native America Calling). She passionately advocates for the decolonization of western education in the Anchorage School District. Today, Charitie Ropati is continuing her efforts for change at Columbia University by petitioning them to end their contract with border patrol (Ropati, Twitter).

Ropati believes in education as the means to success. Success to Ropati is embodied by figures such as Karen Divers of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Minnesota (Alfranken). Divers was the Native Adviser for Former President Barack Obama where she continued her fight for change amongst the indigenous societies around the nation. Figures like Karen Divers belong in history lectures because it shows other indigenous youth people of the same demographics making a change or holding positions of power. In order for Ropati to succeed, the Alaska Natives perspective must be included in the Anchorage School District. Including this perspective can serve as the first steps in establishing equal opportunities, and creating individuals who can be a voice for change.  In 2016 as a high school sophomore, Ropati attended former President Barack Obama’s eighth and final White House Tribal Nations Conference. She presented to the members of President Obama’s cabinet about issues dealing with the education of indigenous youth in her community. Ropati was interviewed by Delta Affairs Weekly’s Host Anna Rose Macarthur, who asked why education was so important, and what Ropati hoped to encourage others to do through presenting at the conference. Ropati explained, “education is your way out,” and the way to achieve success is by receiving a high school degree and attending college. Ropati tells Macarthur that, “change needs to start with the youth,” to raise, “awareness of the issues that oppress,” Alaska Natives, and through that approach, the curriculum used by the Anchorage School District will change. Ropati challenges not only herself to promote the education of true Alaska Native History, but other youths, tribal leaders, and government officials to take initiative and create opportunities that will benefit everyone. Ropati believes an honest education of who you are, where you’ve come from, and your individual history will help all succeed (Ropati, Delta Weekly Affairs).

Ropati became aware of the historical events that were excluded from her school’s curriculum, when she attended a summer course in Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program taught by an indigenous professor. Ropati seeing education as the key to succeeding in life, she emphasizes how “demoralizing [it is to have the] Native perspective missing [and to] learn in an environment that was – predominantly white [where the curriculum creators] refuse to acknowledge the atrocities [her] people faced.” Ropati had to learn from an outside classroom the true stories of her culture, her people. By characterizing the intentional exemption of Alaska Native history, Ropati implies that fellow indigenous students have no hope in feeling proud in themselves or their accomplishments due to the lack of acknowledgment the Anchorage curriculum utilizes (Ropati, Native America Calling).

An interview of Charitie Ropati after the Champions for Change Panel by IndigeTalk

Charitie Ropati uses her platform to promote the decolonization of western education to make a difference in her community with the inclusion of the indigenous perspective in the education of Anchorage high school students. When interviewed by Native America Calling’s Host Tara Gatewood for 2019 Champions for Change about what drives this movement, Ropati tells Gatewood that she wants other Alaska Native students to see their perspective included in hopes, “they can realize their potential,” as individuals who are recognized, accepted, and included (Ropati, Native America Calling). Ropati created an Alaskan Studies sub-curriculum for Indigenous history as a way to explain the importance of the studies inclusion to the Anchorage School District. She was given the opportunity to teach two different groups of students – the predominantly white and Alaska Native and Hawaiian Native students – about the history of indigenous people in Alaska. Ropati hopes that the Anchorage School District includes her lessons into the overall curriculum.

Culturally accurate representation of any group fills the individual with pride and recognition. It is hard enough that indigenous youth see themselves falsely represented in movies such as Pocahontas lowering their self-worth thus encouraging the lack of engagement in class amongst the indigenous students (Ropati, Molly of Denali). With that in mind, Ropati, and her fellow Native Advisors helped petition the Anchorage School District for the approval of tribal regalia at graduation. When questioned about her efforts to get the regalia worn for graduation, Ropati makes it a point to present the fact that the demographic with the highest dropout and lowest rates of graduation in the nation belongs to Alaska Natives and American Indians before describing her efforts (Ropati, 7th Annual 2019 Champions for Change). Ropati wants others to see her as an example and know it is possible to finish high school and be represented in the regalia at graduation and in history lectures. It is her goal to bring to light the effects the curriculum employed by the Anchorage School District has on indigenous students, and be aware of how it is a form of colonization to force the indigenous students to learn only the European perspective. 

Charitie Ropati wants not only the youth but tribal leaders, global officials, and the world to know that “it’s time to learn our history,” the indigenous story (Ropati, 7th Annual 2019 Champions for Change). It is time for all history to be included. History is not one perspective, it is filled with tragedies and glories from all people with varying skin colors and cultures. It is imperative that the youth learn the FULL history to become well-rounded individuals in a world that seeks to silence their voices and stories.

Making a Difference: One Teen Fighting for Youth Involvement

by Ticia King

Should youth be involved in making big decisions about the world? Many adults are quick to say no. They assume that youth are immature, uninformed, or just incapable of contributing to such important decisions, but Kateri Lynn argues otherwise. She believes that adults should listen to the ideas of the younger generation, that the youth want to be involved, and that young people can present valuable ideas about the issues affecting their futures.

Lynn is an Indigenous youth from Dettah, Canada. She is nineteen years old and a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. She has previously served as a member of her community’s Land and Environment Department and is currently pursuing her education online at Athabasca University. She was also recently elected to her local council and received the most votes out of anyone running, despite the fact that she was the youngest candidate on the ballot. Her main goal during her four years on council is to “bridge the gap between youth, young adults, and elders” (Lynn). She aims to help the youth become more involved and feel represented, but she also understands that “listening to what young people have to say doesn’t mean overstepping the advice and guidance of elders” (Burke). Both groups have valuable ideas and deserve respect from each other.

photo of Kateri Lynn (posted on her Facebook)

Lynn has been passionate about getting young people involved in her community since long before she ever considered a council position.  She began to feel concern about the lack of youth involvement during her time in the Land and Environment Department. As a part of this department, she would attend community meetings and find that she was the only young person in the room (Burke). She hopes to change this by starting “monthly meetings that provide a safe place for youth and elders to talk to each other” (Scott). In addition to creating this comfortable environment for sharing ideas, Lynn also hopes to make the youth feel safe in their daily lives.

Ten months prior to her run for council, Lynn helped to create a youth group that supports the local kids by giving them somewhere safe to turn to during hard times. This group has been very successful, and a new youth center is now under construction for them (Morritt-Jacobs).

Her previous involvement demonstrated Lynn’s commitment to improving her community and already made a strong case for her to be elected to council. She helped this case at the councilor’s forum prior to election day, where she delivered a powerful speech encapsulating her goals, explaining her position, and showing why she believes she should be a member of the council.

For those of you who couldn’t make it out to the councillors forum, here is a video of my opening speech.Don’t forget advance voting starts Monday, August 19-22 and regular voting will be on the 26.Vote Kateri Lynn for Dettah Council!

Posted by Kateri Rose Lynn on Saturday, August 17, 2019

After beginning the speech in her native language, Lynn gets her speech off to a strong start by simply stating,

“I want to be the voice of the youth”.

Having grown up in the community, Lynn understands the hardships that many local youth face, and expresses that she wants to be their representative and help them through tough times. She continues on to discuss how her being elected to the council would benefit the community by bringing a new perspective: the point of view of a youth. As Lynn puts it,

“sometimes you need to let the young ones teach you”.

She believes that she, and many other young people, have a lot to bring to the table. They could present many new ideas and perspectives if they were given the opportunity.

During her speech, Lynn also references her previous experience in starting a youth group, mentions the ways in which her degree could help her better assist the community, and closes with her belief that her being elected to council “would help [her] develop [their] community to the standard that [they] deserve” (Lynn). These points all demonstrate her unwavering devotion to her community and its improvement. All in all, her speech reflected her desire to better her community and added to the already strong case for her election.

The overall purpose of this speech was to convince her community to have faith in both the local youth and in her ability to serve as their representative. Though her position that youth and elders should have a mutual respect for each other’s opinions could have come across controversial to the older community, Lynn presented this belief in a very respectful way, which added to the strength of her speech. Establishing her own credibility also made her message more compelling. By discussing her previous success in starting a youth group, Lynn shows her dedication to her community and her abilities as a leader. Though she found herself in a somewhat precarious position as a nineteen-year-old giving her ideas to an older audience, Lynn held her own and gave a speech that was effective enough to get her elected.

As she begins her time as an elected representative, Kateri Lynn can serve as an example for all youth that your age does not define your ability to make a difference, and she can remind adults that the voices of young people should not be silenced. Instead, youth should be allowed and encouraged to present their ideas and express their concerns, and those thoughts should be genuinely considered by adults because the decisions being made now will likely have a large impact on the future of the youth.


Works Cited:

Burke, Brendan. “’Times Are Changing:’ Meet the 19-Year-Old Running for Dettah Council .” Northern News Services, 15 Aug. 2019, nnsl.com/yellowknifer/times-are-changing-meet-the-19-year-old-running-for-dettah-council/. Accessed 9 September 2019.

Lynn, Kateri. “Facebook.” Facebook Watch, 17 Aug. 2019,
Accessed 13 September 2019.

Morritt-Jacobs, Charlotte. “’Not Your Father’s Council’: Female Majority Elected in Dene Community.” APTN News, 13 Sept. 2019, https://aptnnews.ca/2019/09/13/not-your-fathers-council-female-majority-elected-in-dene-community/?fbclid=IwAR2TH8MTIupgl6oLIBcDgqpUxMbc5RcIP7Hlv1ds6U6A0NkKNhAe_a7_e7o. Accessed 13 September 2019.

Scott, Mackenzie. “19-Year-Old Kateri Lynn Elected to Detah Council, Takes Most Votes | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 31 Aug. 2019, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/kateri-lynn-new-detah-councillor-1.5264378. Accessed 9 September 2019.

Paul Wilson: Honoring the Past to Reclaim the Future

-Hannah Finke

The word “traditional” has taken on a negative connotation over the years. Many people hear the word and think of conservatism, convention, and “the way things have always been done.” Others associate it with an averseness towards change. Some even think of conformity to values that are not applicable to society anymore. 

To Paul Wilson, these definitions could not be more wrong. Wilson is a twenty-two-year-old activist who belongs to the Klamath and Modoc tribes. In the face of a volatile political climate that threatens the sanctity and security of the North American tribes, reclaiming his ancestors’ traditions and practices has been his primary focus. To Wilson, the word “traditional” is associated with the practices of his people from which he derives healing and purpose. 

Part of the reclamation work Wilson does is ensuring that his peoples’ stories and traditions are properly documented; he is a “visual storyteller” (I20SP). Through the avenues of photography and film, he has made it his goal to record the narratives of contemporary Indigenous people to ensure that their stories are not twisted by the vicious grip of the media. 

Paul Wilson is a member of the Klamath and Modoc tribes (I20SP).

With Instagram as his canvas and a camera as his paintbrush, Wilson is a true master of the lens. Scroll through the pages of images to find majestic waterfalls, staggering landscapes, and towering mountains. See a herd of elk galloping across a wintery desert plain. Peer into the soulful eyes of a person captured in time and read their story. 

Some of Wilson’s most impactful images are the candid moments he captures of his community, such as the one below. Pictured is Wilson’s father teaching his granddaughter the language of their people, Maqlaqsyalanks. Two generations apart, the past and the future, the old and the young; the differences are vast, yet they are united through one of the most powerful traditions: language. In the caption, Wilson describes how only a few fluent speakers of Maqlaqsyalanks remain. His niece, at nine years old, represents the resiliency and determination of the youth to bring back the language. His father, at sixty-two, represents the wisdom and experience that will guide them towards this goal. Though the past has been painful and the road ahead is long, this image symbolizes the resolve of many Indigenous communities to honor their roots and revive their culture.

Wilson’s father and niece exchanging phrases in Maqlaqsyalanks (Wilson). 

Just as language recovery is a focus of Wilson’s, so too is reclaiming the other traditions of his people. Inspired by the practices that have been passed down orally through the generations, he centers his philosophies around his people’s traditional ways of life. This includes reshaping his diet to revolve around “first foods” and creating recreational spaces in ancestral lands and waters. Furthermore, Wilson makes an effort to structure his family life in a way that is “precontact” (I20SP); in other words, he forms relationships separate from the influence of the European settlers that reshaped Indigenous communities centuries ago. These philosophies are at the heart of Wilson’s platform. In fact, he is developing programs to enact these tenets on a wider scale to ensure that the traditions of the past are not forgotten. Nevertheless, he concedes that, 

traditions also evolve throughout time, so interpreting how my ancestors would live in today’s spaces has also been influential in how I live” (I20SP). 


Wilson acknowledges that times change and so too must certain practices. However, he strives to balance the ways of the past with the ways of the present. By deriving philosophies and principles from his ancestors, he can replicate their way of life in a manner that is suited to modern times. 

Wilson’s photographs inspire reverence of the earth (Wilson).  

Not only is Wilson an artist, he is also an activist. He currently allocates his time to the administration of two different non-profits, Ancestral Guard and Rios to Rivers. Both of these organizations are dedicated to the preservation and veneration of nature, specifically as it pertains to Indigenous communities. Ancestral Guard’s main focus is connecting people with nature. They believe that “if people get to taste the salmon, they understand the importance of protecting the resource so that they can sustain their families for generations to come” (Nature). Their programs, aimed towards youth, include canoe trips on ancestral rivers, harvesting and processing traditional foods, and other practices that inspire Indigenous youth to become ecological advocates. Rios to Rivers also has a preservationist mission: to protect ancestral rivers. In 2021, four major dams on the Klamath River will be removed. Rios to Rivers fights to defend the rights of rivers like the Klamath and initiate dam removal. Wilson describes how,

 “a lot of the work we do on the river has been action-based, as there is great urgency in the currently delicate political space, and the danger that many of our traditional practices exist in” (I20SP). 


Wilson recognizes that the current political atmosphere jeopardizes the very ground that he has grown up on. However, the successful dam removal will restore balance to the river and therefore benefit the surrounding Indigenous communities whose livelihoods depend on the prosperity of the water. Rios to Rivers will continue to fight to free more rivers from captivity and let them run wild. 

As Indigenous peoples continue to work to resurrect their languages, lands, waters, and ancestral roots, Wilson will be there to record it all. With a camera in his hand and a fire in his heart, he plans to capture every moment of reclamation and revival. By documenting the past, Wilson can protect the future of his people, thus reclaiming their stories and immortalizing their traditions. 



I20SP. “+ SPOTLIGHT: Paul Wilson.” I20SP, I20SP, 28 Feb. 2019, i20sp.com/i20sp-spotlight/2019/2/28/-spotlight-paul-wilson. Accessed 15 Sept. 2019

Nature Rights Council. “Nature Rights Council.” Nature Rights Council, naturerightscouncil.org/. Accessed 17 Sept. 2019

“Rios to Rivers.” Rios to Rivers, www.riostorivers.org/. Accessed 17 Sept. 2019

Wilson, Paul. “Paul Wilson (@Paulrww) • Instagram Photos and Videos.” Instagram, 20 Mar. 2019, www.instagram.com/paulrww/. Accessed 19 Sept. 2019