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 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.
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
“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.
“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/.