Kyle Mays on Solidarity – Los Angeles

20374467_10111039304407294_2036193825313279489_nI saw a pre-screening of Detroit last night. Spoiler alert: it was made for Chimooks. You should go see it though. Beyond that, I was on a panel with Cheryl Harris and Marcus Hunter–some new UCLA colleagues. Obviously most of us know Cheryl’s “Whiteness as Property” essay in the Harvard Law Review, but she’s also hella dope. And when I suggested that one way change needs to happen is we give land back to Indigenous people, a Black woman in the audience shouted “it’s not gonna happen; not ever.” Cheryl, calm and cool, stated, “people said the same thing about slavery. That it would never end.” To me, these are small but important examples of solidarity that need to happen.

Kyle Mays is African American & Saginaw Anishinaabe currently living in Los Angeles. Twitter handle: @mays_kyle

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My Ancestors – BAAITS Two-Spirit Powwow

2spirit

Photography by Cristabell Fierros/ Malinalli Media ©2017

On February 4 2017, when I arrived to the Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirit Powwow, I smelled different flavors of incense around the tribes’ dancers. The healing herb medicines and aromas help us to heal any sickness, and my spirit was healed that day.

In looking around the hall room in San Francisco, I saw people from different tribes wearing beautiful dresses with various hair pin styles and special makeup upon their faces. It made me feel like a special person because they were singing and dancing their traditional and Native music for me and the rest of people who were present. I felt the spirit and happiness in their dancing because they were singing in their own language and I connected with the rituals and speeches in a powerful way.

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Photography by Cristabell Fierros/ Malinalli Media ©2017

This powwow was a great opportunity to meet people from different tribes. It was incredible to learn about all the tribes’ gathering different backgrounds from California, Nevada, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and so on. I observed all the beauty of their traditions, culture, and dance. It was a pleasure to see families united in educating their legacy to their children and our communities.

In addition, I had the honor to meet a First Nations woman from Alberta, Canada, her fifteen-year old daughter, and her eleven-year old son who were participating in the jingle dress dance. They currently live in Sacramento and their tribe’s name is Blackfoot and language is Siksika. It was fascinating for me to listen to the sound of their language. I admire the fact that they want to pass on their culture and traditions to the next generation.

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Photography by Cristabell Fierros/ Malinalli Media ©2017

The music at the powwow boosted my emotional well-being, made me feel welcomed by the tribes and I appreciated how humble and friendly the people were in their sharing. I enjoyed listening to the music and learning about instruments Native people have played for centuries, such as the Iñupiaq drum and flute. Hearing the instruments’ sounds, poly-rhythms, repetition, emotions, and messages from Indigenous languages, music and through their dance transcended to the people. The music created emotional and spiritual healing that Western medicine cannot provide, such as energetic therapy and was a mood lifter all drawn from nature, which made me feel more connected with my ancestors and want to learn more about my own ancestors’ story.

Lucia Mena, from El Salvador, is a Latinx Media student majoring in Social Work. She enjoys studying topics on indigeneity and ancestry.

Cristabell Fierros resides in San  Francisco. To see more of her photography visit: sfsuphotojour.wordpress.com

Amah Katura Women Honoring Sii (Water)

Kanyon Sayers-Roods and Cristino Velasquez

Featured artist Kanyon Sayers-Roods and storyteller Cristino Velasquez

Sometimes we forget to take time to honor the very basics of human existence. This includes mother earth, our ancestors, women (givers of life), and water. We are an average of 60% water and rely on it for nutrition, yet we often overuse and neglect to care for our resources. Organized by local curator Mica Valdez (Mexica), the art exhibit opening for “AMAH KATURA: Women Honoring Sii (Water)” sought to reflect on these aspects of life and philosophy. The women artists and Charlene Sul (Ohlone) collectively decided on the name. The event and exhibit provided an opportunity for artists, writers, musicians, and dancers to come together as a community to honor our water and women.

The exhibit featured contemporary works of art by local Ohlone women who creatively brought to light themes of water, the protection of mother earth, and women. Among these visual artists were Kanyon Sayers-Roods, Catherine Herrera and Renee Castro. Ohlone women in particular were honored and given precedence since the location of the event, and much of the Bay Area, is Ohlone territory. Located at the pleasant Akat Café Kalli in Oakland, California the opening event on January 11, 2014 boasted an impressive cultural lineup

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I arrived in time to take part in opening the event in a good way with song, danza, and the honoring of our ancestors. Members from the dance groups In Xochitl In Cuicatl and Nanahuatzin honored the four directions and welcomed desperately needed rain to the Bay Area. Many people wandered out from the surrounding businesses to take part in the event. Mica opened by reminding us of our origins from water and participating in a water blessing song with members from Bay Area American Indian Two Spirit (BAAITS) drum group. The event was graced by the playfulness of a special guest, Akat, and his parents, Jose Rodriguez and Rocio Cervantes who own Akat Café Kalli.

The poets and storytellers at the event were Luna Maia (Yaqui), Cristino Velasquez (Chicano/Tlingit Raven Clan), and Che Shul (Mexica Xochimilca, Dog Clan), among others. Desirae Harp (Wappo/Dine’), an up and coming vocalist, also graced the community with her groundbreaking music and poetry. Nizhoni Ellenwood (NiiMi’iPuu Nez Perce/Apache) a talented vocalist who performed, has dedicated her life to both traditional and contemporary Native music. A common theme among the performers highlighted the importance of perseverance in the face of adversity in order to move forward as Native people and as a human race.

Kanyon Sayers-Roods (Mutsun Ohlone, Chumash), known to many as Coyote Woman, spoke about her work with Mutsun Ohlone language revival and the need for youth participation. She considers this work crucial for the future of Indian Canyon and the next 7 generations. “Language is part of our cultural identity. Awakening what has been dormant and assumed dead is key to revitalizing our culture and indigenous pride”, says Kanyon. She and her mother, Ann Marie Sayers, are caretakers for Indian Canyon which is the only California Indian Country (Individual Indian Allotment) between Santa Barbara and Point Reyes. She also shared her grandmother’s song and had a booth for artwork in addition to the show.

Wahleah Johns/Black Mesa Water Coalition

Wahleah Johns/Black Mesa Water Coalition

Wahleah Johns (Navajo) with the Black Mesa Water Coalition located in Flagstaff, Arizona also spoke of an important water rights issue involving an aquifer in Black Mesa used to transport coal to Nevada. The coal is used to power neighboring communities in Arizona, Nevada, and California. However the damage done to the Black Mesa’s water, the environment, and community health are staggering. With 3.3 million gallons a day used to transfer coal for 35 years, it is no wonder that the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) were able to publish an assessment in 2000 attributing the decline of the aquifer to the Peabody Western Coal Company and their ground water pumping. Since this ground water resource is the main source of drinking water for the surrounding Hopi and Navajo people, the importance of renewable energy source development like wind and solar power are vital.

Model systems like the Black Water Water Coalition remind us to draw our attention to local water rights issue such as fracking and the pollution of our rivers. Fracking, which involves the disruption of deep shale and rock formations for oil and gas production, has been a concern of environmentalists for several years. This is also becoming an issue on reservations where communities are divided on the subject. In addition, efforts to clean up polluted California water sources continue.  Depleted sources of water, like the Colorado river in Southern California, are also of concern.

Many people were involved in the organization of the event. Jose and Rocio, the owners of Akat Café Kalli, helped install the artwork. Renee Castro installed her own work and Marla Sands volunteered to help install art. Alex Garcia organized with the danzantes and Acacia Woods Chan photographed the event. It was a great feeling to be part of something so community oriented and all those involved enjoyed themselves.

When asked about her feelings of the event Aurora Sarabia said, “I like seeing all the nations coming together. I heard of the Eagle and the Condor [prophecy] as a child and always dreamed this would happen.”

Dianna Baldwin (Osage/Kaw/Cherokee of Oklahoma) received her B.S. in Zoology (minor in American Indian Studies) and M.S. in Cell and Molecular Biology from San Francisco State University. She enjoys catching up with friends at Native events in the Bay Area.

Dianna Baldwin/ Photography by Moon Flower

Dianna Baldwin/ Photography by Moon Flower

The Hypocrisy of SF Giants’ Native American Heritage Night

Native peoples filed a tort claim against the city of San Francisco after forcibly being ejected from a SF Giants Game on the SF Giants’ Native American Heritage Night–experiencing police brutality, sexual harassment, and wrongful detention. The night of the incident on June 23, 2014 at AT&T Park, began with the issue of a SF Giants fan wearing a culturally offensive Native American headdress. The claim is a first step in suing the city and the San Francisco Police Department.

Other demands are for the SF Giants to ban fans from wearing headdresses and other cultural appropriations of Native American spirituality and culture at games, provide cultural sensitivity training to their security staff, not display racist team names and imagery, and issue a public call to all Bay Area professional and college sports teams and all Major League Baseball teams to adopt similar policies.

Watch these testimonials from April Negrette and Kimball Bighorse:

“Coming Ho[ME]” by Acacia Woods Chan

 Acacia Woods Chan, Michael Preston, and Chief Caleen Sisk. Photo by Moon Flower/ Malinalli Media ©2013

Acacia Woods Chan, Michael Preston, and Chief Caleen Sisk. Photo by Mica Valdez/ Malinalli Media ©2013

My dreams are coming true. Right before my very eyes, and lets me know that I can feel comfortable being a tool of change. Money, power, guns trump the weak-hearted, whereas LIGHT, acceptance, LOVE serve all of humanity.

My experience in the Native Women’s Media Internship program has been one that extends much further than simply an “internship.” While I am more than appreciative for the media abilities I have been introduced to, I feel as if this time in my life signifies a convergence of many parts of me, and for the part Mallinalli Media’s role in that, I am very grateful.

Being an urban Native, I grew up not knowing about myself holistically. I am mixed ethnicity Chinese, African, Cherokee and Irish-American, but I did not begin to acknowledge my Native heritage until recently. I learned that, though I am mixed ethnicity Native, I don’t have to feel insecure or like I don’t belong in community with other Natives. That belief, which reigned throughout my formative years, is part of a capitalist, white supremacist project to create division and dissent amongst communities.

Mica Valdez, Malinalli Media’s Founder and Director, has shown me how to create a multifaceted reality for myself, where my personal identities, educational pursuits and career goals can all fit into one. Through this internship and the relationships I have built throughout, I have learned a confidence in my personal identities, and an acceptance and pride in being a woman of mixed heritage. I was able to connect with the people involved at Malinalli Media and realize how many of our struggles are one in the same. 

I have also become more aware of an active presence of Native peoples engaged in various avenues of collective resistance. This internship resembles that reality in the fact that Native women convene regularly to share our experiences and support each other. I am very fortunate to have been able to participate in this program, and would highly recommend it to any Native woman in need of community, technical skills in media or wanting to be more involved in the Native community.

I have been able to attend events related to Indigenous issues and apply those experiences to the media projects. A particularly noteworthy experience was the film screening of “Standing on Sacred Ground,” a documentary by Christopher McLeod that explores the land displacement of many Indigenous tribes globally for the purpose of resource extraction. One part of the film focuses on the Winnemem Wintu Tribe of Shasta County, where some of my family lives. The film connects the seemingly isolated experiences of 4 Indigenous tribes worldwide, exemplifying the similar connections we all face.

All parts of the things happening in my life at this point including this internship, fall directly in line with what I believe is my pathway. They create the foundation, the stepping stones for where I am going. I will continue to say YES! I will continue to act upon the will of my heart, the translation of the unrequited requests of hundreds, even thousands of years of my ancestors and their pains and grievances, and conversely their wisdom and voice. I feel a connection to the Earth unparalleled. I sense the wailing of nature in a way that compels me to act, on a broad scale and on a daily basis. I want to, I am becoming more connected to Arútam, the spirit of harmony amongst all living beings.

Acacia Woods-Chan is a student-worker, emerging artist and community organizer. 

“I wanted to Live” by Sylvia McAdam Saysewahum

Sylvia McAdam Saysewahum

Sylvia McAdam Saysewahum

When I was in law school, I would work full time and hardly attended classes. For those of you in law school, you know how ridiculous that is. I think I was more in love with the notion of “lawyer” than anything else. It was a real struggle working and single parenting at the same time. I left my children’s alcoholic father because he was an extremely violent and adulterous man – my own cousins had children with him. He’s not an anomaly; it’s unfortunately common place the various types of abuses on the reserved lands that I’m registered in.

What I had to do to leave that relationship is another story, needless to say I was like thousands of other women who perhaps left during the night with nothing except a garbage bag of clothes. I did not realize at that time, while running down the old gravel road to my ride that my decision to live would forever change my life. Violence against women has to be addressed and spoken about in our communities as well as the sexual abuse of children. Silence is a terrible thing, we cannot be silent anymore.

I was one of the “lucky” women who did not believe my ex-husband when he would brutalize and beat on me and called me terrible names. Something deep in my soul said “no,” I’m not what you are calling me. I know the beatings of many women goes on. My dad would always say “as long as men have no respect for women, they will have no respect for the land.”

Today, I consider myself fortunate, I escaped with my life but it does not prevent my community from electing men like my ex-husband into positions of leadership. In fact, my ex is a band councillor. I’ve decided I don’t want to be silent, if it means sharing my story and posting it here for other women to know you are not alone then I will do it. I want people to know, we are not all immune to violence if we do not address it now – our generations will continue to feel it and experience it.

Ekosi.

Sylvia McAdam (Saysewahum) is a mother and grandmother from the Whitefish Lake Reserved lands. She has degrees in Human Justice and Law from the University of Saskatchewan and is co-founder to a global grassroots movement called “Idle No More.” She enjoys time on her people’s lands and waters.

1st Annual Calling All Nations “A Celebration of Water and Belonging”

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Grandmother Taowhywee

Agnes Baker Pilgrim (Takelma from Oregon)

Grandmother Mona Polacca (Hopi/Havasupai /Tewa from Arizona)

International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers

Nothern River Bear Drummers

Turtle Women Rising

Chief Golden Light Eagle

Cynthia Daniels Pomo Opening Prayer

Members of Watersongline Council

Sonoma County Pomo Dancers

Seattle Haida Laas an Alaskan Haida Dance Troupe

Albert Tenaya Ahwahneechee

Paiute Band of California Miwok

Hip Hop Medicine Nation

Sonoma State University in Pomo Territory, CA.

 

 

“Basketball, Motivation, and the Making of Relatives” by Mica Valdez

Marty Comic NAHC-1

On Saturday, March 23 the basketball community of about 400 people came together at the Dakota Prairie Playhouse in Madison, South Dakota to recognize Martin Waukazoo and some of the state’s greatest contributors to the sport. As one of the newest members of the crop, Martin was one of 16 athletes honored at the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame.  It is a ceremony that he will surely remember for many years to come.

Martin was a Rapid City High School standout and First Team All-State selection in 1967 when the Cobblers finished as the state runner-up to Milbank. He was selected All-State Most Valuable Player and during that time also happened to be one of the first American Indians to be named to the All American Team, a top selection of a hundred players from throughout the country. The 15 others to join the hall this year were Mitchell’s Mike Miller, Aberdeen’s Scott Bosanko, Brookings’ Amy Mickelson Brecht, Doland’s Chris Divich, Winner’s Carol (Freeman) Brecht, Webster’s Clyde Hagen, Hayti’s Garney Henley, Onida’s Kent Hyde, Belle Fourche’s Gerald Lund, Yankton’s Chad Nelson, Castlewood’s Renee Reusink, Mobridge’s Jim Schlekeway, and Mitchell’s Wayne Stone and Warner’s Chuck Welke, Jr.

When I think of Martin the first word that comes to mind is “respect.” He is Lakota, raised in Rapid City, South Dakota and now 63, remembers a difficult time when there was more intense racism and segregation than there is today. Reflecting back on his childhood he says,

“Our family lived in a trailer behind the Mother Butler Center and I was only fifteen, twenty feet from the gymnasium. So every morning I would be in the gymnasium and the priest there Father Collins would give me a basketball and have me shoot baskets when I was a little guy. Every morning he would, I would play basketball. Years later I would ask my parents why did we live in a trailer and why did we live behind the Mother Butler Center (when there were trailer courts here and trailer courts there that had all the hook ups and everything that you needed)? My parents told me that Indians weren’t allowed in the trailer courts within the city and we had no place to park our trailer and the only place we could park it was behind the Mother Butler Center…growing up and walking around the streets of Rapid City I can still recall…6, 7, 8 years old as a young boy seeing signs in the doorway ‘No Indians or Dogs Allowed.’ “

Later reflecting on his high school experience the climate toward Native Americans was not much better. Sharing a story playing a game for a large-scale audience he says,

“At the state tournament in ‘67 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota I think the arena held eight or ten thousand people and it was packed for the state tournament and I had an outstanding game. I did very well at the first game at the tournament and there…the crowd rather than saying I did a good job, they booed me and there were all kinds of negative words that were said. I was seventeen years old. They would call you ‘prairie nigger,’ ‘dog eater’ and this again was in the sixties and I think that kind of fueled me. Thinking back on it, I saw it as something although negative, something that motivated me.”

This struggle is but one thread of the story. This story is about celebrating the athleticism and talent of an amazing basketball player from the state of South Dakota. The fact that Martin in the face of adversity overcame tremendous obstacles and persevered in reaching his goals academically and in particular through his love of basketball, is what is most inspiring. His former coach, David Strain of the Cobblers describes Martin as his greatest player in his 28 years of coaching. Strain says, “He brought to his high school and college basketball careers not just his amazing athletic achievement, but also the values of his parents and the Lakota Sioux culture. The values of sharing, generosity and courage.”

Athlete and graduate of Black Hills State University, Martin now enjoys life with his wife in San Leandro, California with his three children and grandchildren nearby. He is a cultural advisor and elder in the community health care movement, currently leading the Native American Health Center as the Chief Executive Officer. When asked what message he would give to the Native youth, Martin said,

“The youth are the future. We expect and will do our part to make sure that they are proud of who they are and I think that is so terribly important that they know who they are, where they come from and being proud of who they are. Growing up in the late fifties and early sixties as a young man, I remember walking down the street and looking at my hand and wanting to scratch off the color. I didn’t want to be Indian and that’s damaging. It takes years of recovery.

Being proud of who they are and where they come from and learning from the older, positive role models around you and be proud of who you are and taking responsibility for your future and dreaming about the dreams, and never giving up, never giving up, never looking back, looking forward and face those difficulties head on like a warrior. A warrior is not being ‘macho’ and strong, a warrior is taking responsibility and the reflection of your spirituality is how you treat other people. Every day you should be getting up and thinking about making a relative. Finding someone who you can make a relative of. The worst thing that can be said of you, as an American Indian, is that you act as if you have no relatives.

When you have relatives, you know you’re going to get the support, you know you’re going to get the encouragement and you’re going to have them wrap their arms around you in difficult times. Making of relatives, that’s what (Richard) Movescamp teaches us. Then, when you become an ‘uncle’ to someone or you become a ‘grandpa’ to someone, or you become a ‘brother’ to someone, then you’re obligated to help that person. There’s a relation and we all are related…I’m very honored and blessed when a young man greets me with uncle or grandpa. ”