indige•zine 'issue #3 rebirth:renewal'

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. ...,.._·....._,.a m GJ � m . · issue #3

february 2018

letter from the editor

indige•zine issue #3 rebirth:renewal All living things on this earth abide a cardinal construct: they germinate, bloom, and die. But sometimes, this simple cycle feels baffling. Why must stretches of happiness, security, and prosperity end? How is it possible to return from the deep, dark, twisted depth of depression’s worst days? What will it take for me to change? With the boom of technology, a more democratic process of sharing information and connecting with those beyond our own communities has impacted Indian Country immensely. Through social media, blogging, music, and other modes of communication, we are rebuilding ourselves out of scattered, marginalized pieces. It feels like a new chapter in decolonization that stretches beyond college classrooms and obscure legislation. Indigenous peoples are revitalizing traditional language, food, fashion, and notions of gender/ sexuality. We are replacing poisonous modes of thinking and behaving with new, sustainable ones. We are rearranging the narrative of Native historical erasure and systematic oppression so that our voices are front and center. For this issue, I had the privilege of working with creatives that I look to for insight, encouragement, and straight up inspiration. They remind me that change truly does begins within us as individuals and that tomorrow is always a new day. Shonabish (thank you), Braudie Blais-Billie






Spotlight Series: Social Shift

Leonina Arismendi Zarkovic Rachel Duff

G.M. Davis Xiuhtezcatl Martinez Sheyenne Sky




Amor Entre Mujeres

Rebel Betty Rebel Betty

17-18 I Have My Grandmother’s Shannen Roberts 19-22

What We’re Playing: PJ Vegas


Learning From the Best


Standing Rock Mural


The Frontier Boot





DeLesslin George-Warren Unknown artist Michelle Brown Marina Perez



Maham Khalid

On Revitalization, Technology, and Moving Forward 29-36

DeLesslin George-Warren








Last year My 23rd year of life I shed like the python that curled into a corner of my heart I shed a relationship One that was long and consumed my formative years Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty, and so on I crawled out and found the sun I found it in lavender fields in snowcapped mountains in a foreign country in a new love Movement is my shield and stillness my fear So I move I give I work hard A trait passed on through generations of people with sweat on their brow As the year comes to a close, stillness forces her way in with darkness a close shadow My bones are broken and I have no way out I must stop, and it becomes unbearable I go back home, to the comfort of my Mamá and her healing hands She slows me down and reminds me of our raíces With the caldo she makes that tastes the way my Abuelita’s house smells The hibiscus plant that grows in front of her door Her thick, curly hair that smells like gardenias Woman of nature, healing her daughter in the best ways she knows how


She transports me to all of our mothers before us Our TaĂ­na mothers Island women, healing their own daughters And passing down that particular receta to eventually be made in a caldero The caldero that was passed down through generations in the cerros of Caguas The caldero that was carried to New York and used to make hot sopa during bitter winters The caldero that somehow made it to me, with a broken foot so I could drink the healing broth So as the sun rises on the new year, I greet the stillness with warmth I tell her that I am sorry for my fear We embrace And I learn, as always from my MamĂĄ, and all the MamĂĄs before us, mujeres de las islas How to stretch into new skin How not to fear, because mis ancestras certainly did not Not to fear the shadows of my own thoughts, or the power of the corrupt Instead to grow, to grow with the resistance that flows en mi sangre


Spotlight Series: Social Shift Advocacy takes many forms: educator, activist, artist. As Indian Country grows and becomes more connected, innovative resistances—both big and small—are sprouting through the concrete. indige•zine did a quick round with three Natives doing their part to change the way society sees, talks about, and treats indigenous peoples.


Age: 29 What she does: Davis founded NDNInspired, a reclamation of all things culturally appropriated, or “Indianinspired.” The online store and Instagram are filled with positive, diverse, and inspirational portrayals of everyday indigenous life. It’s a space of radical self-love for Native users everywhere. 9

Was there a time in your life where you had to start over? Yes! I’m actually going through it right now. I was recently accepted into our tribal colleges’ B.A. program for Business Administration. My entire educational background surrounded science and health. So, as a returning student now majoring in business, I’m finding that I have to start over. I’m entering a field and taking classes I know very little about. Yes, I did start two businesses, but there’s still so much I need to learn! I’m nervous, but I’m also very excited. It’s a new beginning; it’s a breath of fresh air that I’ve been wanting to take for a while now.

What are some important ways in which you take care of your creativity? Prayer and self-care. Prayer is essential to me. When I pray, I feel my mental and physical strength is reinforced—my mind is clearer, guidance is given, and needs are met. I also know that when I pray, I am changed for the better. A praying me means a clearminded, humbled, healthy, creative me. What’s your advice to indigenous businesswomen trying to get their ideas off the ground? The “idea phase” could be an emotional rollercoaster, sister. Let’s be real—new ideas mean new challenges. But you got this! No excuses; you have to start somewhere. Continue to work hard, but also remember to work smart. Don’t give up on your idea, but do wait for the right time. Save, save, save your money and put it toward the come up of your business. Have faith in yourself. Be brave. Be audacious. As an indigenous woman, your success will be inspiration for many other indigenous women out there. Let that motivate you.


XIUHTEZCATL MARTINEZ Age: 17 What he does: Martinez has been a climate activist since he was 6 years old. He’s spoken at the U.N. multiple times and has collaborated with over 50 environmental organizations in his hometown of Boulder, Colorado. Martinez is one of the 21 plaintiffs suing the federal government and Donald Trump’s administration for failing to protect younger generations from climate change. When he’s not traveling the world and organizing communities as the Youth Director of environmental conversation organization Earth Guardians, he makes music. Besides creating music, how else do you practice self care? [My work] is pretty heavy. I’m on the go a lot. I like to hang out and get in trouble and spend time with my homies. I love to be outside—in the ocean surfing, in the mountains skiing and snowboarding, finding water to jump in, playing sports like soccer and ultimate frisbee. I love to be active and be with people that I love, to be surrounded with good people and have good conversations that push the limits of what I think is possible. 11

As an activist and musician, what does renewal mean to you? Renewal is the opportunity to take mistakes and things from the past that haven’t worked but that we can learn from and integrate that into the foundation of who we want to be and the things that we want to create. Renewal in the sense of my activism is taking the broken parts of this world that we’re living in and using that as a foundation to build our future. As a person and as an artist, it’s taking everything that I was, the person that I am, and the mistakes that I’ve made and allowing that to be my learning platform where I can become a better person.

Any advice for people starting a new chapter in their life? Life’s too short to not do what makes you happy. Whatever it is you’re putting your time and energy into, make sure it makes you happy, make sure it’s sustainable, make sure to take care of yourself. Whatever it is that you’re doing and are passionate about, you can use that to make waves in the world and tell an important story to help people. We forget how powerful we are as people and how much influence we actually have and how much potential we have to make change and create the world we dream of. Manifest, work hard for it, and fight for what you believe in— never let that go. 12

SHEYENNE SKY Age: 21 What she does: With her blog and YouTube platform, Sky aims to change the lack of Native representation in art, fashion, and general Western culture. She challenges stereotypes and educates her audience by creating content about her passions. You can catch her interviewing Native designers, vlogging environmental rallies, or sharing the recipe to her mom’s fluffy Navajo frybread. What does rebirth mean to you? I think it takes a lot of courage to start over. It’s a process that feels really scary at first, but the more that you do it, the more you benefit from it. I think taking a look back and realizing what you didn’t like or what you want to change and then actually going through with it, that’s a rebirth. It’s a really beneficial thing. Was there ever a time in your life where you had to reinvent yourself? I actually cut all my hair off in high school. I was going through a time where I was discovering my indigenous identity and I understood how important my hair was. I realized that I had been sort of detached from that—I had been dying it and cutting it and dying 13

it and cutting it. I wanted to have a fresh start. So I cut it all off. It’s really hard to feel feminine when you have no hair. And I’m not a tomboyish person—I really enjoy femininity and expressing that. So, having no hair, I had to think differently about what it means to be feminine. That was a really transformative experience. I’m just now coming out of it. I feel a lot more confident coming out of it because I had to get used to seeing just my face. My face was really round—I lost a lot of weight. I was like, okay, I can see myself for what I am. I need to eat healthier and exercise.

Sky interviewing Crow/Northern Cheyenne fashion designer Bethany Yellowtail at the National Museum of the American Indian’s Native Fashion Now exhibition opening in New York City

Any advice for young indigenous YouTubers? The only way you can fail is to stop making videos. Keep going and rolling with the punches. If you get hate, just stay authentic to whatever it is that you want to talk about; you’ll be fine. 14

RAĂ?Z Rebel Betty Hand-cut collage


AMOR ENTRE MUJERES Rebel Betty Hand-cut collage, paint on canvas



Shannen Roberts


What We’re Playing: PJ Vegas For our third issue, indige•zine has asked Shoshone/ Yaqui R&B singer-songwriter PJ Vegas to curate a playlist of his favorites. From Apsáalooke rapper Supaman to Frank Sinatra, Vegas put together ten tracks that remind him of rebirth, renewal, revival.

003: 01 PJ Vegas ft. Drezus—“Been Hiding” 02 Supaman—“Why” 03 Taboo—“The Fight” 04 Spencer & Doc Battiest—“The Storm” 05 Redbone—“Come and Get Your Love” 06 PJ Vegas ft. Cody Blackbird—“Better Dayz” 07 Taboo ft. Shailene Woodley, Mag 7—“Stand Up/Stand N Rock #NoDAPL” 08 Aloe Blacc—“The Man” 09 Coldplay—“The Scientist” 10 Frank Sinatra—“My Way” 19

Music runs strong in PJ Vegas’ DNA. “Since the beginning of our blood line, it’s all been musicians or entertainers,” he tells indige•zine. His father, Pat Vegas, founded the indigenous rock group Redbone in the 1970s—they were the first Native American group in history to score a No. 1 single in the U.S. and internationally. “I had a lot of opportunities to witness greatness growing up,” he says about his father’s success. “Just little things like studio sessions, songwriting and jam sessions.” Though PJ initially hid his music until he “knew it was ready” to show to his dad, the singer-songwriter has hit his stride at only 28-years-old: soulful, dance-worthy R&B with a flair for vulnerability. Vegas’ new EP On My Way—which features a track with Plains Cree rapper Drezus—is a smooth, five-track flex of his songwriting abilities and capacity as a storyteller. As an indigenous musician, he has a vision for his work. “I’d say my responsibility is to bring awareness to injustice and triumphant moments in my life or the lives of people close to me.” His mantra #NativeStateofMind expands on this mission. “It’s about uniting all people—worldwide—and getting back to our roots of a moral code where we have respect for Mother Nature, women, children, and all things under the creator.”



Through the new indigenous music collective Mag 7, Vegas has connected to likeminded creatives aiming to change the landscape of Indian Country. The roster includes artists like the brothers Spencer and Doc Battiest (Seminole Tribe of Florida), Supaman, Drezus, and Kahara Hodges (Navajo). “It all started with Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas approaching all of us individually to make music,” he explains. “When the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s sacred grounds and waters were being threatened and constantly overlooked by the mainstream media, we knew we had to lend our voice.” Last year, Taboo and Mag 7 won a MTV VMA award for Best Fight Against the System for their anthemic single “Stand Up/Stand N Rock #NoDAPL.” Looking towards the new year, Vegas is ready to come correct. When asked what things in his life he’d like to leave behind in 2017 and replace in 2018, his answer is simple. “Doubt. There’s no room for it on the road I’m on. Replace it with confidence.” The singer-songwriter also parts with some sound advice for aspiring indigenous musicians trying to get their start. “Stay focused, know what you want, and make as much music as possible.”

Listen to PJ’s playlist “003” at indige•zine on Spotify


LEARNING FROM THE BEST DeLesslin George-Warren

She creaked with apathy— Aunt Evelyn George She had sculpted great earthen pots larger than me —and broken vessels twice that size. She was unimpressed by my work and wholly impressed in my hands their history. She didn’t mind me groping the clay, soaking it too wet or winding it too tight, because she had seen too many little hands gripped away by paler palms. They seemed so petty, but but somehow magnified by their Saviour Complex into a shape at least three times the size of Aunt Evelyn’s shattered pots. With her creaking apathy, she grabbed my tumorous pot and squashed it into violent nada so i could try again. she knew our work was too important.


STANDING ROCK MURAL Wheatpaste by unknown artist Brooklyn, New York



Growing up, fashion designer Michelle Brown split her time between Anchorage, Alaska and her native Two Gray Hills Navajo reservation in New Mexico. While completing her degree at Parsons School of Design, she was a finalist in the Allen Edmonds student design contest for her concept of the Frontier Boot.


o lm





t ea




Strip cut in the shape of Turnagain Arm inlet in Anchorage, Alaska

Inspired by cultures of peoples like the Tupik and Tlingit, Brown incorporated salmon leather—a common building material—into the shoe. “Native Alaskans use sustainability as part of their storytelling through garments. The boot’s design stems from the concept of seeing yourself in the land.” 25


XICA Marina Perez Digital collage self-portrait


REBIRTH Maham Khalid

i. i am a mirror facing a mirror. the pain eats from my palm. every lover leaves repulsed. / i’m unashamed about the ways i no longer try. scalped by love, i drowse & howl. / i’m alone & the sky is unhurt. the blood in my mouth is mine.

...,.._·....._,.- . a . · m � GJm

ii. the pink dawn. grief, sticky & grey. the numb drip of days. my cruel patterns, how they glisten, how i smother myself. / nothing changes. i peel my eyes open. i peel my heart open. / i can’t alchemize light, but i can swallow it.

iii. i grow lavender & stone the limping wolf. i am my new mother, crowned in coral, palms soft & forgiving. / i am sore knuckles. i am blood lush with love. i am a column of flame, red & deliberate. / reborn, i rewrite mythologies, paralyze snakes.

. ...,.._·....._,.a m GJ � m . · . ...,.._·....._,.a

iv. at dawn i stand in a field of gold, shooting vultures as they appear.


On Revitalization, Technology, and Moving Forward


As a part of the Catawba Indian Nation, DeLesslin “Roo” George-Warren was taught early on the value of cultural preservation. “I came into a community that deeply felt the need for language revitalization,” he tells indige•zine. In 1989, the Nation surveyed tribal members and found that the they almost unanimously voiced language as a top priorities for their community. Though the last fluent Catawba speaker walked on in the early 1960s, his tribe has worked hard to keep the tongue alive. “I grew up learning some basic Catawba greetings, blessings, thank-yous, and numbers,” Roo explains. Still, he wished for more opportunities to practice his language.

Along with support from Running Strong for American Indian Youth’s Dreamstarter grant, Roo has embarked on a continuation of the revitalization effort championed by many before him. He launched the Catawba Language Project, which utilizes classes, an online app, and even memes to engage and educate. As a leader in his community, Roo spends most of his time teaching Catawba, creating learning materials, and training educators with the project’s curriculum. If that wasn’t badass enough, Roo—who identifies as Two Spirit—is also an artist. He’s currently performing “Indigenous Corps of Discovery,” a piece where he discusses the unfiltered relationship between the U.S. and indigenous peoples. He also stages performancelectures called “Histories” where he shares personal and community narratives. 30

Despite his busy schedule, indige•zine got the chance to catch-up with Roo. Read our chat below—he’s definitely one to watch. You received the 2017 Dreamstarter grant for your work with the Catawba Language Project. What does the project look like and what are the goals? The Catawba Language Project was started as part of my Dreamstarter project and the goal is to bolster and progress existing language revitalization efforts. This includes classes, creation of an online app so that Catawbas around the globe can learn their language, and the creation of material culture like memes, t-shirts, posters, toys, etc. I recognize that this is the work of many lifetimes, but I’m happy to play my part so that more Catawbas and our future generations will be in a good place to begin their own language revitalization work. In short, what was the process of creating the program and securing funding for it? Were there projects you were looking towards for inspiration, or people along the way who influenced it? The project was a response to both my community’s wishes of language revitalization, as well as the challenge put forth by Dreamstater: “What is your dream for your community?” The application process was relatively easy. Many grants ask you for lots of seemingly superfluous information, but Running Strong’s application was concise and really got to the heart of why this Dream is necessary and important for the community.


Of course, since this is a multi-generational project, we are keenly aware of the need for more funding sources in the near future. Until the United States upholds its obligation to indigenous peoples by adequately funding language revitalization, we are hoping that the work done during this year of Dreamstarter will put us in a good place to acquire more funding. However, even without funding we will find a way to keep doing this work.

Catawba Langauge Project learning materials

I am deeply inspired by the language revitalization efforts of other communities. In my class of Dreamstarters alone, there are several incredible young people doing innovative language work. The way that communities are integrating language revitalization into gardens, grocery stores, meetings, and more— that’s how we’re going to revitalize our languages. I’m particularly interested in the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation project, which faced a similar linguistic situation to ours and have been able to develop speakers! 32

“The way that communities are integrating language revitalization into gardens, grocery stores, meetings, and more—that’s how we’re going to revitalize our languages” Your work is such an amazing example of technology and tradition working together for future generations. Do you see other positive things happening in Indian Country with technology and culture colliding? Oh, absolutely! There are Native coders who are teaching young people how to program. There are visionary indigenous artists who are integrating their experiences into cutting edge media and technology. Just this week, my mentor Amelia Winger-Bearskin was at Sundance to talk about New Media! There are formidable intellectuals who are taking on important theoretical and practical questions around emerging technologies, such as Kim Tallbear’s work on the impacts of the DNA testing industry on tribes and Marisa Duarte’s work on sovereignty as it relates to internet technology. This theoretical work is so important because the trait that has been able to steer us through over 500 years of colonization is our ability to adapt to the ever-changing present using our traditions and stories (our “theories”) to make sense of what is happening and find paths forward.


However, there are still huge barriers to access. Many Native folks still can’t access the internet and computers if they need to. Those that can physically access them might not possess the knowledge to make use of them. Digital literacy particularly effects our elders and is symptomatic of a society that doesn’t value the ongoing education of adults. Education for our youth often completely leaves out coding and computer science from curricula, which can no longer be accepted. Once our people do enter technology fields, they often face workplace discriminations, including off-hand racist comments and sexual harassment, particularly for women and Two Spirit folks. Our knowledge and access to technologies is crucial, so we need to take these barriers very seriously.

“Digital literacy particularly effects our elders and is symptomatic of a society that doesnt value the ongoing education of adults” 34

Why is language revitalization so important for our communities? In a very practical sense, our languages are knowledge. They are knowledge about animals and plants and how to navigate the world we find ourselves in. They contain ideas about gender, property, sharing, relationships, and responsibility that directly challenge some terrible morals that many of us growing up in the U.S. were raised with. In another sense, I believe we have a duty to our past and future relations to revitalize our languages. Our ancestors recognized the importance of our languages and worked to preserve them, so we also have a duty to honor that commitment and ensure that our future generations can also honor that duty. What advice do you have for young indigenous scholars trying to build infrastructures for their communities? It can seem like a very daunting thing to take on.  First thing is to meet with community members and locate mentors/elders/guides to help you answer questions about your project. Many times in my project, I’ve been stuck on a question of implementation and just discussing it with community members has made the answer clear. Second is to ensure that the community has a way to access and oversee the project. Communities should be engaged in seeing the outcomes of such a project, as well as feel that they have some way to hold the project accountable. Thirdly, think creatively about solutions. We often talk about the downsides of reservation and tribal community life (e.g. health statistics), but we also have the unique opportunity to find solutions very specific to our situations.


Fourthly, think big but start small: create the big plan and then identify discrete, implementable pieces. Implement one of those pieces and learn from the process: how was it received? Any feedback? What did you learn about your community and how it uses infrastructure? Finally, get to work!


Leonina Arismendi Zarkovic is a Two Spirit artist, writer and activist born in Uruguay of El Pueblo Charrúa. They co-own the gallery, D.I.Y. music venue, and safe space Art Mart FXBG/AM Design Studios. twitter: @sj_senshi instagram: @revolutionarygirlyanina website:

Rachel Duff is a Latina educator and writer based in Jacksonville, Florida, where she teaches ESOL to middle school students. She hopes to keep some of her ancestor’s Taína traditions alive by way of recipes passed down, spirituality, and storytelling in the form of poetry. instagram: @racheleduff

PJ Vegas is a Shoshone/Yaqui R&B singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles. He’s a member of Mag 7, an indigenous music collective brought together by Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas. twitter, instagram: @therealpjvegas website: Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, raised in the Aztec tradition, is an indigenous environmentalist, activist, and hip-hop artist based in Boulder, Colorado. He’s the Youth Director of environmental awareness organization Earth Guardians. twitter, instagram: @xiuhtezcatl website:


Sheyenne Sky is a Navajo YouTuber, blogger, and student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Her work aims to elevate Native artists and culture in mainstream media. instagram: @sheyennesky_ website:

Marina Perez is a second generation Xicana settler on Tongva land. Marina identifies as a fat, hard-of-hearing, emotional Xingona. instagram: @your_comadre Rebel Betty (Amara Martin) is a second generation Afro-Boricua DJ and multimedia artist specializing in handmade collage and photography. Based in Chicago, she founded ChiResists, an collaborative organizing platform where she addresses issues like water protection and gentrification in communities of color. Rebel is also an educator, providing school-based arts programming, workshops and social justice-based arts education. twitter, instagram: @rebelbettyarte website: Shannen Roberts is a Peruvian musician, writer, and mental health advocate. She creates experimental pop as Cusi Coyllur and runs a blog called The Strange is Beautiful that serves as a community to discuss “mind obstacles� like anxiety and depression. twitter: @cusicmusic instatram: @cusicoyllurmusic website:


G.M. Davis, Navajo, was born and raised on the reservation. She founded the online shop and indigenous platform NDNInspired in 2016. Davis enjoys photography, art and serving her people as both a respiratory therapist and an “inspiration advocate.” twitter: @gtrainium instagram: @gm.davis Website: DeLesslin “Roo” George-Warren is a Two Spirit Catawba artist, researcher, and educator from South Carolina. He’s a recipient of the 2017 Dreamstarter and Running Strong for American Indian Youth grant for launching the Catawba Language Project. twitter: @delesslin website: Michelle Brown is a Navajo fashion designer and the founder of Michelle Brown Wear. Currently based in Salt Lake City, Utah, she graduated from Parsons School of Design with a degree in Women’s Ready to Wear. Growing up, Brown split her time between Anchorage, Alaska and her native Two Gray Hills Navajo reservation in New Mexico. instagram: @michellebrownwear website: Maham Khalid is an artist and writer whose work strives to be honest and unafraid. She’s based in Karachi, Pakistan. instagram: @maham.k_