Native Politics in Literature and Art | Native Peoples, Native Politics || Radcliffe Institute

[MUSIC PLAYING] -We’re now going to move
immediately to the third panel. And in order to
do that, I’m going to introduce Shelley
Lowe, who’s going to be the moderator for that panel. It has been a privilege
to work with Shelley for the past couple years,
and I’m looking forward to many more years of
working with Shelley, both as part of Radcliffe and
as part of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Shelley is the executive
director of the Harvard University Native
American Program and an enrolled
member of the Navajo Nation from Ganado, Arizona. She, before coming to Harvard,
served as the Assistant Dean for Native American Affairs in
the Yale College Dean’s Office and the Director of the Native
American Cultural Center at Yale. She has also been
recently appointed to the National
Council of Humanities. This is a really major honor
for Harvard and for her. Appointed directly by
President Barack Obama. She is, I think, as many
people– native students, alumni and the
community around here would know– the life blood
of our indigenous community at Harvard. So for everything,
Shelley, thank you. And we’re really looking
forward to this panel. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] -Thank you, Dan. Good afternoon. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] So good afternoon, everybody. I have the distinct honor of
introducing our third panel for the day, which
I’m going to borrow some words from my fellow
moderator, Dr. Adrian King. This is a hella cool panel. And I know a lot of
you are here to see this panel in particular. I do have some unfortunate
news to tell you that one of our panelists will
actually have to run out right after this. And maybe I won’t say who that
is yet so you guys can still be super excited. These are rad natives right
here, both with the hashtag and without the hashtag. So please, be
tweeting all you want while we’re going through this. Our first speaker is
Kristiana Kahakauwila. She is kanaka maoli. She’s a writer,
the Lisa Goldberg Fellow at the
Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study this year. We have Frank Waln, Sicangu
Lakota musician, rapper. Very popular, I know. I wanted to pause for lots
more applauses, but we’ll wait. And Matika Wilbur, Swinomish
Tulalip photographer, creator of Project 562. I know her laughter
in a few minutes is going to catch you as well. So without delay, Tiana, I’m
going to turn it over to you. [APPLAUSE] I’d like to start with
gratitude for the thinking, the innovation,
the rabble-rousing, and the endurance represented
here, both by the speakers and– I was going to
say by the audience, and I didn’t mean it like
how that was about to sound. I mean the endurance of
being native and being alive. I’m going to reorient
a little and start with some creative work. The first pages of my book. This is Paradise, a collection
of short stories set in and about
contemporary Hawai’i. And then I’m going
to reorient you again in another way
with these slides. This is Paradise. Mid-morning, the lifeguards
fan across the beach and push signposts into the sand. The same picture is on all of
them– a stick figure, its arms aloft, its circle head drowning
in a set of triangle waves. Caution, the sign reads. Dangerous undertow. We ignore it. We’ve gone out at Makaha
and Makapu’u before. We’ve felt yokes pull us under. We are not afraid of the beaches
and breaks here in Waikiki. We are careless,
in fact, brazen. So when we see her
studying the warning, chewing the right side
of her lip, we laugh. Just like the kind. Tourists, yeah? The tourist girl is white. They’re all white to us
unless they’re black. She has light brown hair,
a pointed nose, eyebrows neatly plucked into a firm line. She wears a white bikini with
red polka dots, triangle cut top, ruffled bottom. We shake our heads at her. Our ehu hair, pulled
into pony tails, bounces against our necks. Our bikinis are
carefully cut pieces with cross back straps
and lean bottoms. We surf in these, sista. We don’t have time for
ruffles and ruching. But she does. Like every other tourist, her
blue and white striped hotel towel labels for what she is. So why do we look
at her as we pass? Why do we notice her out
of the hundreds of others? Do we already know she’s
marked, special in some way? At the high tide line,
[? Cora ?] Jones and [? Kyla ?] [? Ka’ava ?] pull on rash guards
to protect against the trade winds which are
wailing this morning. The rest of us pretend we
don’t have chicken skin. We strap our leashes
to our ankles, careful to piece
the Velcro together, and then we jump on
our boards and feel them skim across the
surface of the water. Arching our backs, our hips
pressed into hard fiberglass, we dig the water with our hands. We raise one foot for balance. And because we know
we are silhouetted against the horizon,
we hold our heads high. We point our toes. Our bodies curve upward like
smiles, beckoning those onshore to follow. When we look back,
the tourist girl is approaching the ocean’s edge. She walks into the water,
the small waves lapping at her feet, ankles,
knees, chest. We see her dip her shoulders
into the white wash. We don’t tell her to stay
away from the retaining wall in front of [? Baby ?] Queens
or that today the current is moving [? Eva ?]
to Diamond Head. We paddle. And in a moment,
we’ve left her behind. That story is told by
three groups of women. The surfer girls,
who you just heard, hotel housekeepers from the
Federated States of Micronesia, and Hawaiian career women. Their voices weave
together, circle one another, much like
a Greek chorus. My goal was, from the start,
to reorient the reader. To unsettle them, perhaps. But to force the reader to see
Waikiki, the ultimate tourist Shangri-La, from a
native perspective. In school, the world
map that usually gets taught is the one
you can see here. Centered on the Atlantic
Ocean, on the land masses that surround it. In it, the Pacific is cut in
two, pushed to the periphery, made to half, not whole. Here is a Pacific-centered
world in which the great, really seafaring
nation of Oceania, takes center stage. Another map familiar to most
of you– the United States. No tribal lands delineated. No Hawai’i or Alaska. This one’s fun to
me because Hawai’i is in the Gulf of Mexico. And here I like to call it Boxed
Hawai’i overlaid on Mexico. And then in the
bottom, this second one is what I like to call
Oddly Vertical Hawai’i. It’s not even
oriented correctly. OK. Here we are back at Oceania. These maps and this
geography is how children are taught about the US. And I don’t need to press
too hard on this point, because I know
everyone here realizes just what a falsity that is. What a lie it is. That these are the borders
that we teach to our children is a problem. The Pacific writer,
anthropologist, wonderful thinker, Epeli
Hau’ofa in his paper “Our Sea of Islands” says,
“There is a gulf of difference between viewing the Pacific
as islands in a far sea and as a sea of islands.” He goes on to argue for
the largesse of Oceania. He calls it, in fact, the
largest nation in the world. And he thinks of all the
people within Oceania as a single seafaring nation. And so it’s a
really powerful way to think about what happens when
we bring our energies together. I’m going to give
you just two more slides to think about as I
move into the rest of my talk. This first notes
some false dualities, ways of very often
indigenous people are taught. They are romantic or tragic,
scientific or traditional. It tends to be whites get
history, and we get culture. Our record is one that
is oral, but not written. And the final slide
I’ll linger on is a Hawaiian word– mo’olelo. It encompasses a
lot, and it breaks up those false dualities. It means story, history,
tradition, legend, yarn, a log. It means research, public
record, private journal. It also means the
succession of a talk. Because we’re at
Harvard, I’m going to tell you a little
bit about my education and how I became a writer. And it relates
back to the slides I showed you at the
beginning and how we think about pedagogy. You know, when an
undergraduate here tells me they go to school
in Cambridge, I know they’re really
talking about Harvard. So similarly, I went to
college in New Jersey. And at this New Jersey school,
I had a really mixed experience. It opened my world
in a lot of ways. It was like living
in a foreign country. There was a new language to
speak, a new fashion to wear, and there was a different
way of even physically moving through space. I read a ton in those years. I was assigned brilliant
work– Russian novelists, French poets, good stuff. And at some point in
my sophomore year, I read Edward Sayyid’s
“Orientalism”, and the idea of the gaze and of
reversing the gaze became one of the first moments
where I felt like I was glimpsing myself in a text. Perhaps I was already
offstage, but I knew I had been there a moment ago. I majored in
comparative literature with a focus on [INAUDIBLE]
and post-colonial French literature, and I minored
in creative writing. Four years at the number one
university in the nation, and not once did I read
an indigenous writer. Not once did I
even hear the names Leslie Marmon Silko, N
Scott Momaday, Thomas King. And in creative
writing courses, we focused on American literature
and the American short story. There was gender balance. There was not racial balance. Fast forward five years, and I’m
at the University of Michigan studying in their Master’s
of Fine Arts program in creative writing. I got word that there was
a Pacific Studies program. Granted, it was housed in the
American Studies Department, which is a little weird
for all of Oceania to be under the American
Studies umbrella. But it did exist. I enrolled in Canoe
Cultures with Vicente Diaz. And for the first
time in my study of post-colonial
literature and history, the course started with
an indigenous perspective. It started with a
chant, a seafaring song from the island of Pohnpei
in the Federated States of Micronesia– Vince’s home. For the first time, I
was in a classroom that wasn’t post-colonial
but de-colonial, where the professor
looked like me, knew what it was like to be
me, both outsider and insider to the university
and academic complex. He oriented himself to the
ocean instead of to land. He grounded himself and
his teaching in Oceania. He and others introduced me
to the Great Pacific writers– Maori writer Patricia
Grace, Epeli Hau’ofa, Hawaiian professor and
historian John Osorio. I also read Silko, Momaday,
King, met Phil Deloria, read Vine Deloria Jr,
Sherman Alexie, Joy Harjo. I can go on. It changed my life, and
it changed my writing. I threw out everything I had
written before that class, and I started for the first
time in my life writing about Hawaii. Writing about what it meant
to be Kanaka Maoli but born in California. To have split my childhood
between continent and island. To try and understand why my
dad decided to leave Hawaii. And why my uncles
and aunties stayed. And what that means
for their children– for me and my cousins. Writing, for me, is
always about a question, about what I don’t understand. I didn’t understand, really,
what it meant to be Kanaka. I knew what it felt like. And what it felt like was
that I was never enough. A feeling that had been
emphasized at Princeton. I moved to Hawaii after I
graduated from Michigan. I lived in Honolulu. I flew over to Maui to visit
the family often and see my grandmother, who was ill. She died a year
after I moved here. I was in Ohio at
a friend’s wedding when I got the call
that she had passed. My family held off the
funeral until my dad and I could fly home to them. In writing my first
book, This is Paradise, I was trying to understand what
it meant to be loved that much. What it meant to
love myself, all myself– my indigenous
self, my hapa self. I was trying to
understand how, no matter how far my dad or I got from
that land, that island, somehow it was always waiting for
us, forgiving us, loving us, and wanting us back. And no matter how
often we went back, no matter how long I lived
in Honolulu, how I’d always be looking over the ocean at
the continent wondering what I was missing out on over there. Like many indigenous, I realized
I live in a liminal space. You see the world from
a liminal position. A world not filled
with dualities, as many classes on indigenous
peoples will posit. But one in which, as a
contemporary indigenous person, I up-end the framework. And I can have all of it–
science, culture, tradition, technology, past, present,
oral, written, myth, research, legend, fact,
story, story, story. All of it at the same time. For me, storytelling–
mo’olelo– holds all that. To close, I’d like to read
just a couple more paragraphs from the story
“This is Paradise”. The excerpt is from
the perspective of native Hawaiian
career women, and I’d like to dedicate
this to Matika here. It’s hard work to be a leader. It’s hard, important,
and beautiful work. In this passage, there’s an
honest moment of exhaustion from the narrators. But I hope you also get a
sense of their strength, their vibrance, and their
unapologetic aliveness. Despite our tendency
toward culinary laziness, our exhaustion is not allowed
to overtake us this evening. Tonight, we are celebrating. Laura just submitted
her proposal for a LEED certified
resort on Maui, and we hear her firm
will win the bid. Kiana Naone was promoted to
Politics Editor at the Honolulu Advertiser. And Esther will take the
lead on a high-profile murder case that all but promises
her making partner in a year. After years of part-time
jobs, and student loans, and late nights with the
desk lamp’s yellow light on our books, we’ve made it. Or we are making it. Or we’re close to
saying, We will make it. It doesn’t hurt
that were from here. We are considered
by our peers to be local women who’ve done well. Left but come back. Dedicated their education
and mainland skills to putting this island right. We speak at civic club
gatherings and native rights events. We are becoming pillars
of the island community. We are growing into who
we’ve always dreamt of being. But sometimes, late at night and
alone beneath the hand-stitched Hawaiian quilts we can
finally afford to purchase, we wished we had followed
our law and grad school boyfriends to DC or Chicago. We could have foregone
being pillars. We could have been
regular women. I’ll leave you there. [APPLAUSE] -[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] -Hello, relatives. My Lakota name is Walks
with Young People. That was given to me by
my elders a few years ago. I also go by Frank Waln. I am a Sicangu Lakota hip-hop
artist and storyteller from the Rosebud
Reservation in South Dakota. And I am the product of
amazing Lakota women. I was raised by my mother,
Mary Waln, my grandmother, Marie Waln, and my aunties in a
small community on the Rosebud Reservation in
South Dakota called the [? Hidow ?] community. It’s pretty rural. It’s pretty small,
twenty houses. I was born and
raised on a ranch. And I have a story to tell you
guys before we get started. So I’m a hip-hop
artist, but I think like my fellow amazing
panelists here, we’re all just storytellers
in our own rights and our own ways. Indigenous people have been the
best storytellers in this world for thousands and
thousands of years. That’s how we’re here. That’s how we survived. That’s how we passed on
knowledge– storytelling. So we’re just continuing that
tradition through our art and what we do. So I have a story to start off. I was very privileged that
my mother stressed education in all forms, learning in
and outside the classroom from the time I was little. So when I graduated
high school, I was the first person
at my high school to receive the Gates
Millenium scholarship. I was valedictorian, and
I had the opportunity to go to college. Not a lot of people where I’m
from get that opportunity. The biggest high school
on our reservation has a 75% dropout rate. Our entire reservation has
an 80% unemployment rate. We live in one of the poorest
counties in the country. You know, that poverty keeps
us trapped for a reason. But I had this opportunity. And I first used it to go
study premed at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. I did that for two years. I always knew I wanted to help,
always knew I wanted to heal. And the way I saw the world
when I was 18, the only way I thought I could do
that was to be a doctor. So I did that for
two years, and then I decided to follow
my passion of music. I love music. I’ve been playing
piano since I was six. I’ve been writing, producing,
recording music since I was 15. And so I decided to
follow that passion, and that took me
to an art school in Chicago– Columbia College–
where I graduated from. And the first week I
was there in Chicago, something happened
that changed my life. And I think a lot of
the indigenous students in this room could probably
relate to this story. So I get on the elevator
of the dorm I’m living in, and this non-native girl
gets on the elevator with me. And I’m living in
downtown Chicago, and I’d never even seen a
skyscraper until this point in my life. Our reservation’s the
size of Rhode Island, and we have one stoplight
on our whole rez. [LAUGHTER] So I’m just in shock. All types of cultural shock. I could relate to
what Tiana was saying. It’s like you’re in
a different place. Even how you move is different. You have to learn how
to move in that space. So I’m on this elevator. This girl gets on, and she says,
“You have really pretty hair. What are you?” [LAUGHTER] I said, “Thank you. I’m Lakota. I’m Native American.” And she looked at me confused. And she said, “You
guys still exist?” [LAUGHTER] You know, we laugh,
but there are too many college students in
this country that think Native Americans are extinct. College educated adults
think we don’t exist. Imagine what that
does to you when you’re trying to
relearn, remember, reconnect to an identity
that the government has tried to kill, as we’ve
been hearing all day. It’s all sort of confusion,
frustration, anger, pain. Also being proud of
where you come from, being proud of that culture. So I started writing
songs about that. And I’ll speak a
little bit on why I think hip-hop resonates
with so many indigenous youth. You know, hip-hop
is a black culture, It was born in New York City
out of a time– the Bronx, they were building
the Bronx Expressway through this community. They were displacing people. It was violent displacement. It was colonialism, basically. It was genocide. And out of it came
this beautiful culture of hip-hop– dance, graffiti,
music, the way they dressed. And when we were going
up on the reservation, we were– I grew up
disconnected from my culture. I grew up with my hair short. I grew up not going to ceremony
because my great grandparents were the last
people in my family to be fluent in our language
and to participate in ceremony. And where I’m from,
it was illegal. Jesuits would patrol
our reservation, and if they caught us going into
sweat lodges, singing songs, they would call the police. We would get persecuted, thrown
in insane asylums for Indians. They said we were
worshipping the devil. So out of that history,
there was a lot of shame with being Lakota where
I was from growing up. There was a lot of shame
with men having long hair. There was a lot of shame
about men wearing earrings. There was a lot of shame about
being proud of who you are and where you come from. And I understand where that’s
coming from from my elders. I understand what
they went through. Even though I may never
know what that feels like, I understand where
that shame comes from. And hip-hop gave me a safe
space to reclaim my indigineity. Because the thing about
hip-hop as a culture is you can be whoever you want
to be in that space. You bring to it who you are. And so it gave me a space
to look at my own identity. And around the same
time I was 18, 19, I started reconnecting to my
culture, and my ceremonies, and language. My mother, my aunties–
they were doing the same. We were all doing that
around the same time. And also within hip-hop there’s
the tradition of storytelling. And that culture was kind
of born out of colonization, and so I think it resonated
with a lot of native youth all across this country. I’m one of many native
hip-hop artists. There’s tons of
brilliant artists. And so I want to talk a
little bit about how art, how performance gives me
that space to almost rupture, and rage, and let some of
that pain, and that energy, and those emotions– the
love, the joy– everything that I’m experiencing
out in a healthy way. Because to tell indigenous
people to not be angry, to not feel, to
not be frustrated, is to tell us to
not be human beings. How could we not be angry
about 500 years of colonization and genocide? How could we not be frustrated? How could we not feel pain? And it’s not just history
that results in the traumas that we face. The traumas of people that we
love, the own traumas that we experience as people. So I think I needed
a healthy outlet, and this art form have
me that healthy outlet. So right now, I’m really
interested in exploring healing and love through my music. And Tiana even spoke about that. Right now I’m on
artist residency at the University of Delaware. I’m visiting music classes. But I’m also going into
Nemours Children’s Hospital, which is hospital for children
who are terminally ill. And I’m doing music
therapy with kids. And we’ve been having
a lot of discussions about what gets them through
the situation they’re in. And one of the most profound
statements and ideas that’s come out that for me
is the concept of love, and that love is the strongest
force in the universe. This one girl told me
if you don’t have love, you don’t have anything. And I think that all the
indigenous people in this room, we are a testament to
the love and strength that our ancestors had. The fact that we’re
even alive in this room in a place like Harvard is
a testament to that I love. They loved us. They loved the culture. They loved the land. They loved the water. And that’s why we’re here. So I think about that
when I write these songs. Learning to love myself,
learning to love my community. It’s a task. I’m probably one of the
youngest panelists here. I’m 26, and I’m
going through it. Even though I’m here in Harvard,
and I get a travel the world and do what I love,
the people I love– we’re still connected to them. My mom is still at home
suffering from poverty. I have cousins addicted in meth. This is real. This isn’t just history for us. This pain is real. And I’ve found
that when I’ve been able to express this
and write this in songs, my outlet has become an inlet
for a lot of other indigenous people. And I never expected
that to happen, but it’s a really
beautiful thing. So I just want to comment on
that concept of love as well and say that my grandfather,
Robert [? Sonny ?] Waln, he passed away when I was three. He only had an eighth
grade education. He had to drop out
of school at 16 and lie about his age
to join the military to provide for his family. Because I come from
a place where there’s little to no opportunities. And that’s what he
had to do to survive. And he went off to the
Korean War for four years. Came back, married
my grandmother, raised a family of 11 with
an eighth grade education. And now his grandson’s
standing here getting paid to speak at Harvard University. Where are a testament
to that love. [APPLAUSE] -So I’m going to be
honest with you guys. My audience is not Harvard. It’s not it’s not white people. [LAUGHTER] I’m making songs for those kids
on the reservation, those kids who are going through this. Because they don’t have the
privilege to come to the space. So I’m a performer. I’m going to do a
song for you guys. I want to finish with a song. And I would like to encourage
all the young native people, or any people of
color in this room who are going to go on to be the
leaders of our communities, to remember those kids. Remember the land and
water that we live on and that we live off of. And remember those elders
whose shoulders we stand on to get to where we are today. Because we wouldn’t be
here without that love. And I think we
all need to embark on that process of
healing, because we’re coming from communities with so
much trauma and so much pain. And you need to acknowledge
that pain to heal. And so I’m going to do
a song– a new song. It’s called “Wild West.” And it’s, I think, a good
example of the things we experience at home. I was having a conversation
with a good friend of mine, a young lady. Her name’s Cody [? Denouier. ?]
She lives back home. She’s an incredible
singer, incredible artist. And we were talking about
home and just all the stuff our relatives are going
through, and we both concluded that there’s things where
I’m from that will kill you, and there’s things that
will save our lives. There’s things that are
killing people I love there, but there’s things
there that I can’t get anywhere else in the world. And we wrestle with that. And so I think this song
is an example of that. It’s called “Wild West”. And this song is about my home. I come from place they
called the Wild West. Cowboys and Indians, they said. And it’s still the Wild West. We’re still fighting
that battle. It just has a different face. And the Wild West was always
told from the cowboy’s perspective, so I guess
this is a perspective of a young indigenous person–
in the contemporary Wild West. [RAPPING] I got five hundred years
to get off the dome. My momma was my strength. Pops was a rolling stone. So let me in my zone. Throw this dog a bone. Because I spit bars for
those native kids at home who got wounds and scars,
whose dreams go far. You’ve got a jump shot. You’re a red superstar. Take a cruise in the
car, disregard the law. We don’t know no better
when adults withdraw. Bumpin first of the month
on the first of the month, from the womb to the hearse,
that ensures what I want. Selling food stamps, I
could give you 40 for 20. All these damn hand-outs but
ain’t no way to make money. This whack 80% unemployment
rate ain’t no way to make sure my
family’s straight. My cousin did a crime,
feds investigate. We still face genocide
in this colonial state. Our ceremonies were banned. They cut our grandpa’s braids. Took ’em to that boarding
school where my grandpa stayed. Cut them off from the ways
that their grandpas prayed. They’re trying to build a
pipeline over my grandpa’s grave. There ain’t no stopping this
rez life from blinding us. Ain’t no stopping these
problems from finding us. Still I run with nowhere to go,
a rosebud with nowhere to grow. In the Wild, Wild West,
y’all, the Wild West. Living that rez life,
so stressed in the Wild, Wild West, y’all, the Wild West. We’re living that rez life. Birth of a rebel, I revel
while other’s living in peril with several flows. I’m arm wrestling with your
devil, disheveled but never settle. Y’all can’t get on my level. Gimme bass, gimme treble. I’m trouble but never tremble. Rekindle the seven council
fires, keeper of the flame, land of the burnt thigh. It’s even in my name. I’m a symbol, Sicangu
is how I rumble. I may stumble, but my
people are warriors, so I’ll never crumble. Survivors of genocide
residing in the trap. I used to keep this inside
until I decide to rap. My ancestors ain’t die
for me to lie on my back. Can’t take it sitting down. Instead I’m fighting back. Buck your system,
buck your capitalism. You took the land, made us
sick, and gave us alcoholism. You took away our wisdom. You took away our health. We’re going to get it back, and
we’re going to honor ourselves. In the Wild, Wild West,
y’all, the Wild West. Living that rez life, so
blessed in the Wild, Wild West, y’all, the Wild West. We’re living that rez life. You forced our culture
underground, underground, but you ain’t stopping
no one now, no one now. We’re stronger and we know
it now, we know it now. -Thank you. [APPLAUSE] -Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. -Oh man, I gotta follow that? [LAUGHTER] -Oh man, yeah. Let’s do that. Thank you so much, yeah. [APPLAUSE] [LAUGHTER] -Oh, man. I’m all crying. Good afternoon, dear
ones, relatives. Good afternoon. My name’s Matika. I’m from the Swinomish
and Tulalip tribe, and I’m super,
super honored to be amongst such special, talented,
intelligent, beautiful people. I’d like to acknowledge
the ancestors of this land. The Massachusett, Nipmuc,
and Wampanoag people. We raise our hands to you. -[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] -Thank you for allowing us
to be here on your land. And I raise my hands to Miss
Shelley, and Jason, and all of the organizers of this
event, and especially our young native
students here at Harvard. We respect you. We love you. We want you to stay here. I’m here to ask you if we can
learn to see as human beings. Does the image actually
affect our lives and the lives of those around us? And as citizens of
the world, can we use images to encourage
and inspire one another? How can we, my friends,
shape our perceptions to change the world? Currently, there is
not one single source– be it publication,
website, or exhibition– accessible to the
public that provides visual representation of every
tribe in the United States. Project 562 aims to change that. Why am I doing this? I taught visual
arts for five years at the tribal school on my rez. Our children needed effective
curriculums and stories that could transmit light,
love, beauty, truth. But there wasn’t. There were none. We still teach our children that
Columbus discovered America. The American
imagination produces leathered and feathered,
savagery, less than. The toll of addiction,
abuse, and unnatural deaths of my students overwhelmed me. I buried 19 students
in four years. And after so much
loss of potential, I’d sit in lodges with
my fellow teachers, and we’d be sitting there
praying for our babies, begging the Creator to help
us, feeling a hopelessness and despair that I can
barely speak about. These are the images
that we seen when were represented in massive media. This is the experience that our
children are having every day. Native American stereotypes
are ingrained in the fabric of our country, as historical
people, as tribal and inferior. Most contemporary depictions
of Native Americans include noble savage, redskins,
leathered and feathered, spiritual being as
fit for mascots. And such portrayals degrade
popular understanding. This is what happens when
you Google search Native American this morning. This algorithm represents
the image people are seeking, and the image that
people are clicking on. This is what you expect when
you search Native American. My mentor, Stephanie
[? Freiberg ?]– She doesn’t know
she’s my mentor. I call her that because I’ve
read everything she’s wrote, she’s from my tribe, and
I secretly stalk her. [LAUGHTER] She did this incredible study. She went to all these
tribes around the country. She showed kids pictures
of Native American, African American,
Asian American. And every time they were shown
an image of a native person, their self-esteem
went down by 60%. Shockingly, when the
image of an Indian is shown to the
white counterpart, their self-esteem is raised. For centuries, our people have
called for authentic indigenous images and stories
of our resiliency, of the sacredness of
land, of the meaning and value of our knowledge. These are the stories
and so many more that live within Project 562. And they’re the voices that can
now be heard if we seek them. Like this one. This is Uncle John
[? Kakeana’ana. ?] He’s Kanaka Maoli from the
Independent Nation of Hawai’i. John is pictured on
the west side of Kuai’i at his kalo farm that
has been in his family for several generations. To John and other
kanaka maolis, kalo is of supreme importance–
defined in the Kumulipo, or Hawaiian creation chant, as
the plant from which Hawaiians were formed. In 2002, into the
University of Hawaii genetically modified kalo and
patented their hybridized taro, charging farmers for
the new type of seed. John was a part of a strong
indigenous opposition and coalitions and
peaceful protests to protect the
natural, ancestral kalo And through his activism
and many others, in 2008 the state of
Hawaii designated kalo as a state plant in a bill to
ban genetically modified taro and coffee in the
islands of Hawaii. [APPLAUSE] Over and over, and over
again, people ask me, What is the greatest lesson
that you’ve learned, Matika? What have you learned
from being on the road? And I often respond by
saying, The only thing I’ve fully come to understand
is that our people’s identities are inextricably
connected to the land. We are the people of
the blue green water, the people of the tide, the
people of the tall pine trees, the people that
live within the four sacred mountains, the people
of the streaming tide. We’re the rabbit eaters,
the cattails eaters. We’re the people
of the longhouse. There is an indigenous
people of this place as well. And what we see overwhelmingly
is that our communities are always fighting
for the right to maintain access to the
very thing that defines us. Such as this fellow
this is Raymond Matts. He’s one of my heroes. And you see, he’s not
smiling because he has all gold busted teeth
because the cops punched them all out while he
was being arrested 19 times for fishing on the
Klamath River in California. He belongs to the Yurok tribe,
and he was one of the first to challenge the US government
for tribal fishing rights. He brought his case all the
way to the Supreme Court, and he recalls the turning
point in that case, as maybe some of you do as well. He says, we’d laid
out our set nets. And from this rock
here, where their people have been fishing for thousands
of generations, and the feds were there with
big, enormous guns waiting for them to
go pick their net. And they were kind of
a little apprehensive. They didn’t know what to do. They knew that if they
went out to pick their net, they’d be forcefully
arrested again. And for Mr. Matts, that would
be his last time being arrested. And so there’s a lot of
commotion on the shores. And finally, after a three-day
standoff, and reporters there as well, his 89-year-old
grandma said, Enough of this. I’ll do it. And so she got in
her little canoe, and she started paddling out
there, and picking the net. And of course, cops came
and by gunpoint demand that she stop poaching. They took pictures, went on
the cover of Time magazine. They won their court case, which
set precedence for the Judge Bolt decision which gave
tribes half the fish, and game, and wildlife, and
co-management of our resources. And you see, my momma is
a commercial fisherwoman. And I was super, super honored
to have the opportunity to thank Raymond
for his bravery, for being brave enough to stand
for what matters to us most. This is miss Jenny Parker. She was a teacher for 25
years in her tribal school in northern Cheyenne
until one day, federal officials came to
her at the school and said, We’d like you to come
down and identify a body. It was her daughter’s. She’d been forcefully
raped and left for dead on the side of the road. And afterwards, Jenny
had a heart attack. She felt as though she was
dying of a broken heart. And her granddaughter
came and said, Grandmama, I’ll take care of you. Slowly, they started walking
to the end of the driveway, to the end of the road. And Jenny says, It’s
the love that helped her to survive such things. It’s knowing that her
granddaughter would need her. And I asked Jenny,
What would you like me to tell the people
when I show your photograph? And she said, Ask them
if they’ll stand with us. Ask them if it matters to them. Remind them that
we’re still here. I want to stand up
here and tell you transcendent stories of
light, and love, and beauty. But as my friends say,
If you want our beauty, you must also take our struggle. The truth is, I have heard far
too many stories like Jenny’s. Stories about forced
sterilization, stories of rape and horror
that at times make me feel like I’m suffocating
and like there is no hope in Indian country. And these experiences articulate
our current socioeconomic situation. Native American women are the
most victimized in the country. Three out of four
have experienced sexual assault or domestic
violence in their lifetimes. And that’s my sisters,
my aunties, my cousins, the native women in this room. It’s real. And for most native women, it is
not a question of if but when. Across the border
in Canada, there are an estimated
1,181 stolen sisters– women from age two to 78
disappeared and never found, missing and likely murdered. There is no question we
are in a very critical time of a longstanding epidemic
of abuse and misuse of our Native
women and children. And while our women tell me
stories about race, and caste, and how their bodies are
used to perpetuate both, high caste women are sexually
restricted– reserved, if you will– while women at the
bottom are sexually exploited. Native people are
the only people in the country that need
prove their pedigree. Still today, we faced
extermination policies put in place to eradicate
the American Indian. Which means that
as a native woman, we are faced with the complicity
of choosing a mate when race’s policies determine our
future children’s opportunity for citizenship and inclusion. We’re forced in courts
to define ourselves. It’s time we take back the
right to make decisions about ourselves. A lesson I’ve learned from a
well-known leader in my own could tribal community,
Miss Deborah Parker. Part of Miss Deborah Parker. [LAUGHTER] -That was about to be
so smooth, though, huh? [LAUGHTER] -If you go to the
gallery, you could see it. Who advocated on behalf of
native women during the right to reauthorize the
Violence Against Women Act, and while also running a
program in our community to help our victimized
and abused people. When I ask her where
she finds strength, she said, When you are
asked to protect someone, when you are asked to protect
your nation, it’s what you do. You armor up. You warrior up, and you protect
the women in your nation. And it’s a great honor to do so. All I can do is pray that
I am able to speak justice toward our missing and
murdered indigenous woman, to those who are
still here struggling to find out what kind of
justice they will receive. To me, it will be a
lifetime of this work. It will never stop, because
every man and woman is worth protecting. Every person deserves justice. We can do that
through education. This is Dr. Mary
Evelyn Belgarde. She’s from the Pueblo of
Isleta and Ohkay Owingeh. She’s a retired Professor of
Education for the University of New Mexico. She’s worked tirelessly
to open tribal schools with native curriculums. She’s raised funds to support
thousands of native students. And she’s lovely. She’s charming. She feeds you green chili. And then she want to
talk about systematically engineered systems of
education to eradicate us. And she says,
Matika, when are we going to stop asking
our children to choose between cultural education
and Western education? I think we’re ready to stop
the assimilation process. The time to change is now. This is– this is not. Oh. Dr. Adrian King, could
you stand up please? Everybody look back here. This is Dr. Adrian King. [APPLAUSE] -I have a beautiful
photo of her. And let me tell you, she is my
favorite Cherokee of all time. And she’s a dear friend
of mine, and you’ll be hearing from her
later this afternoon. You don’t have to
keep standing, Adrian. But I would like to acknowledge
that Adrian is one of the few that holds a doctorate in
education from Harvard. And she’s currently
teaching at Brown, and focuses on college
access for native students. Her blog, Native
Appropriations, has a national and
international audience. As a voice on contemporary
indigenous issues, she writes about the
collectivism of native students in higher education. And she says, I want
to take a moment to talk to your family, your
professors, your community, your school administrators. We have a responsibility
to our native students. It is not enough to push
students to enroll in college and expect them to
conform to the norms and expectations of spaces
that are not meant for them and then forge
their own path home. We need to embody the
Cherokee concept of gadugi, working together toward
a common goal that benefits the entire community. This is Miss Helen. She’s blind. She’s the last Lovelock
Paiute speaker. I just recently went
to meet with her. All around Indian country,
our indigenous languages are at risk of being lost. I can’t tell you how many
women I’ve met like Miss Helen. Man, I had this dream. I was on a subway
in Seattle, which is how I knew I was dreaming. And there was people to
my left arguing in Lakota about Trump and Barack Obama. And there was people to my
right eating fast food– wild Anishinaabe rice–
speaking in Anishinaabe about changing the
local downtown scene. And there was people
talking in the Dene about changing our education
system so that everybody would speak Dene. [APPLAUSE] And you know, I
woke up in tears. Because I thought to myself,
It’s never going to happen. And then I had to like
smudge myself off and realize that if I don’t
believe that it’s possible for our white
brothers and sisters to learn our languages,
for our own people to establish systems where
we can relearn our languages, for us to actually
acknowledge that there is an indigenous land,
history, intelligence that is here and among us that
is worth saving, protecting, and learning. If I don’t believe
that, then who will? Three years ago– I’m
almost done, I promise. I’m sorry, Shelley. One minute. Three years ago, I left
my job, family, and home to begin traveling
for Project 562, a multi-year creative
expedition dedicated to photographing over 562
federally recognized tribes in the Unite States. To date, I have traveled to
over 250 tribes in 47 states, taking nearly 800
portraits and collecting each person’s history. I realize, to some, that
this is very radical. And rad young folks
of Harvard, before I say anything else about the
purpose of today’s lecture, let me say this. I hope that the stories that
I’ve shared with you will you inspire you to
go on an adventure. Especially for you young ladies. I read something of
Gloria Steinem’s newest novel that rocked my world. She said, Thanks to
molecular archeology, which includes the study
of ancient DNA to trace human
movement over time, we now know that men have
been the stay-at-homes, and women have
been the travelers. The rate of intercontinental
migration for women is about eight
times that for men. However, these
journeys have often been unchosen, one-way
trips in cultures that were patriarchal and patrilocal. That is, women were
under male control and also went to live in
their husbands households. In the face of all the dire
and often accurate warnings of danger on the
road for women, it took modern feminism to ask
the rock-bottom question, Compared to what? Whether it be by dowry
murders in India, honor killings in Egypt,
domestic violence in United States, records
show that women are most likely to be
beaten or killed at home and by men they know. Statistically speaking, home
is an even more dangerous place for women than on the road. Perhaps the most
revolutionary act for women will be a self-willed
journey and then be welcomed when she comes home. Nothing can sum my
experience better. We need to see one another. We need to hear from one
another with an open heart and an open mind. We need to learn
from one another. Someone says, You can’t
survive the storm. And you turn and say,
Baby, I am the storm. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] -Special thanks
to our panelists. I think there are a few things
that really strengthen me in the work that I do, besides
my own family, my children, very supportive and loving
elders, but very powerful youth. And I want everyone to give
a very, very special, again, round of applause to Frank. Because he’s a
healer, and as much as we’d like to keep him here,
he’s got to go someplace else and heal some other native youth
who are probably desperately waiting for him to arrive. Frank, thank you so
much for sharing. [APPLAUSE] -And now, as you are
not bombarding him as he has to leave, he actually
does have to go catch a fight, we will open to a few
minutes of questions. So if you have a question, the
microphone is in the middle. Please come forward. -Shauna Manning
from UMass Boston. I wanted to ask Kristiana, when
is your new book coming out? -Thank you for that question. -I wasn’t planted here. -I’m not sure. I’m not finished with it yet. This year at Radcliffe has
been an incredible year of working on it. So I’m hoping in a few
years it’ll be done. I’m hoping soon. -Soon? You mean like years, though? -Yeah. Yeah, I know. So, it takes about
two years to get a book published from the moment
your editor gets what you think is the final manuscript,
and then the edits, and then the everything else. So I’d love to be done
with it a year from now. And then that’s
another two years till it’s on your local
indie bookstore’s bookshelf. Thank you. -OK. Thank you, all. I really enjoyed all
of your presentations. -Hi. My name is Shelby [? Anelwni ?]. I’m Kanaka Maoli. I’m born and raised
from California, so that really
resonated with me. I just graduated from
Wellesley College last year. My question is more so for
native students, I guess and for me speaking,
being Kanaka Maoli and going to a college where
there is no native presence. But coming in as Kanaka, and
how hard that was for me to like integrate. Because I feel like that
story is really removed. And I really appreciate
you taking photos. I’m really curious on
your creative process when you were going through
undergrad and even grad school, how writing or whatever
that was that helped you get through all
those painful times or feeling like an outcast. -Yeah. That’s a lot. First of– [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] –on your graduation. And second of all, at
Princeton I wasn’t myself. I mean, I was myself, but
I didn’t know who I was. And so those years–
what that was about to me was getting a lot
of inputs and trying on a lot of different selves. And none of them fit. And it was really uncomfortable,
and it was really hard. I am very grateful to
my parents and my family for sending me there. Because you learn
a lot when you’re uncomfortable for so long. I’m also really
grateful for going to Michigan, where I finally
found people who knew really how to teach me to be me
and not be afraid of that. I think that’s something
with Matika’s images, with Frank’s songs. I’m really jealous. I am actually like the
oldest of the three of us. I’m never the oldest
in a group of people. I’m always the baby. But today I’m the oldest. And I bring that up
because I think I’m really, in some ways, jealous. But that’s really
a deep admiration for them knowing themselves
sooner than I did. And so Michigan,
again, was the place again that I found teachers. I found teachers who
were going to teach me how to be me in this big world
and who were going to support me, and they still do, to be
an indigenous person, a Kanaka Maoli. Wherever I was, even
if I wasn’t on island. -Thank you. -Thank you. -Hi my name is [? Yvonne ?]
[? Yi. ?] I’m a graduate student here, and I study
Korean and Native American oral traditions and literature. Thank you so much,
Tiana, and Matika, for your beautiful and
very moving presentations. This question is
actually for Matika. I was just so amazed that
you have undergone this epic journey to 562
plus, now, nations. And I wanted to ask
how important is it for you to physically travel
to each of these places to do your work? -I think it’s really important
that we meet people in spaces where they feel comfortable. And for me, the reason for
going to people’s places because I am trying
really hard to practice indigenous photography methods. Which is, as a
photographer, we don’t ask how I can advance my own
career with somebody else’s image, or how I can sell
somebody else’s agenda. But rather, how can I make
myself useful to the people that I’m photographing? And when I arrive
in a new place, the reason I go to their place
is because it’s their place, and I get to be the guest. And I ask them, How would
you like to be photographed? And where would you
like to be photographed? Where do you feel
most comfortable? What best tells your story? Yesterday, we talked about it. Where would you have
your portrait made? And I think for
our people, that’s within our indigenous homelands,
our indigenous territories. And it’s important that I make
myself available in that way. Yeah. -Thank you. -Hello my name is
Elaine Breslow, and I am just blown away. I feel such hope, such
gratitude, such emotion to find the next
generation doing something, moving our conversation
closer to change. Not just in legislation, which
we heard a lot about today, but in human contact
and conversation. And there is a lot out
there through culture, through art, I think, that moves
us one step closer in a way that all the other
avenues do not. And you’ve clearly
demonstrated that. I hope that Frank
and each of you reach out to the Upstander
Project and Dawnland, two films that are in
post-production now, for your voices to
chime in on that. And just hope that
everyone here knows that there’s something
each and every one of us can do just by attending
things like this and listening to your work. So thank you. -Thank you, everybody. I want to remind everyone
here that Matika Wilbur has an exhibition going on
right now in Byerly Hall. It’s two buildings over. If you have not yet had
a chance to look at it, we encourage you to do so. It is open today, and it
be open until May 28th. We are– guess what?–
almost back on time. So we’re going to
take a 10 minute break and come back for our last
and final panel, which is all, again, hella cool. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC PLAYING]

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