Monday, October 9, 2017

We Are Still Here: A Celebration!

Happy Indigenous Peoples Day!
Indigenous Peoples Day Blog Series (1 of 5) By Guest Blogger Rykelle Kemp, Indigenous Metalsmith/Printmaker & Business Owner
I've been asked by the Pueblo Grande Museum to say a few words about the great commemoration event that Phoenix unanimously voted on and passed last October: Indigenous Peoples Day. I'm thrilled and excited about what this means for our indigenous community, how many more discussions we can have about different issues and how many doors it will open for us to share our community with anyone and everyone. It is so important for us to be recognized. Not only because the city of Phoenix itself is built on native land, literally; we still use the canal systems that the Hohokam people so intelligently engineered to sustain life in this desert metropolis. Arizona also holds within its state lines, over 22 different Tribal nations, so it only makes sense Phoenix has decided to celebrate all these diverse cultures. We gain on this day attention to our voice which enables us to share our stories and to make people aware that we are still here. We are keeping our traditions alive and thriving. We are Artists, Teachers, Entrepreneurs, Leaders, Story Tellers, Builders, Cultivators, Mothers, Fathers, Sisters, Brothers, Keepers of our culture and Mother Earth. 

I grew up here in Phoenix and was raised in an artistic family. My father Randy Kemp, painter/printmaker, and mother Beverly, instilled in me the love of my heritage and the idea of community. I spent my younger years tagging along to art shows experiencing the beauty of different tribes and feeling the connection through our shared historical narratives. Seeing and learning how these artists kept their culture going using traditional techniques but also utilizing modern ones was so eye opening. The need to retain and continue to evolve my culture led me to expression through art. I knew I wanted to be a part of that growth, to help share my culture. 

There has always been a struggle to be native and be an artist. In inner-city schools like the ones I attended, Native Americans were always so misrepresented, we were kind of like a myth on our own land. We were taught how this land was “discovered" and I remember how perplexed I felt, being a young native girl. I’m so happy we have gotten to a point in time that we have a day commemorating us as a people. Through all the hardships we have endured over the past 500 plus years of being colonized and forced to assimilate we come out the other side stronger and more resilient than anyone thought. My people have always struggled for a voice and this Indigenous Peoples Day helps to perpetuate that recognition. Hopefully, one day it will be nationwide. I am so, so, so proud to call myself Indigenous.

Now, I encourage YOU to go out there and start a conversation. Come to the art shows, come to our museums, come to our gatherings. 

I was curious to see what my fellow Indigenous artists, activists, and community leaders had to say about this day. So I asked them to write down words that express their thoughts and feelings. Here are a few:
“Indigenous Peoples Day...’Celebration of Culture’. Our continuous fight of oppression, remembrance of cultural history and the perseverance of life with Mother Earth.”- Randy Kemp, award winning fine art-painter/printmaker, Native American flute player in the band Artificial Red, community leader, Mvskoke-Creek/Euchee & Choctaw
“Strength, resilience, culture”- Dr. Traci Morris, Director at American Indian Policy Institute & owner of Homahota Consulting LLC, member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma
“Gathering, celebration and ceremony.”- Zarco Guerrero, Xicano-Indio sculptor, mask maker and performance artist.
“WE'RE. STILL. HERE!!!”- A. Thompson, artist/painter, Diné (Navajo)
"Past... Present... Future... ...” - Randy L. Barton, Multi-disciplined artist, designer, dancer, DJ, live performance painter & music producer. Diné (Navajo)
“Educate. Resist. Unite.” - Alvin Bitsue, A.I.M. Central Arizona Director, activist, community leader. Diné (Navajo)
“Change, Unify, Culture. I also see our people as STRONG, ORIGINAL, RESILIENT and an HONOR to be who we are.” - Missy Mahan, Tattoo Artist/Painter. Mvskoke-Creek & Tohono O' Odham
“Reconnection Day... Education... Reciting our Purpose Day - Earth Day... Bring our Children home day... get your a** out of our resources day. Red Dress Day. Day of Hearing our Voice... our music...our dances...RECLAIM day!!”- Pure Fé, Artist, Activist and founding member of the internationally renowned native woman’s a capella trio, ‘Ulali’, an heir to the Tuscarora Indian Nation
“Educate reclaim rejoice”- Patricia Hibbeler. CEO at Phoenix Indian Center. Salish & Kootenai.
"Connection through voices"... we must speak up, speak out and tell our story... then become a part of the transformation… - Eunique Yazzie, Board Member at Emerging Arts Leaders PHX, Designer, Story-teller. Diné (Navajo)
“Tradition, Perseverance, Adaptation” - Ryan Singer, is an award-winning professional artist. Diné (Navajo)

With Love and Respect

Rykelle Kemp 

Mvskoke-Creek/Euchee, Diné & Choctaw. Indigenous Metalsmith/Printmaker and owner of: The Wooden Nickel Collective. to learn more.

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