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IllumiNative is helping to reclaim Indigenous narrative at Santa Fe Indian Market

Abeyta/Allison
Wes Cunningham
/
Instagram @shooting4balance
Tony Abeyta, Orlando Allison, and Abeyta's dog "Boy" posing with their latest collaboration piece for "Indigenous futures."

Indigenous artists are taking control of how they're being portrayed in the media and reclaiming their own narratives of Indian country. This weekend, social justice organization IllumiNative is gathering some of the biggest names in Native art and culture for an event at Santa Fe Indian Market.

Santa Fe Indian Market is celebrating its centennial this year, but many Native artists are looking to the future.

An event called “Indigenous Futures: Envisioning the Next 100 Years” will celebrate Native American representation, leadership, and vision. Award-winning Chemehuevi artist Cara Romero, who creates vivid photographic depictions of modern Native life, is curating this experiential event.

"It’s really about how Native people and Native artists have been working for a very long time on storytelling and representation in the arts, and really in the world at large," said Romero. "[This is] bringing us from static and historic and bygone representations into the present."

In addition to visual artists, guests will include actor Amber Midthunder and producer Jhane Myers from the movie Prey and screenwriters from the Hulu show Reservation Dogs.

IllumiNative founder Crystal Echo Hawk, of the Pawnee tribe, says that the racial and social justice organization is led by Native women who are dedicated to amplifying Native voices, stories, and issues through representation.

"It's about reclaiming our narrative, it's about reclaiming our power as Native peoples and not just Indian market. It's so much bigger than that," she said.

The organization was approached by the Southwest Association of American Indian Arts, which runs Indian Market, to partner on this event.

"For so much of Santa Fe Indian Market’s history, I think Native peoples have often just been reduced and objectified to kind of pretty beautiful things that are collected," said Echo Hawk. "Instead of being living breathing parts of our manifestations of our culture and the way we see the world and that we’re human beings."

Diné painter Tony Abeyta worked with up-and-coming Hopi artist Orlando Allison on a three dimensional sculpture totem for the event.

"So it's got four sides to it and then we created arrows which penetrated it so it's almost like a porcupine pin cushion, he said. "We've created a work of art to stimulate dialogue. The sculpture itself is richly brightly colored with everything from beating drums, it really emanates with sound."

Abeyta and Allison wanted to speak to the current challenges Native people face.

"We're making and creating art but we're also like, having conversations about great many things we were talking about, like 'What is the market? Who are we making art for? For ourselves? For a marketplace? For community?,'" Abeyta said. "Those conversations become the stimulus for creating things. We are expressing ourselves through art, but also through community." 

He says the contemporary art world is celebrating and including Native art more often these days.

"It's insanely exciting to watch how museums and curators are now saying we need to improve our collection of contemporary Native American art," Abeyta said. "So museums across the country are like flocking to Santa Fe, to say, we need to acquire and get new works of art in our collection by Native American artists."

Abeyta says this new found interest was not there even five years ago and he sees this as progress.

"We have control over our agency, we also have this ability that no other culture has here in the United States. And that is to tell the story of a connection, to source, to spirit, to land, to community,"

IllumiNative’s founder Echo Hawk wants to facilitate more of these conversations about the future of this expression.

"I think it's just the appropriate time with celebrating an anniversary to create a space for for joy, right? For connection, for inspiration, but also to have some serious conversations about what the future holds."

She says she wants to know what Indigenous people should do to manifest the future they need and this weekend is certainly a positive step towards it.

"Indigenous Futures: Envisioning the Next 100 Years”
will be at the La Fonda hotel in Santa Fe, NM on Saturday and Sunday. Partners on the event include Southwest Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA), Sundance Institute, and Urban Native Era.

In addition to works from featured artist, Cara Romero, there will be art from the following people:

  • Cara Romero (Chemehuevi)
  • Diego Romero (Cochiti Pueblo)
  • Mateo Romero (Cochiti Pueblo)
  • Povi Romero (Pojoaque Pueblo)
  • Rose Simpson (Santa Clara Pueblo)
  • Dyani Whitehawk Polk (Sicangu Lakota)
  • Kaa Folwell (Santa Clara Pueblo)
  • Natalie Ball (Klamath/Modoc)
  • Micah Wesley (Mvskoke/Kiowa)
  • Terran Last Gun (Piikani Nation)
  • Leah Mata-Fragua (Northern Chumash)
  • Geo Neptune (Passamaquoddy)
  • Adrian Standing Elk Pinnecoose (Navajo/Southern Ute)
  • Cannupa Hanska Luger (Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara-Lakota)
  • George Alexander (Mvskoke)
  • Tony Abeyta (Navajo)
  • Orlando Allison (Hopi)
  • Fawn Douglas (Las Vegas Paiute)
  • Daniel McCoy Jr. (Mvskoke/Citezen Band Potowatomie)
  • River Garza (Tongva)
  • Nani Chacon (Diné)
Jeanette DeDios is from the Jicarilla Apache and Diné Nations and grew up in Albuquerque, NM. She recently graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2022 where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Journalism, English and Film. She’s currently a part of the Local News Fund Fellowship where she will be working with KUNM-FM and NMPBS during her 9-month fellowship where she will gain hands-on newsroom experience. Jeanette can be contacted at jeanettededios@kunm.org or via Twitter @JeanetteDeDios.
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