Arts showcase highlights Indigenous culture


Photo of Karlyle Stephens
Karlyle Stephens
Mesa Legend

For 10 years, Hokam,  a mascot inspired from the Hohokam tribe, was the symbol of spirit for MCC.  That time couldn’t  possibly match the spirit of indigenous  pride brought to the campus back on thursday March 5th.   Students might have missed out on something real if they were too busy or too cool to check it out.  Occupied in the clock tower lawn on this day was a mini festival complete with live concerts, dance, shops,  jewelry, crafts, and food from a current generation of indigenous americans.   Several artists   at the event travelled over from all parts of the country.  Artists and students who participated in the event shared their take on the current state of racial affairs in America as it pertains to indigenous people.

The tone of the event was set immediately after Rudy Smith, founder of  “Can’t Fail”, shared how he supports his culture through his business while speaking outside of his clothing booth which was set up at the event.   Rudy said he is proud of his native heritage, but fears the possibility of current and future generations becoming completely out of touch with the languages, customs, and most importantly the history of indigenous peoples.  He  said he considers his use of apparel as a way to appeal to the youth and to “get them interested in what happened.”  On one shirt in his collection, portraits along with a list of infamous warriors and chiefs appear under the label “Original Department of Homeland Security”.  Its a clever fashion statement. One that provides  a brief but straight forward history lesson for the youth, and everyone else who may have forgot, or just always been unaware of the original inhabitants of this land and how it was taken from them.

Woman dressed in traditional Native American clothing.
A performer gives two thumbs up during the MCC Indigenous Arts Showcase on March 5.
Tania Ritko / Mesa Legend

After Smith’s discussion, a rap duo called Shining Souls were finishing their set on stage.  The group use hip-hop as an avenue to express the voices of the most marginalized group in America.  One member who goes by the stage name Bronze Candidate, has more of a Mexican heritage, and said their music also connects with immigrant Mexicans who currently deal with the struggle of being racially profiled.  The other rapper in the group, Liaizon, is from the Tohono O’odham Nation, and explained the lyrics in their song that states “young gifted and red, indians ain’t dead”.  “A lot of times people think we are not even here, or nonexistent,” Liaison said.

During the event, there was a sense that this is the key struggle of native american people today: visibility.  The physical dislocation that occurred after possession of their land got translated into obscurity in terms of identity in popular culture. Left only with professional sport clubs to represent the face and spirit of their rich culture.  A traditional native dancer named Lady Yazzie best summed up everyone’s sentiments regarding the name change of NFL’s Washington Redskins.  After giving horrific details about the origins of the name, she said its a “derogatory term that didn’t come from us”. Lady Yazzie  said she sees it as another form of genocide.

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These are archived stories from Mesa Legend editions before Fall 2018. See article for corresponding author.

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