At the at the 20th Annual Brave New Voices International Poetry Slam Festival in San Francisco earlier this month, there were three-minute poetry performances by 600 young poets from around the world that were all at once heart-breaking, angry, angst-ful, joyful, and hopeful. There was loud music, dancing, high fives and other expressions of love and support across the room before the bouts began. There were chants of “You fly,” “Art not ego,” “Don’t be nice, be nasty,” and “Go poet,” along with finger snaps, “mmmmm’s” of approval and lots more loud music before, during and after the bouts.
Apartment cleared out and belongings packed into her “war pony,” Matika Wilbur (Swinomish/Tulalip) set out on an epic adventure to capture the tenacity, richness, and contemporary beauty of every tribe in the United States. “Matika” means “messenger” in her tribal language, and she is living up to her name through Project 562. Her goal is to photograph positive indigenous role models and shift the narrative in mass media from stereotypical to true representations of Native people today.
Some call it Native Americana. A master storyteller in music, Cary Morin (Crow/Assiniboine) weaves a tapestry of words, styles, and soul into an experience that brings life full circle. His sound is a product of every musician he’s worked with or listened to. He’s a musician with something to say, and he knows how to sing it with his gritty, lived-in voice and nimble yet soulful finger style acoustic guitar picking.
Through this series, we highlight the extraordinary people who serve as First Peoples Fund’s board of directors. They are the culture bearers and leaders from national nonprofits within and beyond Indian Country who graciously guide First Peoples Fund and strengthen the Collective Spirit®.
An international award winning artist, Ron Martinez Looking Elk is a traditional potter from Isleta and Taos Pueblos in New Mexico. A graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts, his expertise includes 20 years of community and leadership development, specializing in building sustainable economic development in Indigenous communities globally. Ron has worked and trained with Indigenous artists, leaders, and organizers from many countries including New Zealand, Japan, Greece, South Korea, Africa, Bolivia, Peru and with tribes throughout the U.S.
Anna Brown Ehlers remembers the moment when she first dreamed of becoming a Chilkat weaver. She was four, Alaska had just become a state, and her uncle was dancing in his traditional Chilkat blanket during a community celebration.
“I saw that beautiful design and those rich colors. I watched the fringe gracefully moving back and forth as my uncle danced, and I knew I hoped I could do that someday,” she said.
Fifty-eight years later, Anna has been recognized as among the country’s foremost artists by the National Endowment for the Arts through a National Heritage Fellowship. The awards were announced in June. In 2001, First Peoples Fund honored Anna through a Community Spirit Award for her work to revitalize and pass on Chilkat weaving, an art form that was nearly lost in her lifetime.
First Peoples Fund traveled to the Colville Indian Reservation for a visit with partner Northwest Native Development Fund earlier this month. We held a meeting with community artists to learn more about what they need and what is happening across Indian Country to raise awareness of the importance of honoring and supporting Native artists and culture bearers. Jesse Utz, a writer for The Star in Grand Coulee, Wash., attended. Here's his story about the powerful connections and the breakthrough he made at the meeting.
Move around the room, change the pace, make eye contact, don’t make eye contact. Feel the emotion — anger, sadness, joy. Where is it coming from? What part of you? Allow it to move you.
Movement exercises at a recent poetry retreat showed the poets’ dedication and their willingness to be uncomfortable — in a good way — and put themselves into every word.
Now they are ready to travel to San Francisco
Through a two-year Youth Speaks Future Corp Fellowship at First Peoples Fund, Laree Pourier (Oglala Lakota) leads the Dances with Words program and is helping broaden young people’s experiences and their understanding of themselves — identity, oppression, and resistance. When these young Natives go to the Youth Speaks sponsored poetry slam, Brave New Voices (BNV), they hear young people from all over the world talking about the same issues.
A mosaic of memories, the way the mind protects from pains of the past. Tanaya Winder (Duckwater Shoshone Tribe) knows someone has to dive headfirst into this muck and darkness to bring forth hope and beauty. She pieces together memories to answer questions in life, to re-member and to explore healing words through poetry. She writes from a place of love.