This November, we celebrate Indigenous people’s rich history and contributions as we work to shift a narrative of historical inaccuracies and promote equity and cultural empowerment through a Native lens. The work we do at the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) intentionally supports artist and community-driven projects to create positive social change for American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native people in the U.S. This year, we supported 35 Native artists through our SHIFT and LIFT programs, whose work will bring increased attention to Native communities through partnerships and public programming. While many of these artists are well established in their careers, our support and professional development of early-career artists cultivates long-term artistic and cultural heritage within Native communities.
Our goal is simple: uplift Native voices and let art be a catalyst for transformative change in society. How do we do this? We let the artists speak for themselves! One example is Emily Johnson’s (Yup’ik) SHIFT project in collaboration with New York Live Arts. The project, “Being Future Being” is a dance performance/process which asks audiences to consider stories with the power to sustain a world that must begin again. From desires for radically just Indigenized futures emerges an inquiry into community processes flowing forward from performance. Johnson is a dancer, choreographer, and performance artist who believes performance is an integral part of our connection to each other, a reflection of the power and beauty of America’s enduring Indigenous cultures.
“It’s the arts that carry the spirit of a people. We need what the arts offer: dynamic, energetic life forms that give immediate and timeless shape and voice to the journey of the individual and collective soul. If we are to survive, even thrive, it will be because we take care of the arts, nourish our cultures, and build the foundation of Indigenous humanities. If this country is to integrate spiritually, creatively, and profoundly, we must nourish the roots. There is no America without Native nations, arts, cultures, languages, and humanities. Without the acknowledgment and inclusion of Indigenous roots, a land—a country—is unmoored, without stability.”—Excerpt from the keynote address at the Native Arts and Culture: Resilience, Reclamation, and Relevance convening by NACF Board Chair Joy Harjo (Mvskoke), 2020.