Sunday, October 16, 2011

State of the native- revered and ignored

     As you may or may not know the Native American population is high in the Southwest. I don't know the statistics, but everywhere you go there are full-blooded natives embracing their heritage. I am curious about why there are so many natives that practice native traditions there, and around here, where there were just as many native people, it's more common to find 1/8 Cherokees with no clue to traditions. Or people who say they are native, but have no idea what tribe or how far back.
     Sure, you can go to a reservation and see the dances and visit the museum. But over there you can meet a Native in a bar that is studying atomic interactions and in his spare time preparing the fruit pies for Feast Day. Not really. Men don't prepare the fruit pies. But you get my point. Why did the natives there maintain traditions and here- not so much?
     Part of it may be that here we have not celebrated the culture much. In New Mexico, there are beautiful celebrations of the native cultures every where. There are tons of museums to honor culture, art and heritage. Even more important than that, the culture is honored in everyday life. All of the bridges and noise blocking walls on the highways are painted to match the adobe homes and have native designs like the roadrunner and Kokopelli painted on them. Any building you go into is decorated with Native crafts like baskets and woven blankets. Find me anything like that here. I challenge you. And "Cherokee National Park" doesn't count. It has to honor in more than just name.
     While Natives have a revered place in society and traditions are maintained in New Mexico, that is not saying that all is well. Far From it. The reservations are plagued by alcoholism. I know, it is a stereotype, but there is truth to it. One big problem there is Native people freezing to death on reservations because they have drank to much and not gone inside. Drinking, Meth and gambling are major issues. I could go into the root causes of poverty on the reservation due to lagging schooling system and lingering cultural isolation (despite the more recent efforts). But I won't. You can look that up.
     As you may or may not have known, I was hoping to have some kind of artistic inspiration or revelation out there. I did not get any of that from the modern artist over there. I manage to find some inspiration and new ideas from native art. The farther back you go (preferably before European contact) the more interesting it is. Designs, simplification, making the normal sacred- it pushed me in a new direction. Once I get some stuff made, you will see what I mean.

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