Our conference in Albuquerque focused on narratives and how they shape meaning.
Students and scholars from across the United States and Canada—most of them tribal members—delivered thoughtful presentations about how meanings are created in photographs, cartoons, internet games, news media, films and artworks.
Topics ranged from Curtis’ Indian images held forever in sepia tones and my studies of how western science opposes Indian cultural beliefs when skeletal remains attract scientists who want to study our ancestors.
A fellow academic noted that, on her campus, a group of anthropology students held a Cowboy and Indian bash, where the women paired faux Indian costumes with scant clothing, and posted their shenanigans on Facebook.
Indian students on campus were appalled.
Rather than shaming the students, they began a poster campaign on campus to draw attention to stereotypes.
Black, Asian, Latino and American Indian students posed for the photos that grace the posters like the one pictured above.
The posters draw attention to ways we—all of us—engage in stereotyping.
One highlight of the conference was a poetry reading by Luci Tapahonso, poet laureate of the Navajo nation.
Tapahonso read poems that warmed the rooms with her memories of growing up in Shiprock, stories about her mother, and a tale about an Indian cowboy called Raisin Eyes.
Her poems sounded like stories rather than the patter of words so thick and bloated you can’t understand their meaning.
But her words were as clear and clean: a pleasure for the ear.
I close today’s blog with my second poem for 30 days, in honor of this stunning Dine writer.
Blue jewelry like the azure sky
Warms her chest while
The poet warms our hearts
With stories of dogs and trucks and coffee.
Rez life comes alive.