Besides working with artists to tell their story and market their designs to a larger audience, NATIVE(X) helps educate a US population that is largely unaware of Native history and contemporary life. As a non-native, I don’t intend to tell this story, but instead I plan to create a medium for Natives to gain exposure and make an impact on someone who otherwise wouldn’t be aware of of these topics.
Since starting NATIVE(X) three years ago, I’ve spoken with a variety of people about the project. Through these discussions, I’ve slowly started to understand Native culture and the historical injustices that continue to impact their current lifestyle. “Slowly started” are the key words in this statement. I am in no way an expert on any of these topics, but I am starting to form my own opinions on some of the complex issues many Natives deal with today.
My first lesson was understanding the importance of recognizing and acknowledging the different tribal cultures that represent Native America. Imagine doing a road trip through Europe and simply acknowledging everyone you met as European, nothing else, no country or city affiliation. Sure, they are Europeans, but wouldn’t they appreciate it if you knew about their country, their language, and their customs?
Short story: Over the holidays about three years ago, I was working on a clothing project that eventually morphed into the NATIVE(X) you see today. I was sitting at the computer, my Facebook page was humming along with comments on these cool shorts and I was feeling dang good about MY creation.
I then noticed a comment in caps lock from an unfamiliar name. Caleb Dunlap (Anishinabe from the Lake Superior Band of Ojibwe) and I exchanged some heated Facebook messages. We touched on everything from exploitation of Native design to Native culture taking on many forms depending on tribe and region.
Caleb and I reconnected last year and now talk regularly, but our conversation (or argument depending on how you look at it) helped spawn a new era for NATIVE(X). The pre-Caleb and the post-Caleb (as we joke) NATIVE(X) look similar in mission, but are worlds apart in understanding. Thanks, Caleb, for waking me up.
Over the past three years I’ve made my mistakes, but instead of giving up, I’ve used them to build on and improve the NATIVE(X) concept. Whether they know it or not, many individuals have been involved with shaping the NATIVE(X) concept. Thank you
Update 9/17/12. Caleb’s response to this post.