Victor Pascual is the owner of Digital Navajo, a full service creative studio that was created to serve the Indigenous peoples of North America and beyond. I interviewed Victor to get his thoughts on Native American Heritage month and where design in the Native community is heading. Each week during the month of November, you can read these interviews on the NATIVE(X) blog. (Part three of a six part series.)
Mac: What does Native American Heritage month mean to you?
Victor Pascual: Well it’s something that I don’t spend much time talking about because for me, Native American Heritage month is everyday thing. But I guess it’s better to have a month than no month, right?
Mac: Okay. In terms of exposing Native American Heritage and what’s going on in the present, do you think it is important that we have a month like Black History Month that receives attention from the media and school curriculum?
Victor Pascual: Well, I think the question is strange because America was founded on Native land. People should be aware of Native Americans on a daily basis. It’s strange to say, “Hey, let’s have a Native American Day.”
Mac: You said that people should have an understanding on daily basis instead of making it just a special month celebration. It makes complete sense. But realistically Americans don’t think about it on a regular basis and Native American Heritage month could be an opportunity for Native communities to tell their story. How do you get from where we are today to where we could be in terms of awareness and acknowledgement?
Victor Pascual: Well, I think a lot of this goes back to participation coming from our communities. As Natives, it’s our role to educate people outside our communities. It’s also great to challenge those stereotypes and prove wrong those who doubt. I think a long-term change requires our efforts to begin at the individual level.
Mac: When you say individual, are you talking about the Native community acknowledging history and moving forward?
Victor Pascual: Yes, absolutely. We need to tell our own stories. “Hey, this is who we are.”
Mac: Going back to Native American Heritage month, do you think it could be done in a different way? How would you educate non-Natives during Native American Heritage month? I realize that you said that it should be an everyday thought, but given what we have, what could people do or how could you see the month being a better way to celebrate Native-American Heritage?
Victor Pascual: Within the classrooms? This is probably a good place to begin.
Mac: So, how would you say you are personally moving forward and making a change and how you’re inspiring others?
Victor Pascual: The work I do is focused in Indian Country. I’m partnered in a design studio that works with Tribal governments, non-profits/foundations and small businesses, all of which work to serve our communities. I’d like to think that the work I do as a graphic designer inspires others. When you do the research, you’ll find that hardly any professional full-service design/creative agencies are Native-owned and run. We’re non-existent, almost. I hope to see more of us out there doing great work!
Mac: How do you see the next generation of influencers or creators in the Native community developing? It’s inspired to see what you are doing.
Victor Pascual: I can only speak for my line of work, but I certainly see a lot more people taking up design as a career and trying to find ways to work in Indian Country. There are challenges of course, but with people like Ryan Red Corn and myself, our efforts prove that it is possible to make a living doing what we love while working for our own people. I guess in a way, we’re paving the roads and in the process, providing inspiration for aspiring designers and creatives.
Mac: So, do you feel like there’s more opportunity for youth in the Native community compared to 20 years ago?
Victor Pascual: Yeah, for sure. Well, absolutely there are more opportunities. I think the largest factor in creating these opportunities is technology. You have kids on and off the reservation who have smart phones which allow them access to Facebook and Twitter. With this type of access, youth are able to do things I never had the opportunity of doing while I was growing up on the rez.
I see a lot of youth taking initiative and creating their own opportunities. If they get bored, they get creative and make things happen and it’s certainly easier to do this with reliable communication tools.
Mac: Are there any initiatives that you know to increase the speed of smartphone adoption or it’s pretty much set?
Victor Pascual: I can only speak for campaign initiatives geared for connected youth using an interactive experience. One of the last projects that I worked on is this website for youth. It’s designed for youth interaction. It’s kind of like a Facebook for youth that focuses on health and fitness, health and wellness. The website is WeRNative.com.
Mac: What are your goals on 2013?
Victor Pascual: Presently, I’m leaving Seattle and moving back to the Southwest. I’ve been in Seattle for almost eight years and have known that I would move back, I just wasn’t sure of when. The big goal for 2013 is to reassess what my vision is for my business. It’s time to expand and grow. I’ve been telling a lot of folks that Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is where I’ll be moving to, is a stepping stone to something larger. I think that there’s a potential opportunity there for collaboration along with building up our client-base. Since I’m also from the region, it’s also a goal to work with my tribe.