The NDN Covid-19 Response Project Learn more

Josué Rivas · April 5, 2019

What Does it Mean to Build Indigenous Power?

Six fierce Indigenous voices weigh in

What does it mean to build Indigenous power? Josué Rivas, Mexica and Otomi visual storyteller and educator, asked six Indigenous people to answer this question. Here is what they had to say:

Isabella Zizi, Northern Cheyenne, Arikara, Muskogee Creek

Isabella Zizi, Northern Cheyenne, Arikara, Muskogee Creek. Photo by Josué Rivas

“Building indigenous power means to acknowledge the original peoples of the lands that we occupy, acknowledge and respect Indigenous leadership, and hold on to traditions, ceremonies and practices to pass to the generations that come after us. When we keep our traditions alive, we keep our spirits alive. This how we will continue to grow power within ourselves.”

Elizabeth Hoover, Mohawk/Mi’kmaq

Elizabeth Hoover, Mohawk/Mi’kmaq. Photo by Josué Rivas

“Building Indigenous power requires reclaiming health, culture and language through supporting, rebuilding and engaging with traditional food systems – heritage seeds, and traditions of gathering, hunting, fishing, growing, processing, cooking, and sharing. It also requires rebuilding the social and family structures that are required to support and maintain these foods systems.”

Ral Christman, Kumeyaay

Ral Christman, Kumeyaay. Photo by Josué Rivas

“It is the recognition of power we already possess, a power given to us by the creator. It is continued actualization of that power as we help our future generations understand and perpetuate it. True power is the balance our ancestors were experts of living in. Our  teachings add logs to the fire our Creator placed in each one of us. “Howka” the fire within.”

Joey Montoya, Lipan Apache band of Texas

Joey Montoya, Lipan Apache band of Texas. Photo by Josué Rivas

“Building Indigenous power to me is holding space. Whether it’s through ceremony on Alcatraz or coordinating Indigenous musical artists performing at an Apple store, to even Native students gathering on a college campus. When we allow ourselves to enter these spaces we are reclaiming who we are as Indigenous peoples.”  

Norm Sands, Yaqui/Apache

Norm Sands, Yaqui/Apache. Photo by Josué Rivas

“Building Indigenous power to me means honoring our life givers. Being humble enough to realize that women are our power. Decolonize our minds, smash patriarchy. Lift up and stand beside our women warriors who are leading and protecting the sacred web of life.”

Calina Lawrence, Suquamish

Calina Lawrence, Suquamish. Photo by Josué Rivas

“Building Indigenous power means evaluating the current power dynamics that exist and dismantling the hierarchies in place that do not serve all beings morally. Once we reclaim our relationships with ourselves, others and other beings, then we will have the liberation to eliminate unnecessary suffering and provide space for the things that do serve us, mother Earth’s children.”    


Josué Rivas
Josué Rivas

Josué Rivas (Mexica/Otomi) is a visual storyteller and educator working at the intersection of art, journalism, and social justice. He seeks to challenge the mainstream narrative about Indigenous Peoples, build awareness about Indigenous issues and be a visual messenger for those in the shadows of society. Josué is a 2017 Magnum Foundation Photography and Social Justice Fellow, founder of the Standing Strong Project, co-founder of Natives Photograph and winner of the 2018 FotoEvidence Book Award with World Press Photo. He is based in Portland, OR.

Loading
April 2020 Edition

Stay Informed. Take Action.
Subscribe to the NDN allies newsletter

Sign up to get our newsletter. Delivered once per month.

We care about the protection of your data and would never sell your email or share it with anyone without your permission.

Recently published on NDN

Posted 5 months ago Alcatraz Canoe Journey: Honoring 50 Years of Indigenous Resistance and Persistence

Jade Begay

"If we work to reframe Alcatraz as a symbol for Indigenous sovereignty and reposition it in people’s psyche that way, it could be a very powerful thing, especially for people who are so often forgotten overlooked and marginalized like Natives in America."
Posted 1 day ago NDN Collective Announces $10 Million COVID-19 Response Project for Indigenous People
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: NDN COVID-19 Response Project provides grants, communication and strategic support to Indigenous people.
Posted 3 weeks ago NDN Collective on COVID-19: A Time for Spiritual Fortitude
We encourage all of our relatives throughout Turtle Island and beyond to take every precaution to protect yourselves, your loved ones, families, and entire communities.
Posted 4 weeks ago Decolonizing Community Care in Response to COVID-19

Jade Begay

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic responsibly, Indigenously
Posted 1 month ago Becoming Adzaan: The Gift of Diné Womanhood

Jaclyn Roessel

An International Women's Day reflection on the power of Adzaanhood.
Posted 1 month ago In Praise of NDN Women: An International Women's Day Tribute
In order to build holistic solutions, wisdom and values carried by women and matriarchs must be front and center. NDN Collective is proud to have a staff and board that consist primarily of women.
Posted 2 months ago The Academy Was Made for White Men: Here's How Taika Waititi Made a Difference

Jade Begay

During the 2020 Oscars on Sunday night, there were sure moments that not only broke the status quo, but allowed lights of hope to shine into a space that largely upholds institutional racism and sexism.
Posted 2 months ago Governor Noem Makes Second Attempt to Criminalize Peaceful Protest in South Dakota
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Feb 10, 2020 MEDIA CONTACT: Janna Farley, jfarley@aclu.org or 605-366-7732 Gov. Kristi Noem’s second attempt at a “riot boosting” law is an unnecessary effort to legislate peaceful protest in South Dakota. The ACLU of South Dakota opposes House Bill…
Posted 4 months ago Announcing the Inaugural Cohort of NDN Changemaker Fellows
The 20 NDN Changemakers are Indigenous leaders from throughout Turtle Island and beyond who are radically transforming Indigenous communities.
Posted 4 months ago Acknowledging the Winter Solstice is a Decolonial Act for Indigenous People

Sarah Sunshine Manning

The winter solstice is an opportunity for Indigenous people to reconnect to the natural world, sharpen our senses, and access our most powerful selves.
Posted 4 months ago Return of Nimiipuu Dugout Canoe Renews Canoe Culture Among Chief Joseph's People

Joe Whittle

Canoe culture is one of the essential elements that kept relationships between the Nimiipuu and other Indigenous peoples of the Columbia River watershed strong for thousands of years.

United like never before, we rise together—arm in arm—to equip all Indigenous Peoples with the tools needed to become architects of our future.

© 2020 NDN Collective. All rights reserved.