Tribal advocates are discussing the need to advance the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as the Mountain West News Bureau’s Robyn Vincent reports.
Advocates say it’s a human rights imperative. The declaration recognizes Native peoples’ survival and self-determination, their land and culture, and political participation. Countries such as Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand are taking steps to implement it. Tribal leaders and advocates here say it’s time for the U.S. to do the same. For example, they want the government to have closer consultation with tribes on key issues.
Attorney Walter Echo-Hawk is a member of the Pawnee Nation. He says the Obama administration endorsed the declaration in 2010, but there’s been little movement since.
“We have no national plan here in the U.S. to attempt to implement the declaration and the Biden administration appears strangely silent on the implementation effort here.”
Echo-Hawk points out the federal government is investing billions in protecting the rights of Ukrainians. He wants to see similar measures enacted here to protect Indigenous peoples.
This spring in the southwest Alaska region of Bristol Bay, the Traditional Council of New Stuyahok partnered on a program that connects rural communities with Alaska Native artists. KDLG’s Izzy Ross talked with one of those artists who wants to help people use art to heal.
Danielle Larsgaard, a commercial fisher and a domestic violence counselor, recently embarked on a new business endeavor: A traveling art studio called Aliiraq Arts. She wants to hold workshops on how people can use art to process emotions and address trauma.
“Bridging the gap between modern art and bringing back traditional art, our minds, our bodies, our hands, our souls. We heal best when we are practicing our cultural lifestyles, traditional lifestyles.”
Larsgaard brought her studio to New Stuyahok during the last week in April, as part of AmeriCorps’ Resilient Alaska Youth afterschool program. It partners with Tribes, schools and nonprofits in rural communities statewide to support youth activities. The program teamed up with New Stuyahok’s Traditional Council to have Larsgaard lead the art workshops.
She teaches a traditional drum-making class, where students craft 15-inch, sixteen-sided instruments. She also hosts an art therapy paint night with parents.
Mathias Suskuk with the Traditional Council says at least 22 kids participated in the workshop, so many that a few had to work on the project as a team.
“We started with drum making, we sanded the drum part – the circle thing – so it could be smooth for the deerskin we’re gonna use today. And then while that’s drying up, we’ll probably do painting.”
For Larsgaard, these aren’t just art projects; she wants to address the generational gap created by boarding schools and other historical traumas.
“A lot of generations didn’t learn how to preserve grass, or to go out and get hides and to stretch them and make drums and make rain gear and stuff like that. And so, with that generational gap, I’m fulfilling it with teaching these traditional classes for individuals who didn’t have an apa or an ama to walk them alongside and teach those things, or mom and dad to teach them how to live off the land or how to live off the water.”
The New Stuyahok workshops weren’t limited to kids in the afterschool program; the whole community was able to get involved. The Resilient Alaska Youth program will open applications for new community partners this month.
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