Rolling Rez Arts bus helps Native artists

President of First Peoples Fund Lori Lea Pourier says networks are helping Native artists through the pandemic, plus Meghan Sullivan shares her latest on 2020 election coverage and declaring Sept. 25 Native American Day

Go to any reservation and you're bound to find people selling handmade art. The art quite often reflects the community and the culture of the people. According to the First Peoples Fund, 40% of Native people get income from arts and cultural based practices. It's this group of people who operate their own businesses that the First Peoples Fund was founded to help in 1995. Today the organization is helping Native artists all across the country. Lori Lea Pourier is the president of First Peoples Fund and she joined us Tuesday to talk about how artists are faring during the pandemic.

Indian Country Today Stanford Rebele fellow, Meghan Sullivan talks about an election story she covered about a former tribal chairman running for office in Utah. She also talks about an upcoming story she's working on, on a 22 and a half ton donation of salmon.

Here are a few of a Lori Lea Pourier's comments:

"If I can just give you a little back story very briefly is that I'm on Pine Ridge, which is one of the communities in which we work, we had launched the Rolling Rez Arts bus, which traveled across the nine districts and was basically a classroom, decked out arts bus, a classroom for artists to do teachings of their traditional art forms. As you said early on, 40% of the households across Indian country are engaged in some sort of traditional art forms or home based economies. And that research was based on research at Colorado State University. So during that, we conducted our own market study about 2013, and we knew that 79% of the households on Pine Ridge were engaged in some sort of cash economy, home based business. And then of that 59% were engaged in traditional art forms."

"So in our work of professional development training for artists and our collaboration and partnerships with Native community development financial institutions across the country and our partnerships with them, Pine Ridge is one local economy that we partnered with the Lakota funds and the Lakota federal credit union and we launched that bus in about four years ago now. And the Rolling Rez Arts is also a bank. So it travels across the nine districts. Letting not just artists, but all community members, Lakota funds allows them to go throughout the nine districts to do banking on the Rez as well."

"We do it in two forms and one is the fellowship program where we attempt to move artists to what we identified as these three stages of entrepreneurial development. So, you know, really from the shoe box method of keeping all your receipts and throw them in a shoe box to more formalized using Xcel and on into QuickBooks. So that's just one example of the financial education that we do."

"The younger generation now is wanting to be in our home communities cause they're learning the language and they're, you know, they have their children in full-on immersion and they'd gone to the Institute of American Indian arts or other schools to study the arts, but they want to remain home in community...What are the ecosystems that are supporting tribal artists within their own communities. And we knew when we started on Pine Ridge that the average for artists was less than $10,000, so and they need access to more formal networks with other artists."

"And we're seeing the artists that have moved through from our emerging stage to our kind of more small business stage now are the coaches and the mentors to the other artists on how to do things as we navigate COVID. And I've seen them doing really, really well and whatever line they create, whether it's beadwork or quillwork, there are ribbon skirts, they're selling out, selling out just through the network. And I think oftentimes we compare our data with outside community and we need to start sharing our data and internally, within our tribal communities to see how we're literally really supporting each other, you know, in that creative economy."

"How do we describe Pine Ridge? You know, the land-base the size of Connecticut, with this one bus that most from district and districts with, you know, 30,000, some people who've been in the community. And so we just, you know, took a risk and submitted that. And we were one of the finalists to do the presentation, to see if we won this last year, and then it was SXSW."

"We knew when we started the work at first peoples fund, not only did we have to focus on the creative side of the making of the art but we really had to take a good look at the informal sector economy of the cash economy that exists."

"We work with the Colville Reservation and we have a whole group of just amazing performing artists. We started expanding our curriculum to not just be for visual artists. And so we spent the last couple years, just, how does this curriculum work? So that performing artists who come into the room who may not even see themselves as a performing artist yet they could be a storyteller, traditional dancer, even him as a musician. So we've strengthened our program now to work with performing artists."

"We rely on the networks, just like our artists rely on the network. So we're not successful unless we really have an understanding of what our, Black, Indigenous and other people of color communities that we work with, you know, are doing in their community and how they're advancing their work."

Meghan Sullivan:

"Darren Perry is running for Utah's first congressional district house seat. This is a historically GOP dominated location and he is running on the democratic ticket. And he's a formal tribal chairman of the Northwestern Shoshone Nation. And so he is really excited to kind of jump into this race and maybe make a change in representation in the area. And he had some very interesting things to say. When I talked to him, he really emphasized that he is actually trying to kind of heal the divisiveness that we see across so many elections in the country right now. And he thinks that his, experience as a tribal chairman in the past has really given him the skills to do this just because he's had to kind of encounter so many often contentious kind of topics and policies and really advocate for his people in a way that kind of heals wounds instead of creating more division."

"He's always been a huge environmental advocate. That's something he's really focused on. In Utah, he said that about 80% of the land is actually public land. So he's really focused on keeping it that way. But another thing that he said that has really become apparent to him throughout the coronavirus pandemic is kind of the inequalities we see across this nation, whether that be in healthcare education, just in broadband service. And, and one thing that he really emphasized was we've always had these inequalities, but the coronavirus pandemic kind of emphasize them a bit more."

"The Nevada governor just signed, September 25th, as Native American day. And this is, this is kind of interesting because it's following a general trend. I think of a lot of other states doing the same. So just last week or about two weeks ago, Arizona also designated officially Indigenous People's Day and they actually selected October 12th, which is Columbus Day usually to be that day. And we have other states who've done this."

"I'm writing about a donation of 45,000 pounds of salmon to five Alaska Native communities. So they weren't able to subsistence fish this year. I know I've done some reporting on subsistence fishing in the past for Indian Country Today. But they weren't able to subsistence fish this year just because the salmon run was so underpopulated and this is a vital part of their community. So several organizations actually stepped up to donate this large amount of fish to their communities so that they wouldn't be without salmon this year."

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. She is also the anchor of the weekday newscast. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider.

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