Ryan Redcorn's visual sovereignty

Indian Country Today

Ryan Redcorn explains why it's important that the Indigenous people he photographs be in charge of their representation, and national correspondent Dalton Walker tells us more about how tribes and pro sports are teaming up

Osage media impresario Ryan Redcorn is on the newscast today. He's been busy during the pandemic, and he's filling us in on some of the great projects he's involved in.

Plus, national correspondent Dalton Walker joins the show to talk about how tribes and pro sports teams are creating some incredible partnerships.

Some quotes from today's show:

Ryan Redcorn

"My mother was a photographer, and my dad also did photography. He built my mother a dark room when we lived in the village, when I was little, just built it right over the bathtub. From there, I had access to this kind of equipment growing up, kind of a jumpstart. It just kind of fostered it. The early access kind of made the medium accessible to me that may or may not be accessible to most people."

"I was started shooting again around 2007 or 2008, to take a little break there from the film world as everything transitioned. And when it kind of settled down, I bought a digital camera, and I shot with that camera for a long time till I reached the basic virtual limits of it. Then about two or three years ago, I bought into a medium format camera. And I guess probably that's when people started calling me a photographer, because my pictures got better because my equipment got better. I don't really make a living as a photographer, but I think it's important to have as many quality images of Indigenous people out there that represent themselves in a way of their choosing. And hopefully it's more respectful to the community and more in service of the community than images that maybe are not."

ryan redcorn 3
In one 1491's video, Ryan works to wash away the bad spirits from a nameless mustachioed Native.

"I've had a chance because of the comedy work that we do when there's not a pandemic. I've had an opportunity to travel around all over the country. I think at this point I've been to every single state except for Wyoming and Hawaii. That's afforded me access to a lot of different communities, people that have fed me, people that have given me things, and just trying to be responsible and respectful of their time and what their wishes are. Then hopefully provide something in return. I've lost track of how many different communities that I've been in. I mean even within my own community, I've probably photographed over a 100, 115, 120 people just in the past couple of years. Hopefully that serves as a kind of a historical benchmark for who's in my community at this given time."

Dalton Walker

"This is a topic I've been following since even before the COVID-19 pandemic. How tribal governments or even Native organizations would market themselves for potential revenue such as casino gaming. And as you mentioned, some have turned to professional sports or arenas for marketing purposes, and it seemed to work, pre-pandemic. Now I was really curious to see how it would play out with the pandemic and post pandemic. And finally I've seen some kind of movement related to that, and it happens to be in Phoenix where I'm actually based."

"The neat thing about it is that they're championing a lot of firsts in the Gila River community, which is south of Phoenix, which already has naming rights to the Gila River arena in Glendale near a shopping plaza. And it's a pretty big venue that hosts an NHL hockey team. So this is just another venture in that part. And they have a special area in the arena that will be marketed Gila River. They also have gaming chips and gaming felts, which is interesting. I haven't been to a casino myself, but if you go, you will see Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Mercury logos on these specific gaming chips. Hotel rooms will be donned with Mercury and Suns gear. So I imagine a lot of the hardcore fans would think this was pretty neat for an option if you decided to stay at one of the hotels."

"It'll be fun to see how both teams respond. Another interesting note is that the Mercury and the Suns play in the arena in downtown Phoenix. It's called the Phoenix arena right now. It doesn't have a sponsor, but the sponsor who just let go is another tribe. The Salt River Pima-Maricopa tribe nearby, they had it branded Talking Stick resort and arena for the last five years. So the Phoenix Suns and the Mercury continue that relationship with Native communities. And in the past, Salt River often had a player with the Suns, or the Mercury would come out and hold multiple camps as part of the agreement. And I believe something similar will (happen) once it's safe to do so, regarding social distancing and pandemic, that Gila River will be able to take advantage of that in their community."

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

Dalton Walker, Red Lake Anishinaabe, is a national correspondent at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter: @daltonwalker Walker is based in Phoenix and enjoys Arizona winters.

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