#TheTimeIsNow for Native American Activism

June 25, 2020

The past few weeks have seen an incredible wave of changes, catalyzed by the Black Lives Matter movement that has swept the nation – some symbolic and others structural. One of the most powerful symbolic and cultural victories has been the removal of confederate statues and relics, as well as big brands reconsidering their use of offensive and racist depictions, including Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. Native American advocates who have played an integral role in this movement for racial justice are also demanding that corporations and institutions put an end to racist brands, monuments, and mascots -- this, on top of tireless work to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic that has hit Indian Country disproportionately. Leading this work are members of our Creative Change alumni and Cultural Strategy partners.

Creative Change Alumna and Executive Director of IllumiNative, Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee) wrote an op-ed for CNN in response to companies removing offensive imagery such as Aunt Jemima and the Land O’ Lakes Native American woman, saying that the next step is to end racist mascots in sports. “If the leagues want to offer more than empty words in service of their profits, if they really want to live by the values they claim to have, they must ban Native mascots, team names, insensitive gestures and the subsequent racist behavior of fans.” She was also quoted by AP news in an article about changing the NFL Washington team’s offensive mascot. To get involved, visit IllumiNative’s website or share #TheTimeIsNow on social media.

In partnership with The Black List and Sundance Film Institute, IllumiNative recently announced the inaugural Indigenous List— a list highlighting Indigenous feature films and television screenwriters. The project is accepting script applications through Sept. 27. Creative Change Alumna N. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache), Director of the Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program, said of the partnership: “We’re excited to work with The Black List and IllumiNative to introduce The Indigenous List, which I believe mirrors the industry’s need for Indigenous stories told by Indigenous artists and filmmakers. This opportunity allows us to elevate voices and stories that can enrich our culture at this urgent moment.”

Harness’ administrative manager, Allie Young (Navajo), is leading Protect The Sacred, a new campaign for Indigenous rights in partnership between Harness, United We Stand, and United Natives. The campaign includes a social media toolkit for 2020 Census participation among Native Americans. Allie talks about the mission behind the campaign in this piece from Native News Online.

Allie Young is also collaborating with Hollywood celebrities on the trending #NavajoStrong, which was created “so the world can send messages of love, strength and support to the Navajo Nation as it fights the pandemic.” The powerful social media campaign includes this video, which highlights the disproportionate effect that COVID-19 is having on the Navajo people and how they are fighting back.

Fashion designer and Creative Change alumna Bethany Yellowtail (Crow Nation/Northern Cheyenne) has been supporting the efforts of Orenda Tribe and Seeding Sovereignty to safeguard Indigenous peoples in the Southwest from COVID-19 impacts. Bethany is spearheading the production of 18,000+ masks. Learn more on her website.

In related news: AP press just changed their Style guide to capitalize Black and Indigenous after years of pressure from BIPOC advocates, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City announced that it would be removing the Black and Indigenous subjugating Roosevelt statue on its front steps.