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May 31, 2014

This Day in the Maya Calendar: June 2014

Cholq'ij, the Maya sacred ceremonial calendar of 260 days—a cycle of 20 Day deities and 13 numbers—is the basis of the Maya spirituality that survives to this time, practiced daily among millions of Maya people, in thousands of communities. The interpretation of the days can vary from one Maya people to another. The interpretations given here are based on sustained conversations and participation over three decades with Maya Q'eqchi calendar priest Roderico Teni and daykeeping families in the area of Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, by Jose Barreiro (Taíno), head of NMAI’s Office of Latin America, and his wife, Katsi Cook (Mohawk). Glyphs representing the Day lords appear throughout Maya Country; these were painted by Esteban Pop Caal (Q'eqchi Maya) of Cobán.

For more background to this series, please see Jose's introduction, "Living in the Practice." For further insight into the role of the Day lords in everyday life, please see the Maya Journal. For the complete year so far, please see the Maya calendar archive.

Illustrations: Esteban Pop Caal (Q'eqchi Maya), calendar glyphs. Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala; 2003. Paint on wood. Purchased from the artist. 26/2685. Photos by Ernest Amoroso, NMAI 

1 Ajmac  |  Monday, June 30, 2014

262685_AjmacCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 1 Ajmac. Ajmac is Bee, also Vulture; 1 is  the beginning. On Ajmac ancestor spirits can detect and smooth the thread of time in our lives. Prudence, intelligence, ancient wisdom are in this day. This is a day to plead forgiveness for serious faults and to be judged. It is a day that demands moral rectitude, respect, and sincere analysis. On this day our faults (stains) must be faced and paid for; humble request for pity is encouraged. Ajmac is a propitious day for the women of a household to make peace with one another after conflict, to apologize for sharp words; it is a good day to pray for smooth relationships and the renewal of agreements among women. Hard luck can face those born on Ajmac. —Jose Barreiro 

13 Tz'ikin  |  Sunday, June 29, 2014

262685_Tz'ikinCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 13 Tz'ikin. Tz'ikin is Bird, best represented by the Hummingbird, also the Quetzal and Eagle; 13 is the highest turbulence. Tz'ikin carries messages between the Heart of Earth and Heart of Sky. Cold, heat, light, air, cloud are its elements. Love, intuition, precognition are strong in those born on this day. Tz'ikin is a good day for humans to follow birds to the corn—to find good material luck. This is a good day to ask for revelation and intelligence, for vision, and for abundance; a good day to ask for collaboration in projects or for personal freedom. On this day, women have the privilege to ask for their husbands and sons to triple the family money. —J. B. 

12 I'x  |  Saturday, June 28, 2014 

262685_I'x

Corresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 12 I'x. I'x is Jaguar; 12 is the highest balance. I'x is woman's energy day. This is a day to connect with your own land and to pray for its original owners; to pray for and appreciate your house; to pray for the finances to buy and sustain land; to ask for fertility in humans and animals; to request vigor and strength for reproductive organs, particularly female. I'x is a good day to pray to the mountains in favor of the land. It is a good day for a woman to request strength in her husband's commitment to matrimonial stability. People born on I'x have a close relationship to el Mundo and receive good access to precious metals. I'x is a good day for solitude and meditation. —J. B.  

11 Aj  |  Friday, June 27, 2014 

262685_AjCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 10 Aj. Aj is Cane Reed; 11 is high turbulence. Aj begins the women's cycle, sentiments of family and home, the spinal cord. Aj is life and receives life. This is a day of resurgence and renewal, as in the reed and the corn; a day for the triumph of good over evil, life over death; a day of happiness, renewal of food, money, the heart of life. People born on this day renew their communities; they are sickly as children and sturdy as adults; they are especially lucky; they are good awakeners of their families and communities; they make good midwives. Aj is a good day to ask for clarity of destiny, a good day to pray for the protection of your life and of the newborn, a good day to pray for twins, a good day to pray for humanity. —J. B. 

10 Eh  |  Thursday, June 26, 2014

262685_EhCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 10 Eh. Eh is Bobcat, also the Path and the Tooth; 10 is a high balance. Eh can orient individuals, groups, or communities to their destiny. Eh is the day to ask for protection from dangers and obstructions during travels—specifically, that on your road the attention of thieves or highway police or border inspectors will be deviated from your trajectory. Solitude is in Eh, light rain, kindness, alignment. People born on this day can be good counselors, spiritual guides with the gift of prayer to Ajaw (Creator) on the destiny of things. Also, good dentists are born on this day. Eh is one of the four pillars of the 20 days, a Yearbearer—a strong, especially sacred day. A prayer started in Batz can be carried by Eh through the full cycle of 20 days. —J. B. 

9 Batz  |  Wednesday, June 25, 2014

262685_BatzCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 9 Batz. Batz is Monkey; 9 is a triple rotor. Monkey braid, monkey fingers, monkey tail, Batz is the grasp of the monkey's hand so tight and braided the fist will not let go, even in death. Batz is a good day for beginnings, and for some Maya daykeepers, Batz begins the 20-day calendar. Batz is unity, a good day to tie things together, a good day for a marriage or to start a construction, a good day for initiation into the ways. Batz is the thread of time that rolls out from under the earth, weaving life until cut, weaving time into history. People born on Batz are calm and self-confident; they make good spiritual guides and leaders, and goodhearted architects. —J. B.  

8 Tzi  |  Tuesday, June 24, 2014

6a01156f5f4ba1970b019b04c65ab2970d-200wiCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 8 Tzi. Tzi is the Canine, the guardian; 8 is a double balance. Dog, Wolf, Coyote, Tzi can be snarly, terrifying the unprepared with his bark and his bite. Tzi people are zealous to guard the sacredness of ceremony, to identify and punish "intruders," those not disciplined to participate. Benevolent to friends and fierce to enemies, Tzi is steady to reward or punish. Tzi will punish those who disrespect the Days and the spirit of the family. This is a good day to ask for mystic insight for leaders so that they can seek and discover hidden things, so that they can be just. Tzi has strong sexual energy, hard to restrain. When this energy is defined, people born on Tzi make loyal friends, husbands, and wives. —J. B. 

7 Toj  |  Monday,  June 23, 2014

262685_TojCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 7 Toj. Toj is the mystic Fish—the tear of jade and drops of rain, water falling; 7 is a pivotal number. Toj is a day of making even, a good day to pay spiritual and financial debts and to collect what you are owed. This is a day of evenness for a family, a good day for parents to pay the family's debt to el Mundo, good for the oldest son to appreciate the father and the father to appreciate the mountain. Illness can be deviated from the family by making a ceremonial offering on this day. —J. B.  

6 Anil  |  Sunday, June 22, 2014

262685_AnilCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 6 Anil. Anil is the fertility in the seed, Anil is Rabbit; 6 is a middle, even number. Anil is red, white, yellow, black—the four colors of corn, the seed of life that is the unity of the world. Anil is renewal after death, regeneration of the earth. Anil people are four-directions people and can be good travelers. This is a day of coming back, a day to generate and appreciate abundance, a day of declaring love to create a new relationship, a day to announce the wish to do business, a day of finding lost things, a day to ask for help in overcoming shyness. —J. B. 

5 Kiej  |  Saturday, June 21, 2014 

262685_KiejCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 5 Kiej. Kiej is the Deer; 5 is one hand. Kiej is the four directions, four hoofs striking the earth at once, the quaternity of the cosmos linked to prayer, highest aviso to el Mundo—the living world. Kiej is the staff of authority, keen energy of a chief to detect danger, perception of the leader buck, his horns. Kiej is a good day to pray for mental and physical agility, a day of agile travelers and good communicators. It is a day also to ask for clarity before gossip and ill intentions. A major gift of nature, Kiej holds indefatigable energy. He is one of the four main carriers of time. —J. B. 

4 Kame  |  Friday, June 20, 2014 

262685_KameCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 4 Kame. Kame is the Owl and the recognition of death; 4 is a balance. A day that recalls the night, tranquility, and silence, Kame is a good day to ask for the ancient and recent ancestors who have gone on, to thank them, and to remember them with purpose. This is an appropriate day to extend reconciliation, to feel and give forgiveness, to develop patience, to invoke against mortal illnesses, to access superior knowledge. Without fear, it is a good day to approach the spiritual dimension, "the enchantment." —J. B.  

3 Kan  |  Thursday, June 19, 2014 

262685_KanCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 3 Kan. Kan is the Snake; 3 is a rotor. Kan is the ancient origin—Gucumatz, the Plumed Serpent. This is a day of strict and impartial justice, a day of definition and maturity, and a good day to offer respect and to thank the corn. On Kan, matters of justice, judges, and courts can be cleared up. This is a good day to pray that truth and justice are manifest in the Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth; a good day to put aside jealousies and request equilibrium in life and in the family. It is a day to ask for physical strength and patience, to contemplate our spiritual evolution, and to rekindle the internal fire. —J. B.  

2 Kat  |  Wednesday, June 18, 2014

262685_KatCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 2 Kat. Kat is Spider, also Web and Fire; 2 is duality. On Kat the unity of the people is paramount, and knowledge is deepened. Kat is the network of the sacred heart, the family hearth. Today is a good day to pray for your family fireplace, the spirit of the fire that belongs in the home, the one that calls other spirits to ceremony and speaks for them. Kat is the net that hauls in the fish and the net that holds the ears of corn, a day that can bring the fruition of things and the untangling of complications. This is a good day to help free prisoners from captivity, to request vigor and power for the weak. —J. B. 

1 Aqbal  |  Tuesday, June 17, 2014

262685_AqbalCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 1 Aqbal. Aqbal is the Dawn, also Bat; 1 is the beginning. Aqbal is clarity, the separation of darkness and light as the Sun disperses the fog and obscurity of night. This is a good day to ask for a peaceful and happy daybreak, a day to find hidden and lost things, a day to wash away tears of sadness. On Aqbal, the sacred fire is recognized and appreciated. Aqbal is a good day to clean the ashes (renew the heart) of a fireplace and to present a new baby to el Mundo. A potential bride or groom can be revealed on this day. Harvesting of corn can begin on this day. People born on Aqbal relate in the present and are a special link between past and future. They are early risers, good workers, tranquil and kind, strong before an enemy, good researchers and finders of hidden things, often called "the candle of the home." —J. B. 

13 Iq  |  Monday,  June 16, 2014

262685_IqCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 13 Iq. Iq is Wind, also Moon; 13 is the highest turbulence. Wind is powerful, violent, driven of itself, identity. A day of strong emotion, Iq is also a healing day. Good wind is nutritional for human minds; it is the mystic breath and vital inspiration of nature. On Iq, a breeze or wind that splits against your face is a blessing and a cleansing to purge your head and body of illness. Respiratory ills are prayed over on this day. This is a good day to appreciate all of Creation. The Day lord Iq is one of the four Yearbearers, or mams, a creator who helped finish the world and put breath (essence) in human beings. People born on Iq are inclined toward spiritual ways and can impulsively tap into cosmic sources. —J. B. 

12 Imox  |  Sunday,  June 15, 2014

262685_ImoxCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 12 Imox. Imox is Lizard; 12 is the highest balance. Imox is the very force of gravity and a good day to pray for creativity and for rain. Imox can open el Mundo to receive cosmic messages. Known as a "crazy" day, Imox requires much concentration and control. A day of high male intelligence, also impatience and agitation, Imox can be difficult. Grounded on its left side, left arm, this day is easily unbalanced and in need of clasping by left and right hands. Imox can be good if held in the balance of the Heart of Sky and Heart of Earth; unattended, Imox can manifest imbalance, mental nervousness, and even death. People born on Imox are open and sincere, but indecisive—in need of ceremony to set the positive to override the negative. —J. B. 

11 Ajpu  |  Saturday, June 14, 2014

262685_AjpuCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 11 Ajpu. Ajpu is Caracol, Spiral Shell; 11 is high turbulence. Ajpu is the Sun, captain of time, a day of personal strength and for good to triumph over evil. Ajpu, who cares for boys and guides men, begins the men's cycle. This is a day to connect with the ancestors, who can reward and punish. Death is reachable and amenable; spirits can ask permission to enter el Mundo, the living world. Day of the warrior and blowgun hunter (cerbatanero), Ajpu is the strong blow of the dart that hits its target, a good day to pray for stealth or for a break in enemy lines. Ajpu is also a good day to start building on a house, a good day to make prayers for women and for success in lactation. —J. B. 

10 Kawoq  |  Friday,  June 13, 2014 

262685_Kawoq

Corresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 10 Kawoq. Kawoq is Turtle, also Sky Serpent; 10 is a high balance. Kawoq is a high woman day—a day of duality in all of nature and a guardian of contentment. It is the day of woman and man, lightning and thunder, fecundity and imagination; a day of midwives; a day of prayer for unity within the home, strength within the family, renewed strength for convalescents, and the smoothing of all irritation. This is a good day to turn bad medicine back on itself. Kawoq attends to young women in pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and to full realization for all women; it is a day of their sash. Kawoq is also a good day to commemorate the Staff of Authority, a good day for the men of a family and community to pray for the coffers (good fortune) of the women and for the protection of the home. Good midwives, writers, and architects are born on this day. —J. B. 

9 Tijax  |  Thursday, June 12, 2014

262685_TijaxCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 9 Tijax. Tijax is Fish, also Obsidian; 9 is a triple rotor. Tijax is a day of doctors, good to pray for surgeons and all medical practitioners; a day of sacrifice and liberation from suffering; a day of sharp, cutting objects, of knives and scalpels and scissors. Tijax is a safeguard for domestic animals against predators, a good day to pray for all animals that are sacrificed, both in ceremony and in everyday life. Tijax is a good day to use metal (a machete, scissors) to "open the sky"—to solicit rain, solicit life, split black clouds. Gossip, calumny, and sorcery, on money and sexual matters, can be overcome on this day; on a high-number day, disputes can turn public and become debilitating. Tijax is a good day for seasoned masters to fortify daykeeping trainees against ridicule by envious countrymen or evangelicos. It is not a good day to plant. —J. B.  

8 Noj  |  Wednesday, June 11, 2014

262685_NojCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 8 Noj. Noj is Woodpecker; 8 is a double balance. Noj is a woman's highest intelligence. Maya knowledge and wisdom live in this day—good science to support positive deeds, good projects, good business, a good home. On Noj good ideas are available through the intelligence connected to the movement of the earth. Boys born on this day have important female qualities and can be attentive to the knowledge of nature, which rules all. Girls born on this day can be clear leaders. This is a good day to hear advice and make decisions, a good day to feed the mind, recognize curiosity, and strengthen memory. Noj is one of the four Yearbearers. —J. B. 

7 Ajmac  |  Tuesday, June 10, 2014

262685_AjmacCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 7 Ajmac. Ajmac is Bee, also Vulture; 7 is  a pivotal number. On Ajmac ancestor spirits can detect and smooth the thread of time in our lives. Prudence, intelligence, ancient wisdom are in this day. This is a day to plead forgiveness for serious faults and to be judged. It is a day that demands moral rectitude, respect, and sincere analysis. On this day our faults (stains) must be faced and paid for; humble request for pity is encouraged. Ajmac is a propitious day for the women of a household to make peace with one another after conflict, to apologize for sharp words; it is a good day to pray for smooth relationships and the renewal of agreements among women. Hard luck can face those born on Ajmac. —J. B. 

6 Tz'ikin  |  Monday, June 9, 2014

262685_Tz'ikinCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 6 Tz'ikin. Tz'ikin is Bird, best represented by the Hummingbird, also the Quetzal and Eagle; 6 is a middle, even number. Tz'ikin carries messages between the Heart of Earth and Heart of Sky. Cold, heat, light, air, cloud are its elements. Love, intuition, precognition are strong in those born on this day. Tz'ikin is a good day for humans to follow birds to the corn—to find good material luck. This is a good day to ask for revelation and intelligence, for vision, and for abundance; a good day to ask for collaboration in projects or for personal freedom. On this day, women have the privilege to ask for their husbands and sons to triple the family money. —J. B.  

5 I'x  |  Sunday, June 8, 2014 

262685_I'x

Corresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 5 I'x. I'x is Jaguar; 5 is one hand. I'x is woman's energy day. This is a day to connect with your own land and to pray for its original owners; to pray for and appreciate your house; to pray for the finances to buy and sustain land; to ask for fertility in humans and animals; to request vigor and strength for reproductive organs, particularly female. I'x is a good day to pray to the mountains in favor of the land. It is a good day for a woman to request strength in her husband's commitment to matrimonial stability. People born on I'x have a close relationship to el Mundo and receive good access to precious metals. I'x is a good day for solitude and meditation. —J. B. 

4 Aj  |  Saturday, June 7, 2014 

262685_AjCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 4 Aj. Aj is Cane Reed; 4 is a balance. Aj begins the women's cycle, sentiments of family and home, the spinal cord. Aj is life and receives life. This is a day of resurgence and renewal, as in the reed and the corn; a day for the triumph of good over evil, life over death; a day of happiness, renewal of food, money, the heart of life. People born on this day renew their communities; they are sickly as children and sturdy as adults; they are especially lucky; they are good awakeners of their families and communities; they make good midwives. Aj is a good day to ask for clarity of destiny, a good day to pray for the protection of your life and of the newborn, a good day to pray for twins, a good day to pray for humanity. —J. B. 

3 Eh  |  Friday, June 6, 2014

262685_EhCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 3 Eh. Eh is Bobcat, also the Path and the Tooth; 3 is a rotor. Eh can orient individuals, groups, or communities to their destiny. Eh is the day to ask for protection from dangers and obstructions during travels—specifically, that on your road the attention of thieves or highway police or border inspectors will be deviated from your trajectory. Solitude is in Eh, light rain, kindness, alignment. People born on this day can be good counselors, spiritual guides with the gift of prayer to Ajaw (Creator) on the destiny of things. Also, good dentists are born on this day. Eh is one of the four pillars of the 20 days, a Yearbearer—a strong, especially sacred day. A prayer started in Batz can be carried by Eh through the full cycle of 20 days. —J. B. 

2 Batz  |  Thursday, June 5, 2014

262685_BatzCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 2 Batz. Batz is Monkey; 2 is duality. Monkey braid, monkey fingers, monkey tail, Batz is the grasp of the monkey's hand so tight and braided the fist will not let go, even in death. Batz is a good day for beginnings, and for some Maya daykeepers, Batz begins the 20-day calendar. Batz is unity, a good day to tie things together, a good day for a marriage or to start a construction, a good day for initiation into the ways. Batz is the thread of time that rolls out from under the earth, weaving life until cut, weaving time into history. People born on Batz are calm and self-confident; they make good spiritual guides and leaders, and goodhearted architects. —J. B.  

1 Tzi  |  Wednesday, June 4, 2014

6a01156f5f4ba1970b019b04c65ab2970d-200wiCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 1 Tzi. Tzi is the Canine, the guardian; 1 is the beginning. Dog, Wolf, Coyote, Tzi can be snarly, terrifying the unprepared with his bark and his bite. Tzi people are zealous to guard the sacredness of ceremony, to identify and punish "intruders," those not disciplined to participate. Benevolent to friends and fierce to enemies, Tzi is steady to reward or punish. Tzi will punish those who disrespect the Days and the spirit of the family. This is a good day to ask for mystic insight for leaders so that they can seek and discover hidden things, so that they can be just. Tzi has strong sexual energy, hard to restrain. When this energy is defined, people born on Tzi make loyal friends, husbands, and wives. —J. B. 

13 Toj  |  Tuesday,  June 3, 2014

262685_TojCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 13 Toj. Toj is the mystic Fish—the tear of jade and drops of rain, water falling; 13 is the highest turbulence. Toj is a day of making even, a good day to pay spiritual and financial debts and to collect what you are owed. This is a day of evenness for a family, a good day for parents to pay the family's debt to el Mundo, good for the oldest son to appreciate the father and the father to appreciate the mountain. Illness can be deviated from the family by making a ceremonial offering on this day. —J. B. 

12 Anil  |  Monday, June 2, 2014

262685_AnilCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 12 Anil. Anil is the fertility in the seed, Anil is Rabbit; 12 is the highest balance. Anil is red, white, yellow, black—the four colors of corn, the seed of life that is the unity of the world. Anil is renewal after death, regeneration of the earth. Anil people are four-directions people and can be good travelers. This is a day of coming back, a day to generate and appreciate abundance, a day of declaring love to create a new relationship, a day to announce the wish to do business, a day of finding lost things, a day to ask for help in overcoming shyness. —J. B.  

11 Kiej  |  Sunday, June 1, 2014 

262685_KiejCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 11 Kiej. Kiej is the Deer; 11 is high turbulence. Kiej is the four directions, four hoofs striking the earth at once, the quaternity of the cosmos linked to prayer, highest aviso to el Mundo—the living world. Kiej is the staff of authority, keen energy of a chief to detect danger, perception of the leader buck, his horns. Kiej is a good day to pray for mental and physical agility, a day of agile travelers and good communicators. It is a day also to ask for clarity before gossip and ill intentions. A major gift of nature, Kiej holds indefatigable energy. He is one of the four main carriers of time. —J. B.  

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May 29, 2014

The Artist Leadership Program Class of 2014 Shares the Experience


The Artist Leadership Program (ALP) of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) aims to rebuild cultural self-confidence, challenge personal boundaries, and foster cultural continuity while reflecting artistic diversity. ALP's goal is to recognize and promote indigenous artistic leadership. At the same time, the program seeks to enhance the artistic growth, development, and leadership of emerging student artists and scholars through workshops and youth public art projects in the artists' communities. Selection for the program is based on the artists’ proposed research, proposed workshops or public art projects, digital portfolios, resumes, artist statements, and letters of community support.

During April 2014, the museum hosted Holly Nordlum, Gerald Cournoyer, Royce Manuel, and Nathalie Picard—outstanding artists from Alaska, South Dakota, Arizona, and Québec—while they conducted research in the museum’s collections. Here, Holly, Gerald, and Nathalie share their aspirations and values, and their thoughts about Native leadership and the arts. Later in the summer, we'll hear from Royce on his research into the technology of bows and arrows and their importance to Aw-Thum men and boys. 

—Keevin Lewis 

 

ALP 2014 a
From left to right: Gerald Cournoyer (Oglala Lakota), Nathalie Picard (Huron-Wendat), Holly Nordlum (Inupiaq), and Royce Manuel (Ak-Mierl Aw-Thum)—individual artists selected for the 2014 Artist Leadership Program at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). The NMAI Cultural Resources Center (CRC), in the background, houses the museum's object collections and archives. All photos are by Keevin Lewis (Navajo), NMAI.


Holly Nordlum

I am Holly Mititquq Nordlum, Inupiaq visual artist, and I live in Anchorage. I grew up in Kotzebue, Alaska. My work reflects where I come from, but also who I am now as a Native person, an American, a mother, and a common woman. I use printmaking, painting, sculpture, and other mediums to express my ideas about life.

My intent when I came to the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington was to do museum collections research and find as many objects as I could to show my summer high school students in Anchorage—urban Native students who might not have any idea where they came from or who they are as Native people. I wanted to find something for everyone. Also, while I was looking in the NMAI collections, I was naturally interested in Inupiaq items and was so inspired by what I found. I took many photo images and can’t wait to get home to get working.

Holly Nordlum 1
Holly Nordlum photographing objects that will click with her students in Anchorage.


There are so many significant moments of the program to recall! But I do remember that I held a pair of Inupiaq wooden sun goggles (glasses) up to my face and felt I had stepped back in time. I was amazed at the objects the museum has in the collections, but also at what my own people created with the technology available to them. I hope to get that across to my students.

I guess my biggest perception shift during this trip is that, as Native Americans, we are the same. We are all affected by the same issues and government restrictions, whether we are on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota or in a village in Northwest Alaska. The climate might be different, but the lives and culture are so similar it’s hard to deny our connection. The NMAI Artist Leadership experience has only increased my feelings of community.

I am also more determined. The experience at NMAI and the Artist Leadership Program confirmed and strengthened my quest not only to educate myself, but also to give my students more as far as a connection and community. I would encourage all artists to apply to the NMAI Artist Leadership Program as this program was so inspiring and exciting and gave me so much to work with for future art projects and for my students. 
 

Gerald Cournoyer

I'm Gerald Cournoyer, an Oglala Lakota painter from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and I recently relocated to the Washington, D.C., area. My goal with the NMAI Artist Leadership Program changed from making pots to actually harvesting raw clay and turning it into useable clay.There is more to making pots than just coiling and firing.

Cournoyer a
Gerald Cournoyer working with reference materials from the archives and the Vine Deloria Jr. Library at the CRC. 

When I initially applied to the ALP program, I was working at our local tribal community college. Now I want to give back to my community this knowledge of pit-firing pots. We will use slip to decorate the pots and fire the slip in a fire pit. The process will be a learning experience for me as well as for the community.

I recommend this program to any and all Native artists for the opportunity to share new knowledge and experiences from the museum. The NMAI and Smithsonian collections are a great resource for information. You will learn more about your people in several different areas, not just about what you are studying. Getting into these different collections brought my Native American art history classes to life. I am learning through my ancestors—they are speaking to me with an ancient voice. In a way I feel I am bringing their spirit home with me. Throughout history Native people have adapted to climate change, invaders, traders, and technology. We continue to tweak our art forms with this new information while keeping our connections to our ancestors. 


Nathalie Picard 

My name is Nathalie Picard, and I am Huron-Wendat. My community is in Wendake, Québec, in Canada. I recently moved to the United States to live in Oregon, and I am a musician. I studied the transverse flute at the Conservatory of Quebec and the University of Montreal in the jazz and pop music program. I specialized in Cuban jazz and Latin jazz. I also play the Native American flute, I am a composer and storyteller, and I sing traditional songs with the drum.

Picard a
Nathalie Picard studying a flute and other musical instruments in the NMAI collections. 

I came to the National Museum of American Indian to gather information about Iroquoian music, musical instruments, and traditional longhouse songs to share with my community and teach the teens and young adults in Wendake. I was amazed that there was an enormous amount of cultural material in the collections of the Smithsonian from my tribe, too! What a gold mine of objects, images, and knowledge from my culture! It is very touching to see up close so many objects in the Smithsonian collections. This research experience doesn't compare to looking at pictures in publications or seeing objects on exhibit. 

It always has been a dream for me to do research in the audio archives of the Smithsonian, and it came true. This experience has been incredible! One beautiful surprise along the way was that I was able to see a wampum that my great-great-grandfather, who was chief, was wearing in an old photo. How amazing it was to see this personal family experience reflected so far from home! 

My collections research in Washington, D.C., and getting to know the different archivists of the different museums and archives will be very helpful in the future. The Smithsonian and Library of Congress staff helped me find what I needed and showed me where to search. I will be able to continue to do more productive research even from my home. 

I also had time to get to know each of the other visiting artists and what they do in their lives. We were able to share our experiences together for 12 days. I now feel I have even more new information and knowledge to share with my people in Wendake that will hopefully instill in the lives of teenagers greater cultural interest toward their ancestors’ traditions! I realize that art was the way of life of Native people; they were so creative and patient. The world has changed now, and it is too bad that these traits and knowledge are disappearing. Today I find that modern Native artists carry tradition inside themselves, and they feel that their traditions, songs, and stories need to get out into the world! They have important things to say through their art.

Since I moved to the United States two years ago, I have been able to integrate myself professionally. It is good to be able to share and exchange information with other Native artists in this program. There are things that are beyond words that make us understand each other better, and it feels good. Usually we think of ourselves as a minority in today's world. But for two weeks, it felt like I was on a journey in time, between the past and the future. My head was full of the images and impressions from the objects in the collections, and my hands are now ready to create new projects from these new sources of inspiration.

I am so happy and feel honored to have had the opportunity to be part of this amazing journey that is ALP! Thank you, Keevin, NMAI, and all the wonderful staff! önenh!  


To learn more about Artist Leadership Program opportunities for mid-career artists and arts organizations, including detailed information on how to apply, see the ALP page on the museum's website. 

Keevin Lewis (Navajo) is coordinator of the Artist Leadership Program at the National Museum of the America Indian. 

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May 22, 2014

Meet Native America: Derek Nepinak, Grand Chief, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, the responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native people today. —Dennis Zotigh, NMAI 

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

Derek Nepinak, grand chief, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC). I have also served in the past as chief of my home community.

Can you share with us your Native name and its English translation?

It's Niibin Makwa—it sounds like knee-bin muk-wuh. It means Summer Bear in English. 

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Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC), visiting the Rolling River First Nation south and east of Erickson, Manitoba. Photo courtesy of the AMC. 

What responsibilities do you have as grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs? 

At the AMC, I represent more than 60 chiefs, who in turn represent more than 100,000 First Nations citizens in their respective communities

I am responsible to uphold the constitution of the organization, which requires me to protect the birthright of our children and our families in treaty and inherent rights. I also implement mandates given to me by the chiefs in assembly, as well by the executive, which is responsible for bringing collective action and exercising bargaining power for the benefit of Manitoba’s First Nations communities. 

Where is your own community located? 

I'm a member of the Minegoziibe Anishinabe (Pine Creek First Nation), on the west shores of Lake Winnipegosis in current-day west-central Manitoba. 

Where were your people originally from? 

The Minegoziibe Anishinabe are an amalgamation of many Anishinabe (Ojibway) people from the Manitoba interlakes and the tributaries flowing from the Duck Mountain and Riding Mountain water drainage systems. Our families originally come from the Treaty 2 and Treaty 4 territories

What is a significant point in history from your nation that you would like to share? 

There are several important points of history for our community. The most significant, however, is the signing of the treaties. The signing of treaties and adhesions in the 1870s is the basis of our families' relationship with the newcomer settler government. 

How did your life experience prepare you to lead? 

I was trained at home by my great-grandparents as a very young boy. My first experiences in life were with my extended family, and I observed the roles of the men and women in my family and some of the activities that make up the traditional economy. I observed moose-hide tanning, fishing and smoking fish, gardening, hunting, and keeping horses. Our family was very close, and we were all well taken care of in an extended family situation.

Beyond that, I received an extensive academic education in interdisciplinary studies, graduating from the University of Alberta with a First Class Honours Degree in Native Studies,then graduating from the University of Saskatchewan with a law degree. Understanding law and history is a necessity today to understand how governments deal with us.  

Who inspired you as a mentor? 

I was inspired by Ovide MercrediPhil Fontaine, the late Tobasonakwut Kinew, the late Elijah Harper, the late Dave Courchene Sr., the late Jim Sinclair, the late Joseph Nepinak, and Thomas Nepinak Sr., my uncle.

Are you a descendant of a historical leader?

I am a descendant of the Nepinak clan who originally signed Treaty 2 at a place called Manitoba Post in 1872. Nepinaks have held leadership positions in both the Skownan First Nation in Treaty 2 and the Pine Creek First Nation in Treaty 4 for several generations. 

How is your government set up? 

Our community operates a Band Council under the terms of the Indian Act. This means a chief and council forming a quorum of leadership. 

Is there a functional, traditional entity of leadership in addition to your modern government system? 

The traditional governance system of family clans is in place. However, it is confined to family decision-making and is not spoken of within the context of the Indian Act band-governance system.  Traditional governance in the family is an organic process, naturally flowing from the family and not derived from processes outside the family lines. 

How often are elected leaders chosen?

Leaders are elected by popular vote in a democratic process every two years. 

Approximately how many members does your community have? 

There are approximately 3,700 band members within my home community. 

What are the criteria to become a member?

My home community membership is made up of "status Indians" pursuant to provisions of the Indian Act. There are currently no membership provisions for non-status or unregistered Indians to become members of the Pine Creek First Nation. 

Is your language still spoken on your homelands? If so, what percentage of your people would you estimate are fluent speakers?

The language of my people is Anishinaabemowin. In my home community, about 30 to 40 percent of the people speak fluently. Around 75 percent of the community understands the language to some extent, and another 20 percent or fewer do not understand, nor speak, the language. 

What economic enterprises does the Pine Creek First Nation own? 

The band has a video lottery terminal lounge, which generates in excess of $1,000,000 a year. We also have a tobacco retail program, which allows the band to collect a rebate on provincial wholesale taxes and in turn reflects as a profit to the band in the amount of approximately $500,000 annually. Construction companies also operate on the reserve, and forestry operations in support of hydro development are significant economic generators at this time. 

What annual events does your band sponsor? 

My home community sponsors an annual pow wow in the late summer, as well as several sporting initiatives for youth. 

What other attractions are available for visitors to your lands? 

Visitors to our lands are welcome to see a vast array of wildlife, including purebred wood bison, numerous bears, elk, moose, deer, and many fur-bearing animals—beaver, otter, marten, fox, mink, rabbit. 

How does your band deal with Canada as a sovereign nation?

As a sovereign nation, the community is now beginning to re-emerge from the long legacy of devastation of the residential school era. The community, under my leadership, implemented a rights-based approach to governance. That means that we stand firm on principles of self-determination and self-government. In order for that to happen, the lands must be protected as well, which has always been a priority of mine.

In my capacity as the grand chief of the AMC, I bring the same principles of rights-based leadership to the collective bargaining and political advocacy initiatives of the Manitoba chiefs. 
 

Ottawa protest a
Derek Nepinak (in feather headdress at center), grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, meets with members of the indigenous peoples' rights movement Idle No More as they march from Victoria Island to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada. January 11, 2013. Photo by Suzanne Ure, courtesy of Chief Nepinak. 

What message would you like to share with the youth of your community?

I would like the youth to know that there is a need for them to develop skills and become educated in business, law, history, and other areas in order to bring strong leadership far into the future. We are waking from a terrible intergenerational legacy of residential school assimilation policies, and our young people need to know that they can lead us even further into re-establishing our traditional principles of governance and bringing prosperity back to our families.

Thank you. 

Thank you. 


To read other interviews in this series, click on the banner below.
 
Meet-native-america
From left to right: Representative Ponka-We Victors (Tohono O’odham/Southern Ponca) taking the oath of office in the Kansas House of Representatives; photo courtesy of Kansas Rep. Scott Schwab. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache) at the Sundance Film Festival; photo courtesy of WireImage. Sergeant Debra Mooney (Choctaw) at the powwow in Al Taqaddum Air Force Base, Iraq, 2004; photo courtesy of Sgt. Debra Mooney. Councilman Jonathan Perry (Wampanoag) in traditional clothing; photo courtesy of Jonathan Perry. Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee) at Blackhorse et al. v. Pro Football, Inc., press conference, U.S. Patent and Trade Office, February 7, 2013; photo courtesy of Mary Phillips. All images used with permission. 

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May 15, 2014

Meet Native America: Framon Weaver, Chief, MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians

In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native people today. —Dennis Zotigh


Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

Framon Weaver, chief of the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians. In our Choctaw language we call our leaders miko. In contemporary times we have begun using the term "chief" as our official designation for those who are democratically elected.

Where is the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians located? Where was your band originally from?

Our tribe resides upon lands in what is today southwestern Alabama, lands that have always been occupied by our Choctaw people since the beginning. Nanih Chaha (High Hill) in the northwest corner of our territory is further proof of our continual land occupation here in this area.

Chief Weaver a
Framon Weaver, chief of the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians. Photo courtesy of the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians.

How is your tribal government set up?

Our Tribal Council is comprised of eleven members and a chief. This is similar to many tribal governments that were set up in the era of the Indian Reorganization Act. This form of governance was created to interact more easily with federal and state agencies who require such models and who are not knowledgeable of our traditional ways of governing ourselves. Our tribe also has state-sanctioned tribal police and a tribal court system that engages issues arising on reservation lands. 

Is there a functional, traditional entity of leadership in addition to your modern government system?

Traditional leadership has always been held within our ten inhabited communities and reservation lands, which all are within a 20-mile radius of one another. This form of leadership takes place in our iksa—a term that traditionally defined our clan system, but is now used today to define our churches. From our churches there has always been an abundance of leadership, which has kept our communities intact. Though informal in their roles, in contrast to elected tribal positions, these are the long-standing and long-acknowledged places and people that have contributed to our communities' survival.

What is a significant point in history from your nation that you would like to share?

After the removal of the majority of Choctaws to what was then Indian Territory in 1830, our people were able to maintain our presence in the area along with other Choctaws in Mississippi and Louisiana.  Those who remained are known by various names: In Louisiana they include the Bayou Lacombe Choctaw, Choctaw–Apache Tribe of Ebarb, Clifton Choctaw, and Jena Band of Choctaw Indians. In Mississippi they include the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (who also have a community in western Tennessee near the town of Ripley) and the Live Oak Choctaw. In Alabama there is only our tribe, whose holdings are composed of 600 acres of state reservation trust land, with our main tribal complex situated on 300 of these acres near the town of Mt. Vernon, Alabama.

The MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians is the second-longest-petitioning, historic “non-federally recognized” tribe in the nation—since 1907. Only the Lumbee have petitioned longer for federal recognition.

We were the first tribe to be recognized by the State of Alabama, and we are the only tribe in the state to have maintained our tribal language into the later part of the 1900s.

We have attended federal and mission Indian boarding schools generationally and have a large number of federal tribes married into our community, as well as numerous other clearly identifiable characteristics of Indian communities.

We are also one of only nine historic non-federal tribes in the nation to reside on a state-recognized Indian reservation (most of which happen to be the oldest reservations in the nation).

Despite this—and due to a large amount of money spent against us by neighboring federal tribes with gaming interests in our region, with support from their Congressional members, incursions against our tribe by convicted felon Jack Abramoff who lobbied against us, and more—we are still not recognized by the federal government.

National Indian organizations such as the National Congress of American Indians; other federal tribes; anthropologists, ethnologists, linguists, Indian academics, and tribal leaders— the list goes on—have all drafted letters in support of our federal recognition. Our tribe has had 12 congressional bills, a federal lawsuit, and three appeals through the Office of Federal Acknowledgement. All pertinent information, however—including our language tapes and Indian boarding school records—were said to have been “received out of time and therefore not able to be considered.” We are the poster children for how poorly the federal recognition system works and how corrupt and politically influenced the process has become.

Even so, we know that we are federally recognized and that our recognition was verified when we were sent out to federal Indian schools and when the Weaver School was built in 1835, five years after the removal, by the federal government for Indians. The same school, now called Calcedeaver, is still within our community, and in 2005 it won the prestigious Blue Ribbon Award for excellence under the leadership of tribal member LaGaylis Harbuck Weaver. What further proof of a federal relationship would one need than being identified by and accepted to schools administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and their closely related mission schools?

Chief Weaver bChief Weaver in a ribbon shirt. The handwritten yellow sign in the background above the staircase reads, "Pathway to Federal Recognition." Photo courtesy of the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians.

What message would you like to share with the youth of your band? 

MOWA Chata hapia hoke. We are proud to be MOWA Choctaw. We are the recipients of a proud legacy. 

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Justice is a word that is routinely thrown around today. Some may even view it as cliché. But to our people it is a needed and warranted term.

Our people do not petition the federal government for our identity as Indian people. We have always been and will always be Indian people. We are petitioning the federal government over many decades for equity, not identity. We have endured the same boarding schools as many who have been recognized. We have lived the reservation experience, as well as the experience we call Jim Crowfeather here in the South. 

It is our identity that has always set us apart from others. It is our identity that made us leave our homes and go hundreds of miles to Indian high schools and colleges to receive an education when accredited education was unavailable to us in our local Indian schools, which only went to grade eight, and we were not allowed to attend our area black and white school systems.

We are deserving of equity, fairness. We have lived the reality of history. As the late Indian icon and author Vine Deloria, Jr., stated in relation to our recognition efforts, “Give the MOWA Choctaws a hand, and let’s get this recognition problem solved once and for all.”

Chiyakokeli—I thank you.

Thank you. 

To read other interviews in this series, click on the banner below. 

Meet-native-america
From left to right: Representative Ponka-We Victors (Tohono O’odham/Southern Ponca) taking the oath of office in the Kansas House of Representatives; photo courtesy of Kansas Rep. Scott Schwab. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache) at the Sundance Film Festival; photo courtesy of WireImage. Sergeant Debra Mooney (Choctaw) at the powwow in Al Taqaddum Air Force Base, Iraq, 2004; photo courtesy of Sgt. Debra Mooney. Councilman Jonathan Perry (Wampanoag) in traditional clothing; photo courtesy of Jonathan Perry. Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee) at Blackhorse et al. v. Pro Football, Inc., press conference, U.S. Patent and Trade Office, February 7, 2013; photo courtesy of Mary Phillips. All photos used with permission.

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May 14, 2014

Symposium "Looking to the Future: The Life and Legacy of Senator Daniel K. Inouye" Honors a Champion of American Indian Rights and Sovereignty


Daniel_Inouye,_official_Senate_photo_portrait,_2008
The Honorable Senator Daniel K. Inouye. Official portrait, 2008. Courtesy of the U.S. Senate


You don't have to be a student of history to know that Washington, D.C., can have short, selective memory. So it's hardly too soon to take a day to remember the remarkable contributions of the Honorable Senator Daniel Inouye (1924–2012) and to talk about how to continue his work on behalf of Native peoples.

On Thursday, May 15, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian is hosting the symposium "Looking to the Future: The Life and Legacy of Senator Daniel K. Inouye." Speakers include John Echohawk, director of the Native American Rights Fund; Julie Kitka, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives; and Lionel Bordeaux, president of Sinte Gleska University. The symposium will be webcast live. The complete program and symposium presenters, and a longer biography of Sen. Inouye are available online. To read more about Sen. Inouye's relationship to the National Museum of the American Indian, see "A Warrior Chief among Warriors: Remembering U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye" by Liz Hill (Red Lake Ojibwe), from the Spring 2014 issue of American Indian Magazine.

Daniel Inouye served in the U.S. Congress continuously since Hawaiian achieved statehood in 1959, as congressman from 1959 to 1962, and as senator from 1963 until his death. Throughout his career, he championed the interests of Hawai‘i’s people. He left a lasting imprint on his home state through his efforts to strengthen Hawai‘is infrastructure, diversify its economy, and protect its natural resources. 

NMAI89-8343.11a-cropped
The signing of the memorandum of understanding transferring the superb collections of the Museum of American Indian, Heye Foundation (MAI), in New York to the Smithsonian Institution. From left to right: Suzan Harjo (Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee), member of board of trustees, MAI; Roland Force, director MAI; Senator Daniel K. Inouye, chief supporter of legislation to create the National Museum of the American Indian; and Robert McCormick Adams, ninth secretary of the Smithsonian. WAshington, D.C., May 8, 1989. Photo by Laurie Minor-Penland, Smithsonian Institution 


For 35 years, Senator Inouye also served on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, assuming the chairmanship of the committee in 1987, later serving as vice chairman, and securing the committee’s status as a permanent standing committee of the Senate. During his tenure he helped pass landmark legislation affecting almost every aspect of life in Native America, including the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Native Hawaiian Health Care Improvement Act, the Native Hawaiian Education Act, the National Museum of the American Indian Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the Native American Languages Act, the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act, and scores of Indian water rights and land claim settlement acts, as well as reauthorizations of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the Native American Programs Act, the Indian Education Act, the Indian Finance Act, the American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act, Indian provisions of the Energy Security Act and the National Historic Preservation Act, and appropriations for Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian programs. 

For all of these accomplishments and for his sincere dedication to the values of Indian country, the preservation of Native culture and religious freedom, and his genuine respect for the indigenous people of America, the senator is revered throughout Native America. 

The symposium webcast will be archived on the National Museum of the American Indian YouTube channel. We'll post that link as soon as it becomes available. 

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