Cultural Gatherings

“It’s not about the amount of blood, it’s about the amount of heart. That’s what we want to promote,” says Indigenous Cultures Club (ICC) member Raven Two Feathers, who worked with her fellow members on April 10-11 to organize Cultural Gatherings, a weekend of cultural-specific entertainment, art projects and craft vendors.

Two Feathers explains that since the creation of ICC last year on the Santa Fe University campus, she and founding members Antonio Valdez and Hallee Fresco were inspired to promote minority culture education by showcasing types of practicing art from those cultures today.

“It’s about interconnectedness and it’s for everyone who wants to learn more about their culture,” says Two Feathers. Coming from a mix of Native American heritage, she adds that “there’s this idea that we’re still living in TVs and dancing around fires. That’s not us. It’s time to show us as modern people.”

For this event, ICC Vice President Hallee Fresco and Two Feathers described this first year’s effort as a collaboration between SFUAD and some New Mexican artists. In deciding on entertainment and events, Two Feathers says they were looking for people who were willing to put themselves out there as well as share their cultural differences. “We collaborated with great bands and great performers,” Two Feathers says. “And there were people in the community willing to help out.”

Among the performers were SFUAD’s African Drum Ensemble, Film Major Amy West’s fire dancing, Scarlet Cortex, Improv Club, Trae Perry & Co., Undefined Obsession and Eugene Pacheo’s Native Drum Group.

Originally from Cheyenne, Pacheo’s Drum Groupdancer Irene Edwards began inviting students on the Quad early Saturday to dance the traditional Circle Dance in which those who were not part of the drum circle “prayed” by moving uniformly in a circle.

“My uncle used to tell me that he prayed when he danced,” Edwards says. “He was a northern traditional dancer and he would look at the grass and up into the sky and he said it was a blessing to wake up and be here and to enjoy what our creator gave to us. Any time we can sing and any time we can dance it’s a good day. It’s like Indian Aerobics.”

And with traditional Native artists like Edwards also came modern Native artists like Edward Valdez, nephew to ICC President Antonio Valdez. Using spray cans, Valdez spent the weekend at SFUAD’s graffiti walls, recreating two ICC logos by graphic art student Marcus Blue Eyes.

“Twelve years old I was picking up a can,” Valdez says describing his love of graffiti art. “This is what I did to stay out of trouble. Not for the money, but I would like to make a living out of it.”

Signing the murals with POX (Proving Our Existence) on the upper right-hand side, Valdez shares that he carries the signature of his art group from central Tesuque Pueblo with him wherever he goes.

Along with the young artist Valdez, Cultural Gatherings also featured the DJ talents of Romario Powel and Shawn Vincenci, both young rappers from Dulce’s Hickory Apache Nation.

“We freestyle to the radio, and it’s a specific feel,”  Vincenci says, describing how he and Powel vocally riff off of other song. “We try new energies.” Tentatively titled Rhythmic Era, Vincenci says that rapping began as a hobby, but once they began performing for their school and other events, they felt like they could develop their own unique show, which they hope will be in their future.

“There is a big separation of traditional and modern art,” Vice President Fresco says, describing the disconnect that she has observed among pueblos, especially in the arts. Originally an Eastern Cherokee from Canada, Fresco adds that while she has learned so much of the specific Native American culture, she still hopes that the events will help unite the pueblos and create networking opportunities.

“We’re all indigenous to somewhere,” ICC member Carrie House says, expressing the fundamental principles of the term indigenous. “We’re all different, but we’re all family. We’re welcoming everyone to our home, which is being exploited. Pray for communities and preservation.”

For next year, the members say they plan on expanding the event to the Santa Fe community by reaching out to more artists who celebrate and showcase their cultural identities.

All students are invited to join ICC which meets Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Film School Lounge.