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Native American Women Showcase Art

ARTISTIC EXPRESSION CAN VARY BY TRIBE

Native Women’s Voices, an event held at Saint Cajetan’s on March 17, showed that within each tribe is an entirely different cultural experience that reflects the ideas of the people in it. The evening was a celebration of the art, poetry, music, and writings of women of native heritage.

The event began with an art showing, showcasing the talents of four native women artists—Kristina Bad Hand, Leaf Sanchez, Sarah Ortegon, and Sun Rose Iron Shell. Each brought their creative talents as well as contributed to the event’s theme of showing what Native women can do. Each artist’s unique style reflected the cultural importance of their heritage. Everything from jewelry to comic books was present in the artists’ booths.

“The people who have never been to an indigenous women’s event can expect visual arts, poetic voices, music, and various dancing styles,” said Deborah Hunt, head of the American Indian Student Services at CU Denver.

Once the crowd was seated, Hunt began to introduce the series of speakers who would be entertaining for the next hour and a half. “We never want to start an event without thanking the original people that lived here,” Hunt said.

Teresa Suydam, a vocal performance major at CU Denver, began this section of the evening with a Performance of a traditional Native American song. Suydam sang accompanied only by a few percussion instruments.

Sharing music was a big part of the evening. Janice Gould, an associate professor in Women’s and Ethnic Studies at University of Colorado Colorado Springs, gave an excellent musical performance on her accordion after speaking. Her rendition of “De Colores,” a traditional Spanish folk song, had the crowd singing along and led to a rousing applause when she finished.

Native women have been vital to Native American rights throughout history. Donna Martinez, the chair of Ethnic Studies at CU Denver, spoke on inspirational Native women with a focus on Wilma Mankiller, the first woman chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Linda Hogan, a Chickasaw poet, novelist, and environmentalist, recited some of her poetry at the event. Many of the poems involved her personal experiences, from exploring nature, to her horses, to her experiences as a Native American woman. Hogan has published many books of her poetry including Savings, Seeing Through The Sun, and The Woman Who Watches Over The World. From the moment she began speaking into the microphone, a calmness swept over the audience. All eyes and ears were glued to Hogan’s humbling recitations of her poetry. “I knew that when I discovered poetry, I had found magic,” Hogan said.

The event ended with a live art installation by Sarah Ortegon, a Metro State graduate. Ortegon painted on a large canvas in front of the audience with two young dancers and music to accompany her. As she slowly painted lines, her canvas began to depict a beautiful, dense canyon.

The focus of the event was Native American women, but that is an incredibly broad term. No matter the cultural background, every person is unique, and the way these women expressed themselves proves that.

—Dylan Streight

Above: Native Women’s Voices shared music, art, and poetry from different tribes.

photo: Alex Tomme • CU Denver Sentry

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