In The Know by Yahoo hosted its second annual Native Changemakers event in New York City on Nov. 1 with a panel of professionals who are each making strides to reclaim the past and future of Indigenous representation. While there are no Native American-owned restaurants in Manhattan, Alphabet Bar and Café at the Moxy Hotel collaborated with Buffalo Jump NYC Catering, a New York-based Native-owned catering company, to create the night’s menu.
Moderating the panel this year was Charlie Amáyá Scott (Navajo), a Diné (or Navajo) scholar who is studying and working on creating better education that supports the next generation of LGTBQ Indigenous members. Joining Scott was Hud Oberly (Osage/Caddo/Comanche), the founder and creative director of the independent fashion brand Here’s To You; Brings Water (Winnebago/Kiowa), also known by her English name Lily Painter, a writer, poet and advocate from the KCA Land reservation in Anadarko, Okla.; and Kara Roselle Smith (Chappaquiddick Wampanoag), an Afro-Indigenous creator utilizing her platform to seek justice for her tribe.
All of the panelists work with storytelling, in one way or another, to help reclaim their tribes’ histories and future. Oberly explained that, concerning his brand, he incorporates storytelling by utilizing techniques he was raised with in creating his clothing.
“Everything is informed by my background and my upbringing,” he said. “My clothing brand, it’s not Indigenous-specific clothing or content, but I always say the way I was brought up, the things I was raised around, the traditions, the ceremonies, even just daily life things — those all created how I make decisions.”
Painter said she campaigned for her position as Miss Indian Oklahoma on the platform of storytelling within her community.
“There’s been a lot over the last year of, not reimagining, but pushing in the right direction what our roles are as Native people — and especially as up-and-coming [youth],” she told the crowd. “I think the idea of guiding Native youth is something that is present in everything I do.”
For Smith, posting on her TikTok account, which she’s dedicated to teaching the history of the Chappaquiddick Wampanoag and fighting for land reparations, is so compelling because of her storytelling abilities. It’s especially important, she said, as someone who is Afro-Indigenous.
“You know, it’s been instilled for so long that we’re not valid as Native people or don’t have the same claim to the land, but that’s not true,” she said.
“The hardest part of being a Native person is being told by these structures that the other Native person is not your friend or you’re competing against them,” Painter agreed. “And when you get rid of that — when you really lean on your community and you try your hardest and you really put that kinship and that reciprocity back into your people, your friends, the people you meet along the way, then there’s nothing that can stop you.”
As the night concluded, Scott emphasized the importance of family and community, especially within the Native identity, with anecdotes about their own family encouraging them to keep advocating for Indigenous people.
“It’s really lovely spending time with Native children, whether it’s your cousins, relatives or any one of those,” Scott said. “They help me get through a lot of — for lack of a better word — life, and they’ve been so helpful with my healing process. They also remind me to smile and laugh.”
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