We live in a moment when these issues are gaining traction in important ways. The Idle No More movement in Canada, for example, re-asserts Native sovereignty against aggressive political actions that would deny basic, longstanding rights of self-determination. Closer to home, debates about sports teams that use Native American mascots and imagery have intensified.
These controversies provide an opportunity to see how stereotypes about Native Americans persist, and underscore the fact that many people think of “Indians” in the past tense – as a culture and people safely swallowed up in the past. In the view of some, we survive mostly as casino profiteers, tax evaders or worse.
In other words, there is a great lack of understanding of who contemporary Native people are by the non-Native community — and even by some Native people themselves.
As a contemporary artist, I believe it is essential that Native people create the images that define our culture in contemporary and historical terms. And in this current climate it is essential that we produce these images to a) continue to contribute and shape our cultural heritage, b) to dispel the misconceptions and shatter stereotypes of who Native people are and c) to demonstrate that our culture is a living contemporary American culture.
Rosy Simas, daughter of Laura Waterman Wittstock (pictured above), grand-daughter of Clarinda (Jackson) Waterman (pictured above), descendent of Cornplanter (pictured below)