The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), in partnership with We R Native, hosted two challenge competitions to recognize and draw upon the inherent strengths and resiliencies of Indigenous people and culture that protect against substance misuse. Check out these amazing entries!
Six participants received awards during the first review period in July. The next round of winners will be announced by NIDA in 2022.
The way beadwork can ascend an indigenous person is powerful. From the historical nature of cultural preservation to the extra element of style and fashion, beadwork can uplift and bring forth identity and overall expression. Personalized, the concept that no two pieces are alike leaves room for the most versatile form of Indigenous heritage. A handmade artform, a labor of love, and a reflection of the inner workings of each individual. I have had the honor of learning young in making my own accessories to accompany me on the dance floor. I am proud and have built wonderful connections with peers from all walks of life.
I myself had struggles in life and the art of beadwork has kept me grounded, secure, and focused. I know having the ability to inspire others to combat the many trials and tribulations of life. Resilience and beadwork go hand in hand, having a healthy and positive outlet from trauma, helping heal and process. Any lost individual that can take something from my work is a goal met. If I can help alleviate pain, longing, sadness. If I can inspire progress, compassion, love and community in my pieces, then I have accomplished the tradition of resilience.
River Delta ResilienceAletu! I'm from the United Houma Nation in southeast Louisiana. This piece is set in the delta I live in and strives to connect the past to the present. Two girls camp among the cypress and live oak trees near the river, watching the stars and fireflies. One is in a traditional palmetto hut, and the other is in a modern tent. A mound garden is growing behind them, and in front a young persimmon tree is fruiting. A white alligator swims in the front. All of the plants represented have important medicinal and/or cultural uses. Throughout my life and in work I do with Native youth, I find that connections with our history and cultural activities provide a source of resilience, practices and knowledge to fall back on in times of trouble or in preparing for our future. I find I'm happiest when I'm out in nature, whether it's hiking trails through the forest, listening to stories around a campfire, climbing the branches of a live oak tree, learning how to plant a traditional food forest and garden, or harvesting medicinal and food plants. These things have given me a healthy outlet during hard times, rather than turning to substance abuse. I tried to depict these many different things in my work.
New LifeGenerations of my family have called the Catawba Indian reservation home. I have seen first hand the problems and suffering substance abuse has caused to the people and family that live on the reservation, but I have also seen the resilience and ability to overcome these addictions. My artwork depicts the resilience these people have and how they are able to grow from their troubled past and make a new life for themselves.
Threaded Tree of Peace
Indigenous communities have suffered from substance abuse for many generations, some involving just alcohol or as far as drugs. Much of these addictions stem from the feeling of loneliness and feeling like you don’t belong at a young age. Something that helps prevent these feelings and these bad decisions down the line is embracing who you are, both culturally and physically.
The tree in my art is the “tree of peace” which represents peace between the Haudenosaunee people. The tree of peace was a white pine tree chosen by the peacemaker which symbolizes unity of the 5 nations, the mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Oneida. Each part of the tree represents or symbolizes an important element of unity in the confederacy. For example, the pine needles of the tree grow in bundles of 5 representing the unity of the 5 nations and the roots grow the 4 directions (north, west, south, east) which represent the paths for our future brothers and sisters. On the other hand, the tree also was a symbol of solitude among chiefs and allowed these chiefs to never “die”, their stories and titles would be passed down to future generations forever.
My artwork represents peace and indigenous communities coming together to become stronger to prevent substance abuse in future generations. The thread in my piece represents communities coming together to form something strong and beautiful. Not only does the symbol itself show the tree of peace but it also shares some of its meaning, for example, The roots represent the paths for future brothers and sisters just like how the tree of peace does. Our ancestors laid out these paths for us to keep peace and culture going. My artwork not only symbolizes coming together, forming something beautiful, but it symbolizes carrying on what our ancestors wanted which was for us to sustain the peace they built in our communities and using it as an advantage to make better decisions like preventing substance abuse.
Substance abuse is a problem for most that can’t be resolved easily, for our indigenous communities it is easier to resolve. Our communities not only have amazing culture but also have amazing diversity to make everyone feel involved and like they belong. us embracing ourselves culturally and physically can prevent bad decisions like substance abuse down the line.