The Indigenous Community Center (ICC), a local nonprofit focused on healing and connection for our Native community, is hosting an Indigenous Day Art Show this Saturday.
With programming that celebrates Native cultures and traditions, the ICC scheduled the show to take place before Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a national holiday on the second Monday of October. Indigenous artists will share their works alongside the educational opportunities being offered for Natives and non-Natives alike, to promote intercultural understanding.
Kansas Rep. Christina Haswood, a Navajo Nation member and Haskell alum, will share a presentation on Indigenous politics. Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health (LDCPH) will also be speaking on sacred and ceremonial tobacco uses, focusing on the health disparities Native populations face, especially as a primary target of the commercial tobacco industry. The event will be catered by Maseualkualli Farms, a Lawrence-based organic fruit and vegetable farm that’s focused on community service.
Moniqué Mercurio, of the Navajo people and Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nations, is an ICC board member and committee head. She believes this kind of event exemplifies the very reason they started the organization: to hold space for Natives in the community to feel supported and seen.
“We’ve been idle for so long, it’s not an option anymore,” Mercurio says. “The best way we can support our own communities is by providing a place for them to share their art, practice traditions, tell stories, and begin that healing. But it’s equally important to educate the larger Lawrence community.”
One of the most dire issues Native Americans face, which will be addressed at this event, is a lack of health equity. The Indian Health Service reports that Natives experience shorter life expectancies and more preventable illness due to systemic issues such as poverty and discrimination. The commercial tobacco industry targets marginalized communities for these reasons, and it’s especially harmful to Native populations, who have historically used tobacco for spiritual purposes. According to LDCPH, 22.6% of American Indian adults say they currently smoke cigarettes, compared to 13.7% of all U.S. adults.
Laura McCulloch, community health planner for LDCPH, is using partnerships with the ICC to overcome “mistrust in governmental organizations and a history of oppression, marginalization and exploitation, and provide the resources needed to support improved health outcomes” among our Indigenous neighbors in Lawrence.
Although this disparity is especially evident when it comes to tobacco, it also serves as an opportunity for the growth and healing that ICC stands for. McCulloch will be co-presenting with Jason Hale from AIHREA (American Indian Health Research and Education Alliance), who will dive into traditional tobacco use by American Indians and Alaska Natives for spiritual, ceremonial, and medicinal purposes.
“This is an event that intentionally integrates multiple aspects of health and community, body, spirit, and mind,” she says.
Robert Hicks Jr., member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe of Nixon Nevada and chair of the ICC board of directors, said artists who will be present include locals Mercurio, Tokeya Richardson, Odessa Star, Iris Cliff, and Krystle Perkins, as well as Vernon Ketchen, Marcia Little, Chelsea Smith, and Lakeisha Marie.
The Indigenous Day Art Show will be held from 3-7 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 9, at the Sacred Ground Haskell campus ministry at Haskell Indian Nations University, 137 Pawnee Ave. Find more information on the event page on Facebook.
As the Indigenous Community Center grows, they are actively looking for volunteers. Contact the group via Facebook, Twitter, or at email@example.com to express interest in donating your time.
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Jordan Winter (she/her), a contributor to The Lawrence Times, is a 2019 KU grad with degrees in journalism and political science.