Where does the Western World Intersect with the Indigenous Peoples?
For many of the Native American Indian people, the arts have always been a way to connect humanity to the Great Spirit, the Creator of all things. In Western culture, the arts have often times become a form of escape and have well exceeded the bounds of moderation. As I ventured in my career, in the field of Fashion photography, I have had to spend a great deal of time contemplating where my story fits in this dichotomy.
I was the first child born in America to immigrant parents, third in succession. While my father was in awe of America, learning about the forefathers, my mother had her fascination elsewhere... with the original settlers of America. She was enamored by the Native American Indian people. She would buy me the most beautiful Native American Indian porcelain dolls, pretty little leather purses with fringe on them and the likes. Even some of my little tchotchkes were wolves and dreamcatchers and paintings of the wild west on velvet canvases. I grew up always ravenous to learn more about the indigenous people of the Greater Americas.
Being of Russian and Iranian descent, I was no novice to how regalia and dance was a form of art to connect to the Creator through story telling.
The haunting, hollow, whispie flutes of the Andes music drew me to the Incan civilizations, which then led me back to the North American Indians; the Aztec, Hopi, and Mayan peoples. This then then led me to the great planes; the Lakota Indians. It is there where I had the opportunity to visit, learn, and mingle with the great Lakota people and Nation.
I began to try to understand what it meant when Baha’u’llah described God as being the Fashioner of the universe. Many tribes use fashion as a way to connect themselves to their higher selves. And so here we all are...canvases that become radiant pieces of art, designed by our own handiwork. We are designers and creators, as we have been Designed and Created.
As a Bahai, I was always reminded that the key to changing the world was through getting everyone on the same page. The Unity of humanity is the grand mission and is unequivocally the most important key to the safety of humanity. Teaching Baha'u'llah's message, first and foremost, to both the Native American Indians and the African Americans, is a paramount teaching... one that would change the world.
“Attach great importance to the indigenous population of America…should they be educated and guided, there can be no doubt that they will become so illumined as to enlighten the whole world…”
It is again Written:
“Unification of the whole of mankind is the hall-mark of the stage which human society is now approaching. Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving. Nation-building has come to an end. The anarchy inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life.”
The Native American peoples use visualization, dance, regalia, story telling, pottery all as a form of prayer, supplication and teaching. I sure hope in the upcoming months we can really explore what it means to use ART as a form of connecting us to our higher selves. By looking through the eyes of the indigenous peoples may help us all.
Text and Photography courtesy of Susan Jeffers