The red nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world; a world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations; a world longing for light again. I see a time of seven generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the sacred tree of life and the whole earth will become one circle again.– Tȟašúŋke Witkó (Crazy Horse), Oglala Lakota Leader (1840-1877)
In the late 1800s, Oglala Lakota holy man Black Elk had a vision at the age of 9 when he became ill and had a near-death experience. When he awoke and shared his vision, he felt the dream was a prophecy of a great suffering that would be set upon Native people and it wouldn’t be until seven generations later that a sacred duty would be laid upon the people to take a stand for their relatives and the earth again.
In his vision, he saw a “great tree” that symbolized all life on earth. He foresaw war, famine and sickness among his people and their sacred circle would be broken. After seven generations of this darkness, there would be a reuniting for not only for his people, the Lakota, but for all people on earth. This seventh generation will take back what little culture and rights remain and amplify positive change for future generations that don’t yet exist. Today, many elders and Native leaders see a clear rise of the 7th generation in their people today. These people, and those represented in The Red Road Project, are making positive impacts within their communities and for future generations.
The seventh generation are activists, teachers, artists, doctors, scientists, community leaders, attorneys, language warriors, spiritual leaders, powwow celebrities, single parents. They are aunties, grandfathers, children, uncles and cousins… they have all risen above the darkness that has plagued their people for generations. They are on a path of healing from historical trauma and want to inspire change within their communities by strengthening their sacred hoop while breaking the unbalanced cycles.
Danielle Ta’Sheena in her Bedroom: Danielle works as a Judge for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. During law school, she participated in several Native American pageants as a way to earn scholarships for college, but also to represent herself and other young women from her tribe. In 2016, she won the most prominent title in Native American pageantry as Miss Indian World. She was the first from her tribe to win.
Alayna and Tonia Jo: These two Lakota women introduce themselves as sisters, even though there is no blood relation. “We take each other as sisters in the Lakota way”, says Tonia Jo. In the Dakota/Lakota culture, one doesn’t need matching DNA to be considered family. For centuries, tribal communities have always taken care of one another and the idea of “take what you need and give the rest away” has always been their way of life. Tonia Jo is a well known comedian within the Native American communities and often portrays her alter-ego, “Auntie Beachress”. Amidst the #NoDAPL protests on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, Alayna, a Lakota Language specialist, started the Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Owáyawa (Defenders of the Water School) as a way of the children at the camp to continue their education. The school has evolved into a quarterly cultural gathering with plans to open as a long term Lakota-based school.
Martin: A Koyukon-Athabascan and Tlingit man from Alaska, Martin is an actor, model and motivational speaker for Indian youth. Before he found himself featured in Hollywood films, he was working on oil rigs in his hometown of Yakutat, Alaska. Today, he has a successful career in Hollywood, breaking the cycle of Native Americans being one of the most marginalized minorities in the industry. For many decades, Native Americans have been inaccurately represented and were never hired to portray the American Indian. Instead, non-Natives would be given the role and would paint their faces or dress up in costumes which continued the appropriation of the culture.
Sage in the Colorado River: Sage, of Hualapai descent, earned the title of 1st attendant in the 2012 Miss Native American USA pageant. From that point forward, she has been encouraging Native youth to travel off the reservation to explore opportunities. Sage speaks to youth focusing on four fundamental principles: traditionalism, spirituality, contemporary issues and education. Sage stands at the base of the Grand Canyon in waters that are sacred to her people. She wears traditional Hualapai make-up on her cheeks and a hand-made dress made by a family member.
Ishko: An artist of Jicarilla Apache and Diné descent sits in his art studio on the Isleta Pueblo Indian Reservation in New Mexico surrounded by his artwork that represents some of the atrocities inflicted on Native Americans.
Juanita: Juanita had a long list of accomplishments and was the ideal role model to her community. She was valedictorian of her charter school, President of the Native American Youth Empowerment group, and on the executive committee of UNITY (United National Indian Tribal Youth Organization). During college things changed dramatically for Juanita. She felt the pressure of life and experienced a very traumatizing family event. She quickly fell into depression, anxiety and succumbed to drugs and alcohol. In 2012, she had a turning point. “I started to believe in my dreams and in myself again.” Today, she works for the Community Wellness program on her reservation and has influenced positive changes in the program and in her community, particularly within the youth.
Mataya: She has considered joining the military after high school and said, “being in the army would be cool, but being an Indian in the army would be even cooler.” Native Americans seem to suffer racism and discrimination in many places; but in the military, they are highly-respected and have a very interesting presence within the U.S. military history.
Crisosto: From the Mescalero Apache Tribe in New Mexico, Crisosto is a published poet. He writes pieces that support the LGBTQ initiatives that he is involved with as a gay, indigenous man. Growing up on the reservation, he was exposed to a different point of view in terms of what it meant to be “gay”. Among his people and in other various indigenous teachings, being homosexual is coined as being “two-spirited”, which is rooted from traditional philosophies of gender-defined spaces: a male and female universe, a male and female rain, Father Sky and Mother Earth, etc. It is believed that among these spaces some people are born with the gift of walking between both of these identities and offering value of both worlds.
Buffalo Barbie: A two-spirit, Diné man and an advocate for LGBTQ rights within the Native American community, Travis aka Buffalo Barbie, reigned as 2019’s Miss Montana Two Spirit and used this title as a platform to speak to other Indigenous people on the blessings of being a two-spirited person.
Heather in the Chapel: Heather grew up on a small farm on the Isleta Pueblo Reservation in New Mexico, a community of about 3,000 people. Her upbringing has given her a strong desire to help preserve her community and the land in self-sustaining ways. “Agriculture is extremely important to my tribe not only for sustainability but also for religious purposes. The corn is very sacred to us and we need a place to grow it and provide it to our own people”. She has been working on passing a land and wildlife preservation bill on the Reservation to further her efforts in bringing self-sustainability to her community.