Since inception, The Red Road Project’s purpose is to document, through words & visuals, the inspiring and resilient stories of Native America. These stories, not often told, highlight people that are doing positive things to help their communities prosper. More often than not, we hear a non-Native narrative reporting what indigenous American culture is or represents and this sometimes leads to misconceptions and fueling of negative connotation. With the vast and complicated historical trauma that tribal people have had to endure for centuries, our intention is to re-direct that conversation. It is important that The Red Road Project is a platform for Native American people to tell their stories of past, present, and future through their own voice and words. We believe that indigenous knowledge and teachings can also suggest solutions to the issues we are facing collectively as humans – now more so than ever.
The title of this work comes from various Native American teachings that encourage one to “walk the red road”. When Native American people say they are walking along the “red road” it means they are living life with purpose and doing so while on a path to positive change. Through this work, we want to illustrate how American Indian cultures have had to overcome constant attempts of cultural genocide and highlight not only the residual scars of colonization, but bring forth the resilience, resistance, and revitalization among these people and cultures of today.
What did we do so wrong that they would want to wipe us out? Strip us of our land, force us onto reservations, take our language and clothing, make our children go into boarding schools and punish them for crying for their mothers. We cared for this land and now look at it. Look at us; we are dying. We were a people of millions and now some tribes have a few left, if any. Some have died out all together. We are losing our languages, many of our lives have succumbed to alcohol and our children don’t know our traditions. We never took gold, we have no interest in oil, we only cared for the land and that is all we know. We ask ourselves everyday: what did we do so wrong?
– James Shot With Two Arrows, Medicine Man (2013)