When Leah Henry-Tanner and Shelley Means discovered that Native American infant mortality rates were high above the national average, they knew something needed to be done.
Henry-Tanner of the Nez Perce Tribe and Means of the Ojibwe and Lakota Tribes came together to form the Native American Women’s Dialogue on Infant Mortality (NAWDIM).
Through their program, these women have worked to save the lives of Native American infants by providing mothers with needed supplies, community-oriented learning activities and health education.
The NAWDIM is just one of several non-profit organizations working to make a positive impact on the lives of Native Americans at The Paramount’s “Re:definition exhibit.” In its second year, “Re:definition” exists to redefine historic cultural space.
On Thursday, Jan. 19 the Seattle Theatre Group hosted an opening reception for “Re:definition” in the lobby of the Paramount Theatre, where it will run through May 24.
Hosts invite guests to remove their coats and leave them on the rack near the door. Once inside, attendees are immediately immersed in the Native American culture through art, exhibits, food and live music.
The lobby is filled with several exhibits and stands both selling the people’s’ work and raising awareness for various causes. Photographers Adam Sings and Kalen Goodluck are two of the artists with their work displayed on the walls.
Both Sings and Goodluck’s photography depicted different aspects of life for indigenous people. Much of the photos showed cultural traditions, the beauty of the land and conveyed emotions felt by the people who live there.
All pieces of photography were on sale during the exhibit.
Across the lobby, non-profit organizations, such as the NAWDIM, shared ideas and sold hand-made products. In addition to providing mothers with education, Henry-Tanner and Means created hand-made cradleboards for the mothers to carry their babies.
Other organizations shared handmade jewelry and information regarding different aspects of everyday life.
The art exhibit featured various paintings, sketches, photos and designs all advocating for change in different ways. Some of the issues highlighted were race, social justice and environmental protection.
One photograph showed a dome-shaped figure, but through careful detection one could see that it was made up completely of water bottles. A total of 6,000 post-consumer water bottles were used to create the figure.
Issues of racial equality were also highlighted through paintings. Although abstract, much of the art spoke powerfully once given the time to appreciate its symbolism and unique meaning.
Event curator Tracy Rector put the event together because she believes that there is power in sharing a story. Sings shared, “[The people] must take back our narrative, tell our story.”
For many indigenous people, they feel that their story has not been shared correctly or fairly. One of the most powerful ways to convey these emotions and feelings is through the platform of art, and this opportunity is what “Re:definition” hopes to provide them with.
“As an act of healing, now is the time to decolonize false narratives, spaces and our minds,” Rector said. “‘Re:definition’ gives us the opportunity to collectively imagine an Indigenous-centered future, engineer interwoven fantasies and carve out a space for Indigenous people to feel acknowledged with honesty, beauty and truth.”
For more information, visit Seattle Theatre Group’s event page at http://bit.ly/2hRqtRt. “Re:definition” runs through May 24.