I am a Cherokee woman of a certain age and a lawyer. There are precious few things in this world that truly render me speechless. This stopped me in my tracks. It is triggering. Breathtaking. Raw. And absolutely spot on.
This digital illustration entitled “Matoaka” by Nathalie Standingcloud (Cherokee, Creek, Salish, Kootenai, Colville) represents Pocahontas or Matoaka at her real age when she would have first met John Smith.” The handprint on her face is the symbol for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls movement. If you don’t know about #MMIW and want a deep dive, here’s a phenomenal report from the Urban Indian Health Institute.
In short, Indigenous women are subjected to unspeakable violence at astronomical rates when compared to the general population and there are countless situations where Indigenous women go missing and/or are murdered without accountability. Without the immediate institutional response that may be afforded in other circumstances.
It’s a crisis of Indigenous invisibility and it’s tied, at least in part, to the hyper-sexualization of BIPOC women in pop culture and media. Images normalize thought processes. Images normalize actions. Images normalize inaction. It’s time to push back on the images.
The purpose of this post is simple and straightforward: I want to share this beautiful and provocative piece (with the permission of the artist) and highlight/amplify her work. Make note of Nathalie Standingcloud, buy her work when you can. If you like ink. Let her be your artist. You can follow her on Instagram here and read a feature story about her work in the Cherokee Phoenix here. She is endlessly talented and deserves to be celebrated from the rooftops.
This is a blog about Indigenous wellness and taking care of ourselves. That can mean 1000 different things to every one of us. One of the ways that wellness comes is through healing and addressing the impact of (all kinds of) trauma and pain. Things that are kept bottled up and not directly addressed will undoubtedly lead to more dysfunction, sickness and darkness. It’s a perpetual cycle that needs to be broken in every way that we can.
I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog celebrating individuals, including athletes and health care professionals. Today, I want to give a huge shout out to all the artists. They can heal, too. Heal and tend to themselves by expressing their thoughts via art. Heal the rest of us by moving our hearts, our intellects, and pinging our otherwise stagnate imaginations.
It is commonly repeated that a Nation is not conquered until the hearts of their women are the ground. It is also true that one sign of a healthy Nation is when their artists are in full unmitigated bloom. And I see that everywhere I look inside Indian country.
Go Nathalie Standingcloud! And thank you for stirring so many things deep inside me. Inside us.