In the last issue of DomLife, we shared with you the news of the prestigious Caldecott Medal awarded to a Native American Artist Michaela Goade for her watercolor artistry in children’s picture books. In this issue, we draw your attention to Allie Young from the Navajo reservation. Allie left a position at Harness in Los Angeles to return to the reservation at the beginning of the pandemic to utilize her film and media studies from Dartmouth to draw attention to the challenges facing the Native/Indigenous People during this pandemic. With her contacts in Los Angeles she “harnessed” technology and artists to get the message out to the country and to the young people on reservations to speak up and respond to the census, to get out and vote, and to follow COVID protocols.
One of the productions was entitled “The Force is Strong in Indian Country”. The Arizona portion of the Navajo Nation is 18,000 square miles and larger than any other reservation in the country. It has only 27 postal locations, which is roughly equivalent to the entire state of New Jersey having just 13 mailboxes for residents.
Since mail in ballots are not practical on the reservation and to highlight the importance of voting, Allie organized a “Ride to the Polls,” which drew international attention. She captured the importance by utilizing the cultural significance of how horses are used in native ceremonies. The horse is considered resilient and strong and the idea was suggested by her father and it was an opportunity to bond with her father and elders from the reservation.
Another of Allie’s projects is “Protect the Sacred,” which is a grassroots initiative formed to help Native American youth to reconnect to their culture and protect what is sacred, especially the elders. She is passionate that the elders hold the ancestral knowledge, the native languages and all the things we learn from them each day. This pandemic was a wake-up call because the elders were very vulnerable in the pandemic and moreover the native population has been decimated throughout US history by action of the government.