The following is is a guest post by Skylar Henry. It was created as part of the COP23 SustainUs Delegation creative challenge. Please see the end of the submission for his bio.
This is a photo of six SustainUs members at the 2017 Native Voices Rising march in Washington, D.C. I provided the materials for these posters which I was able to source from the Arizona State University’s American Indian Student Support Services at the West Campus. My friend, Remy Franklin, is holding the awesome poster I created for the event. It reads, “We are not protesters. We are messengers.”
Hello, my name is Skylar Henry and I’m from Cedar Ridge on the Navajo Reservation. I would consider myself an artist because the tribe I’m enrolled in has a rich culture and creative, artistic people. Not only do I recognize the creative culture of the Navajo Nation, but I am also recognizing that of the other tribes, both federally and non-federally recognized. This is because, collectively put, our cultures encompass the artistic values of our customs and traditions, and, with that, our point of view.
Climate justice is directly affects the lives and cultures of all of our nations. In drawing on my perspective as an American Indian witnessing the direct impact of climate justice in my community, I chose to contribute with a poster to the 2017 Native Voices Rising march in Washington, DC. My piece incorporates a peaceful message emphasized by the soft background; however, the font also makes a bold statement.
Although I, sadly, was not in the picture, or at the march, I was and continue to be with those pictured in spirit and through my creation, the poster itself. If given another chance to be part of the cause, and possibly access to the resources to get there, I would be more than happy to show up in more than just spirit. As a student, I could allocate my time and notify my professors what I am doing and how it is important to my identity so that I would never miss this opportunity again.
My poster appears simple on the outside, but the story behind it and the energy put into it are far more complex. I was limited on resources – both material and time – but was determined to contribute my piece to the movement. The colors I had to work with were just as limited, but I made the most of what was available to me. With creative, artistic beauty and with a purpose, one is able to create any media that I would call a success.
Once completed and in reflecting on the process of creating my media, I soon realized the true effect my piece could have. To me, the colors of the font are the themes of America and of patriotism, reflecting on our Code Talkers’ view of how and why we must defend this land. That is one underlying fact in the appearance. The overlying fact – much less abstract to the viewer – is what the statement on the poster has to say.
One of the most appealing and noticeable parts of the poster is its background. With my limited resources, I combined the colors available to me in the best way I could that would still transmit my message. I believe this palette sets the peaceful tone and feeling which was the goal of my work and the goal of the Water Protectors at Standing Rock. Not only is that, but the palette I chose also eye-catching to the audience and you can tell by yourself. The audience can relate to the colors and capture a tone of what they are feeling from the colors. Combined with the written statement, this poster has an effect as a whole that transmits the message the heart, mind, body, and soul.
I designed my poster so that certain keywords are of a different color, highlighting the important pieces of my short and sweet messaging. The word “protestors” may have a negative connotation, so I thought the color red would be an ideal symbolism for CAUTION. The word “messengers,” however, is in white, promoting a more peaceful tone and feeling. I added blue as well to the poster as it carries a more relaxed ambiance and meaning. The juxtaposed expressions of “we are” and “we are not”, written in this blue, illustrate the steady path to the truth and transitions to the main keywords and ideas embodied by the message.
In addition, I believe that messengers are a once-in-a-lifetime deal. To some, Jesus is a messenger. To Navajos, it might be the coyote crossing their path. Messengers appear in our lives and may vanish as quickly as a shooting star, but their message can still be eternal. Messengers are here for us – all of us – and that which they have to say and do is what we should listen to and be concerned about. Messengers should be taken seriously, not lightly, as they may be transmitting knowledge and a concept greater than our mortal selves.
Skylar Henry (Navajo/Paiute/Zuni) is a Junior at Arizona State University and an upcoming artist. He draws on his heritage as inspiration and frequently incorporates artistic interpretation into his interdisciplinary Business and Communications studies. Having grown up in the Western Agency of the Navajo Nation, which is near the Grand Canyon, he is familiar with the intersectionality of natural resources, culture, and climate justice. In December 2016, he was fortunate enough to visit to Standing Rock and deliver artwork at the sacred campfire.