Essay by Jaque Fragua: The beginning of another season, another cycle, another space in time…

In an increasingly diverse society, it’s important to recognize different groups, communities, and cultures properly. This can be hard when language is constantly changing — but it changes because we’re often finding better, more accurate ways to represent ourselves. One of the more recent changes has been the rise of the term BIPOC when referring to historically marginalized races and ethnicities.

There have been quite a number of changes in our world over the last two years, let alone the last decade. I have been an artist even longer. I have observed, listened, studied, and then sometimes created. It has always been my process. I am hard-wired this way. Rarely do I create, in comparison to my critical thinking. Yet, I have mustered the courage to create and be creative, with all odds against me and my expression and identity. I do think that at the core of my identity is an antithesis to this World. A world built up around me and my ancestors, a world that was invented to enslave those who opposed it, and it just so happened my people, indigenous people, Native American, Pueblo people, stood in the way of this world. 

At one point it was all of us who opposed it. Then some converted to it. Now some have become in alignment with the oppressor, while still appearing to be “Indian” or “Indin”. Some have even become the Oppressor itself. The colonial world has destroyed much and has replaced it with a substitute, much in the way we are giving up the physical natural world for the metaverse aka the real final frontier. Much of our reality and culture has been removed, collected, archived, simulated, and mocked, ie. Museums, Halloween costumes, and sports teams, etc. 

However, our Spirit is an ember, in the vastness of this dark space we now find ourselves in. We’ve seen this coming. The truth exists within our teachings, passed down from our Ancestors, from generation to generation. And these teachings pre-date any Wikipedia or constitution or treaty or “science” we now reference. I reference and live in the context of my teachings. I am my ancestors, bottled up in this vessel of a melanin solar-powered being… a human being. I have been called a lot of things, but I do agree with being a spirit, before I think and believe anything else. 

For years, I believed I was inadequate, incapable, incompetent, weak, undesirable, and unworthy. I was in a cage, much like most of my brothers and sisters. The Reservation was/is a cage, inside of another cage. It reminds me of when I was in solitary confinement… a concrete room with a little hole, only to see your relationship to the rest of the prison. This country exists in one big for-profit prison. Once I realized this, I broke out. I went back to ceremonies. Maybe not in the way you would imagine. My ceremony happened on the inside. I looked inside, and as much as I disliked what I found, I understood what I had to do to heal. The healing continues. I may never get to the point I want to get to before I leave this vessel, but at least I know what is real and what is not real. I think I reverse-engineered my healing. I dove deep. I ran 500 miles at the drop of a hat. I fasted, I prayed. I did what my elders taught me to do when one needed to purge. I created the space for me to be me. I finally understood what I really am. 

You see, this World tries to keep you distracted from who you really are. It even provides options (avatars) for you to embody and embrace, just so you can feel a little secure, like a mouse on a wheel. I thought that was what life was. I thought I had to intentionally suffer through it to attain any sort of peace. Why Creator has kept me here, while most of my peers and people have succumbed to the avatars of oppression, abuse, negligence, trauma, and genocide, is a mystery to me. I don’t like to say I’ve made it out because I would just be sounding like a colonized modernized educated sophisticated Native. 

Although, I have been on the outside of the prison, and it is wonderful. When I look back into the tesseract of the oppressed, I see suffering, but not in the way you would imagine. I see the suffering of a false education, blind religion, trendy diets, pharmaceutical poison, celebrity worship, surgical exaggerations, binary reactions, sick entertainment, impersonations, the walking dead… some might say a carnival, because of the apparent clownery. My heart breaks especially when I see my own people “living” this way. Much in the way Trudell expresses the thought of being a human without “being”. I don’t know if there are any solutions. Some say we are here just to slow down the impending doom. I don’t know if I can agree or believe it. I know some days it seems blatant. I just can’t seem to accept it.

I’ve had some ideas about things that might be of help. Firstly, I think the vessel that holds this spirit needs to be maintained and cared for. I think exercise is a simple, though not always easy, way to begin the journey to health. I suggest running, or boxing. Cardiovascular activity cuts down chances of disease immensely. I do think that when the body is healthy, the mind can be free to think clearly. I do think this first step to health is inherently co-opted by trends in diet, supplements, aesthetics, and lifestyles. I would suggest staying as clean as possible to purify the body of all toxicity. If anything, clean water is the first step to health in general. Distilled water is pure water, without minerals or additives. This works wonders on your cells. Sunlight is also amazing for your body. Do not use cancer-causing sunblock either, especially if you have dark skin. Also, do your own research and you will be inspired by what appears before you. Most of this information is hiding in plain sight.

After the body has created a sense of homeostasis that doesn’t rely on toxicity, the mind will follow. There are definitely some healthy habits to introduce into your own practice. Trading your screen-time for a book is always a good idea. Learn a skill. I use music and visual art as a way to feed my hungry mind, as well as connect with family and friends. Check on your youth and elders if you ever find yourself bored.

Thirdly, I’ve found that once there is a healthy rhythm going, physically and mentally, the spirit will follow and flow. I think that internal work is the most challenging practice of Life. Thus, most people keep their distance from this work. I love this work. I love connecting with my own Spirit every day. I wake up and greet the Sun, share my thoughts and prayers with the Creator, and start my day with a fresh sense of perspective. I feel like I reset my compass this way. It’s like removing the static and feedback that tries to cling on. I try to find time to explore the outdoors and build my relationship with nature. It is also a good way to understand the land and connect with the ancestral territory, to remember who you really are. #landback

I think experiencing life through this lens, is a way to understand life in a non-linear way, which is inherently indigenous.

These ideas have led me to a certain vision for the year 2022. This year I will be more visible. I will express myself more. I will embrace my excellence. I will be of service to others, with healthy boundaries. I will be unapologetically me, a Native man.

I share these things, not for likes, or approval. I share this for those who observe and listen. For Natives and non-Natives alike. 

Artwork Credit: Jaque Fragua, Drive Thur Liquor.

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