by Sam Stevens (MCC Advisor)
Photographs by Chrissy Begaye, Sam Stevens
Mesa, AZ - On April 15, 2014 the annual American Indian Academic and Artisan's Conference, which started nine years ago, was held at Mesa Community College. In a collaborative effort with MCC English faculty Eddie Webb, the Maricopa Office of American Indian Outreach, and the American Indian Center/American Indian Institute at MCC, they hosted a day to showcase artwork and academic papers by talented American Indian students and artists who attend Mesa as fulltime students. Their work was judged by a panel of MCC instructors and scholarship awards were presented for both art and academic submissions. All events took place on the 3rd floor of the Paul A. Elsner Library in the Southwest Reading Room on MCC’s Southern/Dobson campus and lunch was provided for all participants and attendees.
Students began submitting artwork in early March and award winners were chosen and notified last week. They prepared presentations and short speeches to talk about their art or writings and spoke in front of a crowd numbering roughly 75 individuals that filtered in throughout the day. The awards were administered from a group of private donors and the English Department at MCC who support American Indian education. A total of nine award winners received recognition for artistic creations and academic papers. Dustin Begay was named Artist of the Year and received a $1500 scholarship. His work consisted of traditional Navajo themes highlighting those things most important to him: his mother and women in culture as well as the connection native peoples have to the land where they were raised. He was extremely grateful for the award and expressed disbelief in learning he had won against so many other talented artists.
1st runner up was Hanna Manuelito whose artwork expressed a very strong female theme using her sisters, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother as role models for her in life as well as in her artwork. 2nd runner up Zaneta Brown shared an eclectic collage of her work, expressing that she did not know her talent as an artist until later in her life. All other award winners received scholarships of varying amounts.
Alfred Yazzie’s HIS140 (American Indian History) class also shared a display portraying various perceptions of Native America using pieces of artwork but no words. From the romantic to the modern, to the ecological and stereotypical, these creative collages conveyed meaning that encompassed a larger scope of work created by another body of MCC’s American Indian student population who had not participated in the award competition.
Keynote speaker for the 2014 Academic and Artisan’s Conference was Rebecca Tsosie, a member of the Yaqui Nation and currently a Regent’s Professor at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. She spoke to students about a number of topics but focused primarily on issues related to tribal sovereignty, identity, and protection of indigenous rights of nations. As she explained sovereignty she also encouraged students to learn how to get involved in the struggle to maintain federal recognition and know their rights as indigenous people. Her enthusiasm and excitement were palpable as she spoke about her experiences defending Native American nations’ rights regarding water, land, and identity. The audience was very enthralled in what she presented and she even allowed time for a short Q&A session following her remarks.
The conference concluded with the remaining scholarship winners presenting their papers to those in attendance. Their papers varied in theme and expression but they all touched on subjects dear to the writers. Topics such as teen pregnancy, graffiti, and native dancing shared the spotlight with homages to music, family, and the Navajo calendar. English faculty Eddie Webb was extremely excited about the event that was made possible by the abilities of our smart and talented American Indian students at MCC and declared it a success after the final presentation.
Scholarship award recipients
Dustin Joseph Begay (Navaj0) – Artist of the Year
Hanna Manuelito (Navajo) – 1st Runner up
Zaneta Ashley Brown (Navajo) – 2nd Runner up
Academic Paper Awards
Eddie Clark (Navajo) – The Navajo Calendar
Shaina Chato (Navajo) – Graffiti: Art or Vandalism
Dominique Hunter (Pawnee) – The Dancer’s Universe: A Reflection
Christine Kaibetoney Begaye (Navajo) – Person of Exemplary Integrity
David Teller (Navajo) – Thoughts of Being Native American in the Digital Age
Jessica Thomas (Navajo) – Teen Pregnancy