Navajo, Zuni artists reveal culture and climate in 2024 Young Tribal Leaders Art Contest | Navajo-Hopi Observer

Navajo-Hopi Observer
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WASHINGTON — The Division of Environmental Service and Cultural Resource Management (DESCRM) announced winners of the 2024 Young Tribal Leaders Art Contest March 22.

The contest received over 100 submissions from tribal citizens aged 14-30 across the nation. These pieces included various artistic mediums including painting, sculpture, beadwork, weaving, photography, and film; all of which centered the contest themes of culture, environment and climate.

A selection committee of DESCRM and Institute of Tribal Environmental Professionals staff chose three winners whose artwork best depicted these themes. These winners will each receive full travel funding to share their work at the 2024 National Tribal and Indigenous Climate Conference (NTICC) in Anchorage, Alaska in September.

Along with the three winners, the selection committee chose 20 other exemplary works to exhibit online in the BIA’s 2024 Young Tribal Leaders Art Contest Gallery as well as at the Main Interior Building in Washington D.C.

Top three winners

The three top winners include “Indigenizing Environmental Justice Movement” beadwork by Kimey Begaye, a 23-year-old from Winslow, Arizona; “Dek’ohananne” mixed media piece by Lakin Epaloose, 20, from the Zuni pueblo; and “Zuzeca Sapa” mixed media by Kassidy Linabery, 28, of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.

Begaye said she focused her bead project on the Cholla Power Plant located by Winslow, which opened in 1962 and is coal fire generated.

“Navajo land is abundant in gas, coal, water and uranium,” she said. “Currently, there are five extractive industries on our territories. Of those, there are three coal-fired power plants that are polluting our lands and contributing greatly to climate change.”

Begaye described Indigenous environmental injustice as “irresponsible and exploitative environmental policies that harm the physical and financial health of Indigenous communities.”

They also cause spiritual harm by destroying land held in a place of exceptional reverence for Indigenous peoples, she said, adding that exposure to emissions from coal-fired power plants can be extremely harmful to human health — even deadly.

“Other community members described decades of watching the power plant and coal mine take precious water sources, pollute the air, extract materials from the earth, all while Navajo community members’ health suffered and communities lacked electricity and running water,” Begaye said. “Art shows power, evokes emotions and challenges paradigm. It is a way to inspire action that would otherwise remain unseen.”

Lakin Epaloose said “Dek’ohananne” encompasses the migration story of Zuni and all Puebloan communities of the southwest from a Zuni perspective.


“These locations extend all the way from the Grand Canyon into what is today known as central Mexico,” Epaloose said. “The elements of water (k’yana), such as in the form of cumulus clouds (awethuya:we), and flora, serve as key points in this work. Many of the petroglyphs and pottery designs found throughout each respective area are also depicted in the work.”

Exemplary works

Other exemplary works featured in the gallery include 24-year-old Sabrina Manygoats’ photograph, “Stills from Łéétsoh.” A photograph taken October 2023 of a Geiger counter measuring radiation at the Church Rock, Arizona, nuclear disaster site is overlayed with archival footage from the Kerr McGee uranium mining operations in Shiprock, Arizona.


“Depicted is a conveyor system transporting uranium ore to a processing facility where it would be refined into yellow cake,” Manygoats said.

Skylar Blackbull said her painting and beadwork series “Medicine in Movement.” represent the physical and spiritual beauty in Native American heritage. The regalia worn represents a story. The grass dancer and the eagle dancer mimic the animals in nature, while the shawl dancer is sharing her own story.


“Through song and dance we bring our community closer and heal those around us,” she said. “Through my work, I hope to inspire others to explore the vibrant world of Indigenous creativity, to recognize the beauty and complexity of Native American culture, and to appreciate the diversity that exists within it.”

View all the winning entries at

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Navajo-Hopi Observer ,
nhonews stories , 2024-04-02 19:39:00

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