About the Project:
Indigenize Your Eyes is a participatory photography project intended to raise awareness of the history and current status of American Indians in Boulder. This project gives voice and empowering storytelling skills to local Native Americans in our community, and helped draw attention to Boulder’s Indigenous Peoples Day in October, 2018.
Partnering with notable indigenous storyteller Josue Rivas and local photographers and indigenous organizations (and funded by a grant from the City of Boulder’s Arts Commission), we held a 3-day Photography Camp on July, 2018 for native youth at the Museum of Boulder. Our students were then mentored throughout the summer by volunteer professional photographers.
The project culminated in a series of photo exhibits of the students' work launched prior to Indigenous Peoples Day and exhibited throughout the month of October in a variety of locations throughout Boulder.
Boulder's Past and Present:
The Boulder Valley is infused with a rich indigenous history -- but while our land was once home exclusively to Indigenous peoples from a wide variety of nations, predominately Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Ute Peoples, today Native Americans make up just 0.4% of the population. Due to past federal legislation in support of genocide, forced removal, and assimilation, indigenous peoples have been removed from their traditional homelands. After gold was discovered at Gold Run in January of 1859, Boulder City Town Company was founded by settlers on February 10 of 1859, thereby not keeping the promise to Chief Left Hand, and going against the agreement of the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie. Native nations were largely pushed out to reservations in neighboring states or were killed (including in the brutal Sand Creek Massacre).
Boulder has benefited directly from Indian removal policies that violated human rights, broke government treaties and forced Native Peoples from their homelands. This area still remains home to a vibrant American Indian community, and Boulder is still a sacred space to many American Indians. This land serves as the burial grounds for many of their ancestors. But in modern times, Boulder’s local American Indian population has been largely hidden and muted -- their presence has been acknowledged almost exclusively in academia, occasional museum exhibits, and a street name here or there. The average Boulder resident or visitor has almost no recognized interaction with our indigenous residents, or any grasp of their history and status in the community. It’s often difficult for our communities to find intersectionality.
Indigenize Your Eyes is not only an artistic exhibit but also a self-reflective exercise of those now living on these ancestral lands to recognize that harm was done and acknowledge that we have a shared responsibility to forge a path forward to address the past and continuing harm to the Indigenous people and the land.
In 2016 the City of Boulder passed Resolution No. 1190 which established the second Monday of every October as Indigenous Peoples Day. The resolution was drafted by local American Indian community members, historians, and educators. Boulder became the 14th city in America to establish this permanent day of celebration in honor of the original inhabitants of this continent. Indigenous Peoples Day is part of an effort to recognize and honor the existence, culture, and continued contributions of the original inhabitants of this continent.