Photographer Josue Rivas on Indigenous Representation (ep. 123)

October 15, 2020
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This week on Monday, October 12th, a growing number of states and cities across the country celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

It comes as an important corrective after decades of celebrating the, quote, “discovery” of the Americas by Christopher Columbus each year. We know, of course, that no such discovery happened — what did happen was colonization and centuries of subjugation, murder, disenfranchisement and displacement of Native Americans. As we reflect on our history and on the stories that have been too often excluded, we consider the importance of not just what stories get told, but of who gets to tell them. 

On this episode we are joined by Josué Rivas, who’ll help us think through these questions. 

Josué is a visual storyteller, educator, creative director, and self-described “Indigenous futurist.” He descended from the Mexica Otomi peoples. He aims “ to challenge the mainstream narrative about Indigenous peoples” and to “be a visual messenger for those in the shadows of our society.” 

MOLLY KAPLAN
[00:00:01] From the ACLU, this is At Liberty. I’m Molly Kaplan, your host.

This week on Monday, October 12th, a growing number of states and cities across the country celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

It comes as an important corrective after decades of celebrating the “discovery” of the Americas by Christopher Columbus each year. We know, of course, that no such discovery happened — what did happen was colonization and centuries of subjugation, murder, disenfranchisement and displacement of Native Americans. As we reflect on our history and on the stories that have been too often excluded, we consider the importance of not just what stories get told, but of who gets to tell them.

Today we’re thrilled to be joined on the podcast by Josué Rivas, who’ll help us think through these questions. Josué is a visual storyteller, educator, creative director, and self-described “Indigenous futurist.” He descended from the Mexica Otomi peoples. He aims to challenge the “mainstream narrative about Indigenous peoples,” and to “be a visual messenger for those in the shadows of our society.” His work has appeared in The Guardian, The New York Times, and National Geographic — to name a few publications. He is also the founder of the 2018 Standing Strong Project, a tribute to the Water Protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota, and co-founder of Natives Photograph, a database for photo editors looking to hire indigenous photographers in North America.

Today he joins me to discuss his work at the intersection of art, journalism and social justice. I’ll be speaking to him from my home in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, the occupied land of the Lenape Canarsie people and he from Portland, Oregon, the land of the Chinook.

Welcome Josué, and thank you for joining me today.

JOSUÉ RIVAS
[00:01:57] Yeah, thank you for having me on your podcast today. It's an honor.

MOLLY
[00:02:02] It's an honor for us too. I want to start, actually, you described the work you do now as being at the intersection of art, journalism and social justice. But I think you originally came to this work through photography. So I wanted to start there and ask, how did you get started in photography?

JOSUÉ
[00:02:18] Yeah, I mean, I think the photography was my destiny in a way. It was the end of a circle of a story. So my father, who is a photographer as well, he yeah, he just basically, you know, used images since I was a little kid. And I grew up seeing that, I grew up seeing my father, you know, do quinceaneras and like baptisms and like more artistic stuff. And and, you know, at the same time, he was also addicted to alcohol. So I grew up thinking of photography as something that I actually kind of hated and actually something that I resented a lot.

But when I got older and I started going through my own journey and my own process of self discovery, I was able to use the camera as a tool for expanding and really upgrading who I was and, you know, really my operating system as a human being and really understanding what my purpose was. So that's where I think that the destiny came in where I knew that these tools were allowing us to tell stories visually could also be used for healing and could also be used for finding a way to express and say something that you hadn’t said yet. And for me, that was my own personal healing process and started it all out with, you know, understanding like where I came from and my experiences as a young man living on the streets where, you know, in Mexico I live and I was homeless for a bit when I was young. So, when I started photographing, I gravitated towards those folks that were houseless. That was the beginning of me understanding that photography and images and storytelling in general have a power and that I was able to tap into that, you know? I wasn't even aware of it. I was just more of like, this is what I'm meant to do.

MOLLY
[00:04:14] I'm curious, it sounds like maybe the connection between social justice and photography started young when you were photographing people in L.A. But I'm wondering, what about the medium do you think it makes photography particularly suited for the work of social justice?

JOSUÉ
[00:04:31] Yeah, the justice aspect of my work was influenced by when I was little, you know, my dad and my mom and myself, we would go to these little towns in Mexico where he would do like baptisms or, you know, photograph weddings and stuff like that. And sometimes the people that we will go deliver them these photographs, these prints of themselves, right? And then sometimes folks don't have enough money to pay for the print. So my dad was able to, he would just give it to them, you know? And I remember seeing my mom and my dad fighting all the time because my dad would just give away the work. And the thing about that is that every time we would come through those same towns, we would never go hungry because everybody will feed us. We will be walking in the street and then somebody will be like, hey, you guys got to come and have lunch and have breakfast or come and have dinner later on or here’s some food, take it home. And I realized then that that the image it was the currency that allow for the dignity of, especially of indigenous peoples, you know, to shine and to really come across, and that in itself is social justice to me. You know, like I grew up seeing that and then seeing that when you come hands-- with your hands full as a storyteller instead of with your hands empty trying to take, then there's healing happening, and healing is social justice too.

But then later on obviously I got older and you know, started seeing like protests and like I was really vocal and really involved with the DREAM Act, like back when they started in seing like folks and peers that, you know, that were fighting for their right to remain in the country. And they, just really interesting things where I started seeing that, you know, at that point I didn't really photograph yet, but I started seeing those, you know, those injustices, I guess you can say. And, and as I got older and started working with the camera and then starting to see the power of image and also art. And then, you know, even up until yesterday, I am obsessing over like technology and how indigenous peoples are gonna use technology to tell their stories so that in the future, we can preserve the stories. So it's always evolving, but there's always a big draw to images because there's a lot of dignity in images, you know, like you can see someone's dignity through that photograph,that becomes a powerful tool to change people's minds and hearts.

MOLLY
[00:07:05] In an interesting way, it sounds like part of your inheritance was that realization that your dad had, of the importance of being able to give the photographs and how that trumped being able to make money off of it every time. And I actually want to talk more specifically about one experience or one example of a time when your work blended the, you know, the fine art arena, journalism, activism, and that was your Standing Rock photography. You were there for quite some time and eventually an award winning book came from it. And I'm wondering, you know, how did you come to be there? What were your goals in going there as a photographer?

JOSUÉ
[00:07:44] Yeah, I mean, talking about Standing Rock it's tough because I'm still processing a lot of that work and a lot of those images and a lot of the stories.

MOLLY
[00:07:53] And I realize, Josué, I didn't say, can you also give a little background for those who, for whom it may not be as fresh in their memories what Standing Rock was?

JOSUÉ
[00:08:00] Yeah, definitely. From a very, like, linear point of view, like Standing Rock was a protest, right, like this opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline in 2016 that became a global movement. From a less linear perspective and something that I think comes across my work and in the book is there was a level of awakening. You know, it's something that this seed was planted at that camp and, you know, and the people that came to be at that camp were, they were at the beginning of this new paradigm, really, that I think we're entering and we're part of right now that is being birthed. But, when it comes to the images and the work and just really the story behind it, it was, it was a, you know, it was looking back in retrospect, Standing Rock was something that, I don't know, it’s complicated.

You know, it's like a really complicated moment for me because my son was seven months old. My wife was, had just had her son. And we were not in Standing Rock, we were in Los Angeles and, yeah, looking back in retrospect, I should have stayed home and been with my, you know, we should have just stay home. But we decided to go travel across the country to Standing Rock because, you know, my wife and I knew the value of that and also what was gonna come from it. You know, we, we had been around communities that had been known about this, you know, even before it became a reality. And they were telling us, you know, this is gonna be a huge moment. So we drove from Los Angeles to Standing Rock and yeah, it was supposed to be a week, and it turned into, you know months.

MOLLY
[00:09:34] Was your son and your wife with you the whole time?

JOSUÉ
[00:09:37] Three months. Yeah, three months.

MOLLY
[00:09:38] Three months. Wow.

JOSUÉ
[00:09:40] Yeah, it was, it was crazy then, and then the dogs-- do you remember, I don’t know if you remember when they started attacking people with dogs? Like the private security company, they started attacking people with these dogs and private mercenaries. And that's when I was like, I don't think this is really safe. And yeah, it was a tough decision to make, you know, like I missed my son's first steps and I'll never forget that because I was there. And at the same time, it's, it was meant to happen like I was meant to do that, I was meant to document it in the way that I did. And then I was like, wow, like these moments are so precious for the outside world and for myself, too. But a lot of it was me just channeling this work, you know, like just having the intuition to say I need to stay. And then enough intuition to say when I needed to go, you know? And it was, it was, it's just like an interesting body of work, it’s so potent in its own because it is not about my perspective. I mean, a lot of people tell me that, you know, it's like, wow, you're such a great photographer. And I say, you know, honestly, like a lot of the times I didn't know what I was doing.

MOLLY
[00:10:49] Well, can we say more about your process? Because I think, you know, you made this commitment of time, the seven months. But you also seem to have made a commitment to approach it not as you were taking something you often talk about that you don't take a photograph, but it was a collaborative experience. And also you were a guest. And I'm wondering if you can speak to how that affected the photographs that came out of the project?

JOSUÉ
[00:11:14] Yeah, definitely. I think that the root of it was I remember this day we were at the camp, you know, there was thousands of people coming in, and especially over the weekends. And there was this elder that told me, hey, you know, these folks are going to come in right now. They're Hopi. They're very, they don’t talk to the press very much. They don't like, you know, being photographed, they’re kind of more private. But what they're here for and their story is really important. And it will be really good for you to photograph them. So she bundled this tobacco on like a red cloth and -- you should when you offer tobacco and men in different tribes, it's just like an offering in your asking for something. And she's like, you should give it to them and then ask the man, the person who is in charge of the whole group, if you can photograph him. Because when you were in the camp, folks will tell you, hey, you know this a prayer like please don’t photograph and you know, people will still do it. And was this really super lame. Because every time you have to tell people, hey, guys, they're saying no. You know, like. And then anyways, that's a whole conversation on its own.

MOLLY
[00:12:18] Also the whole part of the point of being there was out of respect for the land and the culture. And so it seems even more important to respect those rules, right?

JOSUÉ
[00:12:29] Yeah. And, and even, you know, again, looking back in retrospect, I'm trying to be compassionate in my mind, right?

MOLLY
[00:12:34] Of course. People don’t know.

JOSUÉ
[00:12:35] Like, some of these folks have never been to a ceremony. They, they come from a very different perspective. Going to someone's, like, church, for example and just start photographing them. That would never happen. Like people don't have, they have a certain level of respect for that. However, because it's indigenous peoples and because it's very, it's very beautiful, to be honest, like, you know, being in a ceremony or even like seeing these Hopi, these Hopi dancers come in, you see their regalia, and it's just like, wow, like that's a photographer's, like dream. I can see how that can seem like it's my it's my right to be here to document. But I think that at the root of it, it’s because we’re always really colonized. We think that especially in photography, we think that it's like it's our right to to to take,

MOLLY
[00:13:24] It’s in the roots of photography, right? It started as a way to do it, sort of ethnographies of foreign people and cultures. And it's so baked in. It's so deep. And then there are you know, I'm sure there were a lot of photographers who had deadlines and publications asking for certain things by a certain time. And, you know, you get caught up in it, so completely with you. But I think it's such a good time to stop and question the way we function as photographers.

JOSUÉ
[00:13:49] Yeah, we have come to this place, of even when you think about the language of photography, right? Like challenging the, you know, the language around, like subjecting somebody, right, or taking or shooting.

MOLLY
[00:14:01] Shooting in particular. I cannot, you know, we hire photographers all the time for protest coverage. And I suddenly realized this summer I can't use that word anymore. The verb is, it's so violent.

JOSUÉ
[00:14:11] I mean, yeah. And you know FYI if somebody is out there who is down to write a book with me that I have in mind about changing the language of photography. Because I'm that's I think, again, in order to in order to move forward with especially like stories like Standing Rock or even like what we're experiencing with Black Lives Matter right now and then what the world is gonna look like after, you know, the results of this elections, it's really important for us to upgrade our operating system. It's just like a computer, right? Like you, you have these beliefs, these things that are like ingrained in you, and you have to clean them out and then you have to, you know, bring in the new ones and the ones that are going to start working for the reality that we're gonna be into. Because if we're not thinking 10, 20, 50 years from now and how these images that we're making right now are going to not only impact but also shape the reality of the future, then we’re just observers, you know? And we're not actively doing anything with our images.

MOLLY
[00:15:10] And you were saying -- I heard you interviewed or I think you were speaking it was at the TED talk -- and you said that there were lots of times where you put down your camera altogether, which as a photographer, like I always assumed that I can't participate and still be an observer. And I was so curious when I heard you say it, because that's, it's a really different process than I think most photojournalists have where you're supposed to be disconnected. You know, you're supposed to be impartial. And I think what I understood is, you're saying that there, there really isn't such a thing. That whether you like it or not, it is always a form of collaboration. And there's a power dynamic.

JOSUÉ
[00:15:47] Yeah, yeah. And even just thinking about the, you know, the levels of, of how the images are made. You know, like if you, for example, like I go photograph like the Black Lives Matter protest here in Portland. If I go document that I honestly, most of the time, I don't even photograph, because to me, the process of which those images can be made it's just it doesn't fit with the way that I operate. You know, in really, you know, tapping into, you know, because when I'm photographing I'm fully in there, like it's fully myself, it’s 100 percent of what I am in the moment and also allowing my intuition to take over, you know? There's a huge part of that. And I think with Standing Rock it was beyond that. Like at Standing Rock I was the first time in my life that I felt safe, you know, being in that camp. I had never felt safe up until that moment where I realized I'm surrounded by thousands of other indigenous peoples who will never come together like this. But yet, here we are. And meeting people from, from Brazil all the way to Australia, all the way to the indigenous peoples of Europe and Norway, which are the Sami people. Like, if you start thinking about that level of the story, because people saw the protests, you know, they saw this, you know, clash with the police. I really didn't understand why this story became around clash with the police when it was just like, wait, hold on, you have you have for the first time in history, you have indigenous peoples around the world gathering around the same fire. And then that's not the story?

MOLLY
[00:17:23] But that's an incredible statement that Standing Rock did not, as I was not there, but it did not seem safe. So the fact that it was a moment of safety in the fact that you were sharing space with people from who shared a similar and just ancestry, but from all over the world, that there was a safety in that, that's a really remarkable statement. Because there were police and dogs, as you mentioned earlier, who were attacking protesters. And also the police were using chemical agents and all kinds of horrible things. So that's a remarkable thing, that within that you felt a sense of safety in community.

JOSUÉ
[00:17:56] Yeah. I mean, I think that the safety came from knowing that we have seven generations behind us, you know? We have ancestors going back to the beginning of time, and then also knowing that we had the descendants of who we are now that are not born yet. And really thinking of this and in a spiritual sense, you know, it was really about tapping into that into that place. And in just realizing that we had, that we are power.

People came to Standing Rock and they left differently. You know, everybody took something that was given to them by the land, by the, you know, by the prayers, even by the stories. I mean, you know, for the first time you were seeing, like, different tribes that were enemies sitting around the same fire, eating with each other. You know, the descendants of those folks were healing some stuff that was painful. You know, in the past. So I think that, that because of that complexity of the story, that's why I think I'm still processing a lot of this work.

MOLLY
[00:19:00] Is that why you developed the Standing Strong project, which is came out of your time at Standing Rock? And can you say a little bit about that and also how you've organized that into four parts?

JOSUÉ
[00:19:12] Yeah, definitely. So after, after Standing Rock, I basically ended up applying for this fellowship with the Magna Foundation, which was about social justice and photography. Going into, you know, this fellowship really taught me a lot about shaping the story that I really wanted to say with this work and also to to not be afraid to step out of the box, you know, and think for myself. Like, when I will go to these places like Time magazine, Nat. Geo. and like other places, it was almost like, this is really weird, it was like perpetuating those colonial structures and colonial ways of doing things.

MOLLY
[00:19:54] Can you say more about it? Why?

JOSUÉ
[00:19:56] Well yeah, I think it was just more of like, you know, for example, like, you know, there's a story about indigenous peoples in the media. Most of the time is not written by an indigenous person or not photographed or an indigenous person. And, and that's you know, that's being normalized because that’s just, you know, people feel even happy just to be considered for a, you know, for a piece or for a photo or whatever. But I did see that, that, you know, when I enter into those spaces, there was no indigenous peoples in the room. Like, I would go into the, you know, the editing rooms of places and they were just like zero people of color. And then I was like, wait, hold on, you guys don't have anybody that is from this community, but you're writing about this community. So that makes no sense to me because you're gonna make a huge amount of mistakes and you've seen it happen, you know?

MOLLY
[00:20:43] Is that how Natives Photograph came about, so you were, you got this fellowship and you were working on those standing strong projects and then you developed this database that is a community of indigenous people who are photographers representing the community?

JOSUÉ
[00:20:59] Yeah, it was definitely influenced by by those experiences and also my co-founder, Daniela Sackman. She's the founder of Women's Photograph, which is another amazing database. You know, just yeah, like talking about a lot of these things and really thinking about not reshaping only the future of storytelling and photography, but also reimagining, especially when it comes to like indigenous stories that could be moving forward -- and almost a little bit of, like ahead of ourselves. Because I think that that's the moment that we're in right now, where we're like we're catching up to ourselves. You know, like people that have never thought about like social justice or how this country was founded in, you know it was founded upon the blood and the labor of Black people and indigenous peoples. And that's what we sit on, you now? It's almost like we're sitting on this throne, but the throne underneath it has all of our ancestors behind and under it. So, I think the native photographs and the Standing Strong project are both definitely products of that awareness and that understanding, that in order for us to live through time, us meaning indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere, we need to, you know, need to imagine. And we need to envision ourselves in that, we need to see ourselves in the future. And you do that by challenging and dismantling the systems that are in the present.

[00:22:28] So then it kind of brings a little bit of balance to, you know, always bringing someone from New York, you know, to like photograph them, you know, and like pay them a bunch of money and like, go photograph natives that most of the time they're portrayed as stereotypes you know? Like that is the reality is like when we when people think about going to Pine Ridge, they're always thinking about poverty and, you know, suicide rates and all these things that are very real and very important. But hardly ever have I heard somebody say, I'm going to go to Pine Ridge and teach a workshop about how to tell your own story or, you know what I mean? So it's like it's that easy approach and I really think it comes back to the colonial mindset, is that that's the first step is to remember and acknowledge that we are programmed in a colonial mindset.

MOLLY
[00:23:12] It's interesting, I think what I hear in both the Standing Strong project and in Natives Photograph is a commitment to creating time and space in order to reimagine and build a new really, because it's not rebuilding. It's building something completely new. If we've built everything on this colonial foundation, we have nothing to sort of tell us what this future should look like. Because if we just keep building on what we already have, it's going to be the same. And so what it seems like is a real commitment to the process that it's not just here's the end, because we don't know the end yet, but it's creating, you know, the Standing Strong project is, is meant to be a four year long project, I think if I understood correctly. And Natives Photographs it is literally a space. It's creating a place where there is this possibility. How important is process in your work? Because so much of the time when we think of a photographer, it's all about the final product, like what is the photograph? What is the delivery? And I'm wondering if if you build process into your work.

JOSUÉ
[00:24:14] Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think it's all a bit about process and also intention. Those go hand in hand. You know, if whenever I start a project or whenever I decide to say yes to something, I always check in with myself and ask myself, does this feel good? Like Machuca culture, you know, in indigenous culture, we don't have words for certain things. And, you know, sometimes our ancestors would be more poetic, than any it's like, does this thing fall good on your heart, and it it falls good on your heart, then that means that, you know, you should move on with it.

One thing that I'm learning as I’m learning about leadership and being a leader is that the process is a huge responsibility of being the path and kind of creating a new path as well for new ways of thinking, especially when it comes to telling stories, especially about indigenous peoples. So I think that that responsibility is what guides me a lot of the time, too. It's who, like, who are you making this for? You know, at the end of the night who benefits from this? Because the truth is, is like we're you know, media is about that. It's somebody has to get something out of this. If I'm being asked by a nonprofit to go do something, that that something is, it has an impact that aligns with my values and their aligns with what I want my legacy to be. And then if I, somebody like Nike is like, hey, I want to do this project. Same exact thing. Don't compromise on your values and don't compromise the people in the image in the process. Like try your best to honor those that are your images, because they are the reason why you're here.

MOLLY
[00:25:56] It reminds me of what you said earlier about going to the protests this summer and not always being able to photograph that you felt, what I understood is that you wanted to take part, but you didn't feel like you could just be a dispassionate observer photographing.

JOSUÉ
[00:26:09]You know, I respect whoever wants to go out there and photograph the violence, but. A lot of the times I ask myself, is this what my lens is for? Like, there's been times where I photograph, you know, police brutality and then I see it useful but I also see it as what else is there? Because there's so much more, you know, like if we photograph like, like folks geting taken into a van, you know, in the middle of the street in Portland, that that might be a useful image for something. But if you do it over and over again, then it just becomes--

MOLLY
[00:26:41] You’re replicating the same narrative.

JOSUÉ
[00:26:43] But you're feeding the narrative. That’s why standing Rock was so important because, if you never seen a native like for example, you look at the AIM Movement, you saw natives and they were portrayed as just like armed militia, like, you know, they're gonna take over Alcatraz. Those were the photos that were running the newspapers and in the TV. Because those things have happened and those clashes happened. But that's the only thing you see then that's what you're going to think if you're not there. But if you see, like, oh, wow, there's grandmothers praying by the river as well as folks fighting the police, then you start seeing that there's so much more to it. And I really think that that's why it's so important to add layers to the stories and really make it multidimensional because you're going to realize, wait, hold on, there's so much more to it than, than what I realized. And then maybe that will shape your reality.

MOLLY
[00:27:37] I'm curious. Okay, so let's do this, let's reshape the reality. If we honor the subjects that we're taking and if we take responsibility for the images we're putting out and also open up the world of possibility within that imagery, so not confine it to what has been there before. So death, suicide, sort of stereotypical tribal representations. What changes in society? Like, what is what is created there?

JOSUÉ
[00:28:01] Well, I think I think the ultimate goal, I guess in my opinion, it's to have compassion for each other. I mean, when I think about, like I've seen this like right wing, like folks coming to town, and I don't go photographed this stuff. But I still have compassion for that side of society because I don't see the future being us being fighting with each other. I honestly don't. I really think that when you feed into it, you create it, you keep growing it. So when it comes to like photographs and just the way that like, for example, like Standing Rock happened and like, how, you know, we saw indigenous peoples after that. Because for one minute, indigenous peoples were part of the consciousness of the whole country and the whole world. So what are you gonna do in that in that moment of, you know, highlighting what this is about? And I think that that's why it was so complex, because you can't do that. You know, you need to have longevity. And I think it’s gonna take a collective effort. And I really, I acknowledge, too, that there's a long way to get there.

But I really think that's the goal. You know, just remembering who we are. We’re the people, you know, we’re supposed to be, we’re supposed to be nurturing and being stewards of this planet. And my goal is to program humanity again to remember that we're not separate, that we're together. And that goes beyond just like the indigenous teams or Standing Rock or other things, it’s like our dignity as human beings hasn't been honored for a while. This is hopefully the beginning of reclaiming our dignity.

MOLLY
[00:29:45] I'm curious how you are living out and following through with some of these goals in the time of a pandemic. I mean, I know a lot of us have gone out and photographed and tried to be safe. But in terms of longer term projects, you know, you do a lot of this, I've seen some portraiture work. I'm curious, how does that all translate? How do you continue the bigger goals of your work during a pandemic when so many of us are on Zoom and the image quality couldn't be less satisfying?

JOSUÉ
[00:30:13] A lot of it, it's working with my son and my family, really. Like for the first time I had a chance to, you know, when my son couldn't be in school or have a babysitter like my wife and I would have to split time and really it gave me a lot of perspective on, on what's extremely important right now, and that is family. And that is thinking of myself and acting as a future ancestor, you know? Like, what do I want this, this legacy to be when, you know, when I'm gone? And then I have this, you know, these descendants, you know, that are going to be living and and wondering who their ancestor was I really want them to remember that I found in this moment, especially during this pandemic, that I found ways to express it and to say something and to leave them something that hopefully can help them in the future. Because I think that a huge part of telling our own story as indigenous peoples is reclaiming the narrative. I mean, for the last two weeks I, you know, I've been in this in this group called the Wide Awakes. There are this group of artists, thinkers and performers. And one of the things that they, that we've been thinking about a lot is thinking about the future. What does the future look like, and can the future talk to us right now? So, like, you know. If we could speak to ourselves, you know, 50 years from now, what would that person be telling us? What messages will they be sending us? And I really think that, that that's the paradigm that we can go into and we will go into where we are realizing that we have much more power than we, we thought.

MOLLY
[00:31:55] But we have to be listening.

JOSUÉ
[00:31:57] It’s not convenient to the systems for us to know that we have power.

MOLLY
[00:32:02] Yeah.

JOSUÉ
[00:32:03] It's just like, and then you think about like, wait, if we all woke up at the same time and combined our power, then that becomes a storm.

MOLLY
[00:32:14] It reminds me of what you said about being at Standing Rock and how amidst all the chaos of that experience and the complications of that experience, that you felt this deep sense of safety because somehow in the community of people, there was a protection and that the fear could be kept at bay a little bit. Is that is that sort of the goal that we're going for here, that somehow in our community and in our empathy that we can keep the fear at bay and feel that that fire that doesn't that doesn't go away?

JOSUÉ
[00:32:47] Yeah, I mean, I think that there is a big moment, especially for indigenous people of thi part of the world that, that’s gonna come up again. And being very honest about my own experience with communities is like we think about indigenous peoples, they do hold the key to something special. You know there's this connection that indigenous peoples have to the land, to the elements that we all have. Once we got through the process. I really think that we could get to the point where even if something -- I mean, think about this. We're on a rock flying through space. What could go wrong, right? Like

MOLLY
[00:33:24] Like, you mean actually a rock, like planet Earth is a rock and we are in the middle of space flying.

JOSUÉ
[00:33:32] Right now.

MOLLY
[00:33:33] Yeah, yeah.

JOSUÉ
[00:33:34] So then you think about like, wait hold on, the economy? Really? We're going to freaking worry about the economy when we're like -- and that’s that kind of stuff that I, that again, going back to listening to indeginous peoples is like, if our planet realized that there is, that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. And I believe that we are interconnected. And I feel like we've been just cool with like, been, been doing things in structures that have not been built with the intention of human dignity or respect or having compassion for each other in mind. I really think that, like, I’m moving into this phase where I don't really believe the left or the right. Because I think they're the same bird. Yeah, this might feel like a crazy dream, but it's also the moment where we're going to get so strong if we want to and if we decided to take the steps that the stories that we tell are going to resonate through time. You know, it's that moment, right now.

MOLLY
[00:34:35] I’m curious right now, part of thinking about the stories that we tell is brought up with Indigenous Peoples Day, which is at the time of this recording, is this coming Monday. And I'm curious how you're spending that day if it has any real meaning for you? Because it's part of that big process of finding the balance of sort of recalibrating and reimagining the structures that everything is built on. So how are you spending the day?

JOSUÉ
[00:35:03] Yeah, I mean, I think it's a good baby step. Like, you know, again, it's like envision a world where we don't have to have an Indigenous Peoples Day, because we celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day every day. I'm glad you realize that, you know, Christopher Columbus and his legacy, it's completely, completely painted in in blood, you know, in his hands. It's great that we're, you know, replacing and all that good stuff. But it's like, how are the people? Like, how many indigenous peoples have you talked to in the last week, or in the last month? Or how many people in your community -- how many times have you looked up which land you're on? And who were the people that inhabited that land before you, and most likely their spirit are still there and they're part of your life. It just feels like halfway there.

MOLLY
[00:35:46] Well, in the same way that you shouldn't have say Black lives matter. Native peoples matter. It's not about the one day. It's a baby step. And that's maybe where we are. We're in a lot of baby steps right now.

JOSUÉ
[00:35:57] I think so. And I would I would urge us to go a little faster because I really think--

MOLLY
[00:36:03] Speed it up

JOSUÉ
[00:36:04] I really think, you know, it's just, it's just I don't know, man. It is. It's, our potential’s is so big as human beings, you know? We have the power of sharing story, the power of, you know, communicating complex things. And yet we sometimes forget about the basic, you know, the basic rights of each person, you. Or even just understanding that we're evolving, that things are not suppose to stay the same

MOLLY
[00:36:26] Or reducing people to monolithic imagery stereotypes. I think what you're saying is that there's more to be had there and that we would all benefit from it.

JOSUÉ
[00:36:36] Yeah. And I think and I really think that that’s, that is one of the biggest challenges that I had in the last few years, it's like, I really love and enjoy working with people and really enjoy, like, yu know, making my projects and and documenting, doing all these different things. The part of that gets really frustrating is when I have to explain common sense things to peopl. Like, you don't remember? You don't read books that like, we had like slaves and like, like people couldn’t vote and indigenous peoples were killed when they were doing their ceremonies because it was illegal, like until 1978? Like, to me, it just blows my mind that we don't have the kind of basic education. It, just, I feel like my brain can do better things that explaining that sometimes.

MOLLY
[00:37:17] Well, maybe here's here's to speeding up the progress, imagining something new and also a world where we don't have to explain the basics but can live in the complexities.

JOSUÉ
[00:37:29] Yeah and remember that we're relatives. I mean, that's what it really comes down to.

MOLLY
[00:37:33] Yeah. Well Josué, thank you so much for being here. I'm so appreciative. This was just a pleasure. Thank you.

JOSUÉ
[00:37:39] Yeah, thank you. I'm glad to see this out.

MOLLY
[00:37:45] Thank you all for listening. We’ve launched an exciting series on voting that I hope you’re all enjoying. Every Tuesday ahead of the presidential election, we are answering a new question about voting rights in 2020. If you want to add your questions to the mix, give us a call at 212-549-2558, or email us at podcast@aclu.org, and it could be featured on the air.

Until next week, stay strong.

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