The arts have been a way that indigenous people have been able to maintain their culture and traditional wisdom throughout the ages; offering a link between the physical and spiritual worlds, and opening the doors of perception to a deeper reality. In addition, as modern culture becomes further removed from the natural world, the arts appeal to that part of us that yearns to be connected, and still holds a sense of magic. The weavings, songs, dances, and other expressions of indigenous art all tell a story, as the designs and techniques specific to certain tribes have been passed down from generation to generation.

The arts have also been able to adapt - surmounting adverse conditions imposed by nature and other cultures, by expressing itself creatively. There is a great revival of indigenous art happening throughout the world at this time, and as a result, these cultures have been able to come out of hiding, gain strength, and share their beauty with the rest of the world with pride. The youth are taking a powerful role in this reawakening.

We promote and sponsor performances and exhibits of indigenous arts and culture; create cross-cultural exchange opportunities for indigenous artisans to share their practices; coordinate events; and promote the sale of indigenous arts and crafts.

Youth and the Arts

Since 2002 the Grupo Sotzil, a group of Kaqchikel Mayan youth of Guatemala, has gone to the elders of their community in Solola to recreate and learn the Pre-Columbian melodies of the marimba, flute, drum, and many others that have been transmitted from generation to generation. They also have searched the Mayan codices, indigenous manuscripts, and archaeology and anthropology texts to re-create Pre-Columbian instruments, choreograph moves that are historically accurate, and design and make costumes that come from the original Mayan Cosmovision. All of their instruments and costumes are hand-made, and have been blessed by a Mayan spiritual leader, following the spiritual ways of their ancestors.

The Grupo Sotzil works to create and share their traditional music and dance as an artistic and cultural expression to strengthen their self-identity as well as an intercultural exchange, allowing strong development of youth leadership and participation.  They have performed at the last three International Councils with the Great Confederation of Councils of the Principal Mayan Aj Q’ijab (Spiritual Leaders) of Guatemala, at the ancient Mayan temple site of Iximche, and throughout Guatemala for the general population.

Their most recent work, titled “Kaji’ Imox” (Four Crocodile), is a recreation in memory of the great Kaqchikel Mayan leader Ajpop Kaji’ Imox, who battled against the invasion of the Spanish. It also deals with the process of acculturation that followed for hundreds of years, speaking without words of the promise of a culture that is still alive, and ready to blossom once again.

These youth are powerful in their expression. Every detail of their performances blends ancient and modern- fires burn at the four directions around the stage, and turtle-shell drums are heard by microphones and amplifiers.

We have also been privileged to witness the youth of Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands) of British Columbia, who are also reclaiming their traditional songs and dances. Dressed in red and black capes outlined with abalone beads and featuring the designs of their clans (killer whales, ravens, eagles, beavers, etc.), Haida children beat their hand-painted drums and sing, while others wear hand-carved cedar masks of ravens and eagles, clapping their beaks by pulling a string underneath. They dance around the fire burning in the center of their traditional Longhouses, following the movements of the magical birds that their ancestors tell brought the First Peoples to the islands.

We recognize that the youth are at the forefront of creativity and passion in reclaiming the indigenous knowledge and rituals that will heal our Mother Earth and her children. We are at the dawning of a new Era in the world, and the children and youth are leading the way. Let us walk beside them and lend them our support.