Tashina Lee Emery
Clearing of the sky cloud woman. Misanaquadikwe.
Clearing of the sky cloud woman. Misianaquadikwe, in Ojibwe, is my Native Name. I have been clearing the skies of heartache and despair since I was young, using my optimism and energy to create a sense of ease for those who surround me. Removing clouds from the sky to enlighten, my name is a journey and I am still learning the way of my given name. My connection to the land, I am from the woodlands, right on the Lake Superior shores, where my ancestors fished before me. The thick woods where my people gathered and my family hunted. Nindonjibaa Baraga, Michigan. My clan is of the Turtle, the knowledge keepers who hold the medicine of Mother Earth. Much like the Earth, turtle clan represents roots, growth and stability. Mikinaak nindoodem.
I was given this name when I was a baby, like a baptismal name. Over the years I have begun to embody this name, I am the one who can clear up a cloudy day. My optimism comes from my upbringing on a small Upper Peninsula reservation. I have existed on the edge of two worlds all of my life: the white community outside my reservation and the Native American community in which I was raised that faces the oppression of passed down generational trauma. Growing up native, but with fair skin, I was able to navigate through both the communities that surrounded me. However, I was always aware of the hardships faced by my community. But my mother always taught me “everything will always work out” and “to take one step at a time.” With this optimism, I have taken the positive aspects of my culture and transformed them into art. I want clear the clouds in this sky.
Education is the medicine to healing from any trauma. As a Native woman, I am reclaiming the word sovereignty. I am learning it’s meaning and becoming an advocate of its actions. If you want to be
sovereign, you have to act like a sovereign. This word is new to my people who have been oppressed for so long, taking ownership in a society that has pushed you down is scary. The fear of change is gripping, leaving the reservation and breaking cycles of abuse and adversity asks where do we even start. The term sovereignty has to be retaught and lived.
My most undiscovered and my most passionate realm is as a creative. I have a storyteller soul and I tell my stories through wearables and writing. The creative control in every detail is what keeps me up late into the hours of the night. Merging beads, leather, and quills with the use of metal, plastic and other new world materials. My storytelling encompasses multiple medias, I strive for the beauty of my backyard, and favoring timelessness and simplicity. I create contemporary aesthetics influenced by my indigenous roots, the natural world, and a fascination of post-colonization. My originals are unmistakably my own, purposefully raw, lasting and hold an overwhelming presence of history and spirit. I received an art and design degree because it wasn’t the “9 to 5 gig”, I loved what the radical and progressive world of art allowed and I was able to structure and organize myself uncensored. I subliminally sought and now appreciate the sovereignty that came from my degree. It was broad enough to allow me to take ownership in any opportunity I set my mind to as well as giving me the confidence to trust my decisions. As an art student you don’t have the instructions to success such as a doctor or teacher would in their specific career fields, instead I am developing my own “Pythagorean theorem” for success.
My clouded world of abuse and heartache was carried from my mother’s shoulders to mine. I am not exempt, neither are my nieces. The village my mother raised, is now the community I strive to clear of clouds. I never recognized the true strength of the woman so close to me, until I was older. The woman, who now is my best friend in the entire old, gave me not only the compassion but forgiveness and resilience to fight battles to come. An optimistic nature that no clouds could destroy. She taught me my clouds are
purposely placed in my life, that the creator has given me the darkest of skies and the loudest of thunders because I am strong enough to handle them. I require greater and want to bring a much-needed energy, vision, and innovation to the art world while teaching that adversity doesn’t define you. I am Miss Keweenaw Bay Native American Princess of 2008, Professor Emery, Tribal Health Clinic Grant Coordinator, a small town Upper Peninsula Yooper - who graduated from the University of Michigan. I returned to the rez after studying at the University of Michigan’s Penny Stamps School of Art and Design, where I started my own platform in healing then entered Tribal Public Health. I am current Master student studying Art Politics at the Tisch School of Art & Design at New York University. I want to focus on the unique individual I am and let culture, identity, race, privilege represent an influence, be a source of empowerment, not a definition. I will keep on clearing clouds in the sky.