ArtPlace America recently announced that Utah Diné Bikeyah’s “Traditional Arts of Bears Ears” project is one of 29 programs chosen to receive funding through its National Creative Placemaking Fund in 2016. The program is one of 29 that were approved from almost 1,400 applications.
Five Native tribes are partnered with Diné Bikeyah to promote a sustainable economic future in San Juan County through culture, community, and the arts.
Diné Bikeyah states that it will support community-led dialogues around a future driven by local sustainable economic solutions and the strengths of the diverse Native American citizens and their ties to the Bears Ears landscape.
Supporters state that the project aims to include all county residents and the five Tribes to address some of the greatest challenges that exist in the area. Such challenges range from persistent poverty to low educational achievement, and a lack of basic community infrastructure. The project will highlight individual artists and traditional cultures and their ties to the Bears Ears landscape.
Willie Grayeyes, Board Chairman for Diné Bikeyah, explains, “Our arts heritage in San Juan County is unbroken, dates back thousands of years, and has numerous threads that we plan to weave together in a new way. These traditions keep us strong as people and tie us to the natural world.
“This ArtPlace grant is a tremendous honor to receive and we look forward to partnering with everyone to strengthen our community through traditional arts and place.”
Diné Bikeyah officials state that San Juan County is a geography where traditional crafts, wild and native foods, spirituality, language, and ceremony are widely practiced and are the foundation of these diverse culture.
They add that the purpose of the “Traditional Arts of Bears Ears” program is to elevate a community development vision in San Juan County toward sustainable economic solutions supported by local Native American citizens and the broader public.
Diné Bikeyah intends to recognize artists and wisdom-keepers for their past, present, and future contributions to San Juan County and look for ways to honor and sustain their talent and knowledge.
They plan to carry out this work in collaboration with all interested and affected parties, including artists, community leaders, planners, and decision-makers to succeed in advancing the best and most promising ideas.
Diné Bikeyah states that Native American cultures with ties to Bears Ears are incredibly rich and diverse. Native wisdom, language fluency, and traditional practices are nurtured and traditional arts are widely practiced.
Diné Bikeyah states that Native American communities have significant needs in the areas of planning, leadership, and community development. Reservation communities are in need of basic infrastructure such as household water, electricity, heating, and the provision of education and services that every other place in Utah takes for granted.
Officials state that art practices closely tied to the Bears Ears landscape will be assessed, including ceremonial, food, and healing arts; traditional crafts such as basket weaving, flute making, hogan and tipi construction; and story telling.
The Diné Bikeyah assessment will not be limited to these art forms, but artists with direct and intimate ties to Bears Ears will be detailed so that they can build their needs and desires into planning opportunities and policy change.
Diné Bikeyah officials state that the Traditional Arts of the Bears Ears project aims to bridge the cultural divide surrounding economic development in San Juan County.
They state that tribes want to conserve land, preserve their cultures, and advance a sustainable growth model built on the arts, heritage tourism, and scientific research focused on traditional ecological knowledge.
They add that non-native residents may not fully understand the sophisticated cultures of their neighbors, and past planning efforts have not adequately included the vision of grassroots Native citizens.
Diné Bikeyah states that it intends to: 1) support tribal members who value their heritage, 2) encourage tribal governments to celebrate arts traditions, 3) link indigenous practices directly to the natural resources on which they depend, and 4) ensure that artists’ needs and culturally important natural resources are reflected in local planning.
According to the grant application, project activities are set to include arts assessment and research of traditional crafts, foodways, ceremonies, languages, and arts tied to the Bears Ears landscape.
Traditional artists will be interviewed and land ties mapped and Diné Bikeyah will create a library of people, plans, and art resources in San Juan County.
Planning processes and policies will be analyzed for impact on traditional arts and culture. Local communities will be encouraged to affect policy change
Diné Bikeyah will request the revision of the San Juan County Master Plan to include Native American heritage and arts
Diné Bikeyah will convene a “Traditional Arts of Bears Ears Collaborative” to include artists, tribal, local, state and federal agencies, and non-profits in a facilitated dialogue. Meetings will be organized by Tribe and artistic medium, and will focus on ties to the Bears Ears region.
Diné Bikeyah will help artists activate the landscape to empower elders, teachers, tribes, youth, and entrepreneurs in San Juan County by testing and implementing arts ideas.
ArtPlace America (ArtPlace) is a ten-year collaboration among 16 partner foundations, along with eight federal agencies and six financial institutions, that works to position arts and culture as a core sector of comprehensive community planning and development in order to help strengthen the social, physical, and economic fabric of communities.
ArtPlace focuses its work on creative projects in which art plays an intentional and integrated role in place-based community planning and development.