Telling the story: artist Dan Nanamkin shares Indigenous culture

Summer 2021

Dan Nanamkin, k’oup?lus enim kl’a (Thunder and Lightning), is from the Chief Joseph Band Of Wallowa, Nez Perce, and Colville Confederated Tribes of Washington State and has been an advocate/teacher for indigenous culture, community unity, youth empowerment, racial equality, and peace for several decades. Nanamkin is committed to the preservation of Indigenous culture and sees himself as a bridge between modern ways and the traditions of the Syilx, the First Nations people of the Okanagan.

Dan is a teaching artist with Methow Arts’ Artist-in-Residence program as a cultural resource, helping students, parents, and teachers learn more about Indigenous cultures. In pursuit of his quest for greater cultural understanding, Nanamkin worked with Methow Arts to create a series of educational videos focusing on three specific aspects of Indigenous culture: storytelling, regalia, and land acknowledgment. 

Storytelling: Nanamkin comes from a long line of storytellers. His three-times great-grandmother, whose Native name was Mourning Dove, was an author and storyteller, recounting coyote legends. Nanamkin says his mother used to read Mourning Dove’s stories to him when he was a young boy, which sparked his passion for sharing the stories. “Storytelling is integral to indigenous culture,” he says. “It’s important for our people to understand the discipline, to value the oral tradition, to participate in the ceremonies that pass this information from generation to generation.” Nanamkin shares his storytelling legacy through video. Watch Nanamkin’s storytelling video HERE.

Regalia: Regalia is attire worn by Indigenous people at spiritual and ceremonial events; it has specific meaning and significance. Regalia is not a costume, it is the visible manifestation of one’s heritage. Regalia honors familial ties, and is frequently passed down from generation to generation. Some tribal members make their own regalia, while others solicit help from friends or family members who possess the skill to create regalia, such as sewing, leather crafting, and beadwork. Watch Nanamkin’s video about regalia HERE.

Land acknowledgment: A Land Acknowledgement is a formal statement that recognizes and respects Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of this land and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories. To recognize the land is an expression of gratitude and appreciation to those whose territory you reside on, and a way of honoring the Indigenous people who have been living and working on the land from time immemorial. It is important to understand the long standing history that has brought you to reside on the land, and to seek to understand your place within that history. Land acknowledgements do not exist in a past tense, or historical context: colonialism is a current ongoing process, and we need to build our mindfulness of our present participation (Northwestern University’s Native American and Indigenous Initiatives 2021). Land acknowledgment is a timely and relevant topic and gives rise to varying perspectives. Watch  Nanamkin’s land acknowledgment video HERE.

“The Indigenous voice is rising,” says Nanamkin. “Youth are proud of their culture. We are witnessing some great things happening in history. There is great change ahead…be a part of it.”

Learn more about Dan Nanamkin HERE.