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  • Tyana Arviso

Reclaiming My Cultural Identity

I stopped sharing much about myself over the past couple of months. For obvious and personal reasons. When I started this account I was beginning my creative journey. I didn’t know anything about photography, I didn’t have clients. Just an iPhone and some apps to edit my photos. That’s when everything seemed organic, I was doing my own thing and visiting places that were close to home. Not aware of the significance they would develop on social media.

Eventually my work began to get noticed, I actually had an audience. My audience is a mix of people from different ethnicities, ages, genders, etc. Always welcoming anyone with open arms. As my audience grew I began to feel intimidated by my following, which hasn’t gone away. The other day I mentioned that I didn’t grow up on the Navajo reservation, growing up outside the reservation has created a significant divide in my cultural identity. I grew up without the traditional teachings of my elders. The traditional teachings I do know are either self taught or shared by my parents. This gap in my cultural identity has created a lack of confidence in who I am. I feel like the knowledge I do know about my culture doesn’t have value, because I wasn’t raised on the reservation or taught by my elders. When sharing an image or post related to my cultural background I feel so much insecurity. Especially because I have a large indigenous audience following my account. I don’t want to do anything to offend my people. I tend to avoid my own cultural identity because I’m so terrified that I’ll get blasted for not understanding the sensitivity of my own culture. Which has happened in the past. It didn’t feel good to get bullied by my own people for truthfully not understanding the sensitivity of my indigenous background.

I’ve struggled with this for a long time. I taught myself the basics of the Navajo language and clans. This was a significant milestone for me. I love my culture and hold a great amount of respect towards it.

There’s also I feeling I get where I’d rather not share my cultural background because I do not want it to be interpreted as a trend. I’ve shared a photo of traditional moccasins in the past and received a handful of comments and DMs asking where I got my “shoes”. I avoid saying anything because I do not want to come off as rude or to possibly promote cultural appropriation.

I know this is out of the blue but I feel like I wanted to share this with my audience. My head has been in a funk for awhile now & I feel like I’m in a transformation. I want to live unapologetically. I’m just an artist sharing my work & creating from the heart.

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