By Thomas Lopez Jr.
It goes without saying, that we are living in a time where learning to tell one’s story is vital to the human experience. For most Indigenous cultures our history is passed down through oral traditions. Our very own creation is knowledge; knowledge that was gifted through storytelling. While spending a week at Woodbine Ecology Center in Sedalia, CO I participated in the Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA) Art track at the 2018 Stoodis Action Camp with Indigenous Peoples Power Project (IP3.) This experience was not only informative but also inspiring and empowering. Throughout the curriculum I was given more tools to better tell my story and help the communities I serve better tell theirs.
We started with the basics, how to tie a knot. Then we moved into the fun stuff like making stencils and learning to use spray paint. Graffiti is a classic form of street art that continues to evolve with every generation. After learning how to use spray paint and stencils we moved into screen sprinting. The trainers showed us the different methods of making our screens referring back to the stencils we made the previous day. Over the course of a week we were exposed to many different ways to consistently express ourselves and tell a story. But you're probably wondering, why does this even matter and what does this have to do with NVDA?
As we’ve learned in past actions and standoffs art has a powerful way of unifying the people, metaphorically and literally. Art has the ability to tell you who is playing for your team, and who is not. But it also brings emotion and humanity to the action while specifying your demands. Art can calm a situation or add fuel to a fire. We can use the many tools we have around us to personify our unified voice and show the world how we bring power to the people. Art is not only a form of NVDA, but the most powerful and human as well. Ultimately, art is how we tell our story.
Art was utilized very strategically during actions in Standing Rock to protect our water from the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. It literally gave us the reigns to narrate our own story. Hundreds of patches, banners, signs, flags and screen prints were made to help unify our Water Protectors. Another powerful example of art in NVDA was in January of 2017 Greenpeace activists climbed a crane above the White House and dropped a banner that stated on word, RESIST. The amount effort and time spent on art for both of these actions to unfold is crucial and can ultimately be the iconic staple of the entire action.
We started with the basics but evolved to do so much more within just a week. IP3 did an amazing job of making sure each person was comfortable and went out of their way to ensure personal and communal safety. Overall I felt my time at the 2018 Stoodis Action Camp was incredibly informative and fun. It inspired me to continue introducing art into my community as a form of NVDA. As an Adult Mentor for the International Indigenous Youth Council this training gave me more activities to do with our youth in Denver to engage and involve them in NVDA. Another amazing tool to help personify their voice and continue to tell their stories.
To submit a training request for your own community, check out and complete our training request form. ip3action.org/requests