Tara Evonne Trudell
Tara Evonne Trudell (Santee Sioux/Rarámuri/Xicana) weaves multiple mixed media of handmade paper beads, poetry, photography, film, and audio components to express her creative visions that address issues she sees as a continuance of generational trauma on women, children, and earth. Tara makes beads from pages of reports, research, data, and survivor stories to amplify their voices. Her purpose is to create art pieces with these beads and stories that will be shared in all communities as part of the needed discussion on how we continue to address accountability, protection, and long-term care for those left behind. Tara’s lifelong journey is the reclamation of her identity to earth and spirit by remembering her Indigenous connection and ceremonies from her childhood. This remembering and reawakening has brought her healing. Through the beads and recognizing her role as an artist, she uses this ancient form of communication to tell stories in a tangible and healing way. Tara has done extensive prayer-bead workshops with women survivors of sexual assault, community youth, and refugees.
“Anaġoptan (‘to listen’ in Dakota), is a megaphone sculpted from handmade paper beads created from the pages of one of the first MMIW reports released in 2018. After reading and processing the information, I made prayer beads to create awareness and a dialogue, while also navigating the reality of what it means to speak up for our survivors. In honoring women represented by these statistics and shared stories, I sit in ceremony and offer collective healing energy for all involved. This special paper prayer-bead sculpture is created with a vintage, metal megaphone wrapped in buckskin and covered with handmade prayer beads from the report. The porcupine needles at the mouth are a reminder of the danger and courage it takes to speak and be heard. —Tara Evonne Trudell
What does the idea of “justice for Native communities'' mean to you?
I have a difficult time with the word “justice.” It is a colonial construct imposed upon Indigenous people and land as the law and outcome to the crimes, mistreatment, corruption, and harm from colonialism and patriarchy. This word is based on a European worldview and for many Native communities, it has misled us from restorative and reparative justice practices our tribes once used when dealing with underlying issues needing resolution. These traditional ways of conflict resolution included dispute resolution, peacemaking, talking circles, family or community gatherings, and traditional mediation. Justice in our communities is a way of living where we can remember our ancestral teachings and ceremonies, learn and practice how we advocate, and create spaces to come together.
What do you think needs to happen in the world to achieve justice for Native communities?
We should prioritize our return to creating our own circles of just us, aka “justice,” based on the traditional concepts of restorative and reparative philosophies. We should strive to bring our families and communities together to remember and re-envision this dialogue, and offer sanctuary to those who need ongoing support. Setting goals of healing and sharing resources is a valuable action that can uplift many people and be done on multiple platforms for all generations.
How do you express justice through your artwork?
I strive to create art that stimulates senses in a tangible way. I make paper beads from many reports and stories addressing the ongoing MMIW crisis. I offer another perspective, creating and holding energy as a power to incorporate into my artwork and regalia. My work is a contemporary expression and messenger of current data, research, and survivor stories. As an artist, it is important to uplift the work of others on the frontlines of this ongoing crisis among our women, children, and communities. I offer the ancient communication of using beads to create dialogue, resources, support, empathy, and action. When I make beads, I feel a connection with ancestors as part of the outcome of the art piece. Work comes through me, and I am the vessel to listen, to learn, and to remember our ways of being in harmony with earth and each other. These beads encourage me to return to my path in a good way.
Is there anything else you would like to share about Native justice and your artwork?
My work reflects the voices, images, history, and reclamation of my own identity as an Indigenous woman determined to know my own story and purpose in this realm. Through my art and beads, I try to capture and address the many painful and beautiful realities that are created from the stories and people I represent with each bead. In the rolling of the bead, I pray to uplift them, their families, their communities, and our ancestors in an honorable way, and in return I am given a good purpose.