Listen: DC3A Native American artists

MPR’s Doualy Xaykaothao has a conversation with two Native-American artists, playwright Rhiana Yazzie and writer R. Vincent Moniz Jr.

Yazzie is a Navajo playwright, filmmaker, director, performer, and producer. In 2009, she started New Native Theater in the Twin Cities. Most of those productions were sold-out shows, including Native Man the Musical and Native-Somali Friendship Play.

Moniz Jr., is a performer and writer from the New-ee-tah Tribe on the Ft. Berthold Indian Reservation. But he grew up in the Phillips neighborhood, in the southside of Minneapolis. Among his many titles, Indigenous Poetry Slam Champion!


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DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: --a conversation with two Native American artists. Rhiana Yazzie is a Navajo playwright. Six years ago, she started New Native Theater in the Twin Cities. Most of those productions were sold-out shows, including Native Man the Musical and Native-Somali Friendship Play.

Our second guest is R. Vincent Moniz, Jr., a performer and writer from the Nu'Eta tribe on Fort Berthold Indian reservation. But he grew up in the Phillips neighborhood in the South side of Minneapolis.

Among his many titles, Indigenous Poetry Slam Champion. He's in the studios in St. Paul. Thank you for being here.

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: Thanks for having me on. This is awesome, Doualy.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: Rhiana Yazzie is in Marshall, Minnesota, three hours West of St. Paul, speaking to us from inside a theater there. Welcome.

RHIANA YAZZIE: Hi. Thank you.

SPEAKER: And you can join the conversation by calling in to 651-227-6000 or toll free at 800-242-2828. You can also send us comments at Rhiana, let's start with you. First, what are you doing in Marshall? What's happening? Is this an early theater call?

RHIANA YAZZIE: [LAUGHS] Yeah. I am at the Marshall Festival that's taking place here at Southwest Minnesota State University. I am presenting a reading of a play that I had produced a few years ago called Ady, which blends a 1930s Paris surrealism with Navajo culture.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: Whoa. What is Paris surrealism?

RHIANA YAZZIE: Yes. And so New Native Theater is considering remounting this play. So I'm out here testing it out a little bit.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: Now, your company, New Native Theater, is celebrating six years of plays and performances. There's a special event to mark this anniversary next weekend at Bedlam Lowertown in St. Paul. Talk a little bit about your personal journey, and how you got to Minnesota, and why you eventually started this theater company.

RHIANA YAZZIE: Oh, yeah. Well, I-- let's see. I came to Minnesota nine years ago because I got a Jerome fellowship from the Playwrights' Center. My personal journey into theater, I think, is a little bit more of a conventional journey that I think a lot of contemporary playwrights in general go through.

I studied theater in my undergraduate at University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where I grew up. And I actually got a $400-a-semester scholarship in order to be a theater major. So I kind of got into theater for the money.


RHIANA YAZZIE: My mentor there was a fellow named Digby Wolfe. And how he ended up in Albuquerque, I'll never know. But he was one of the co-creators of Laugh-In.

He used to write for Sonny and Cher. He would write for Smothers Brothers. He really encouraged me, and I learned from him to appreciate the art of writing a play and making theater.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: And then you get to the Twin Cities, and you're like, where are all the Native artists?

RHIANA YAZZIE: Well, I mean, I assumed, when I was looking at the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis, I thought, oh, well, this is Minneapolis.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: There's so many theaters, right, right.

RHIANA YAZZIE: There's so many theaters. And it's a seminal place for what has happened in contemporary Native history-- the founding of American Indian Movement there. So I thought, well, there's got to be a wonderful Native theater scene going on. And when I came out here and I started to workshop my plays in the way that the other Jerome Fellows started workshopping their plays, I quickly found that I was at a disadvantage because the Playwrights' Center said, well, we actually don't know of any Native actors.

And the Native actors we do know are community members that aren't studying acting in the way that my other peer Jerome Fellows-- they could develop plays with nuanced dialogue and from a very specific culture, whether that be from dominant society or other ethnic cultures here in the Twin Cities whose actors have been developed. So that's when I set out to try and make a bridge between doing professional theater and the Native community because everywhere I looked, I saw so many talented Native people, except they just weren't channeling their talents into theater. And so that's how New Native Theater came about.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: Now, there have been a number of musicals. I'd like to actually hear from one of those past shows. Let's just take a quick listen to this.



- Who do you think you are living on land we want, eating on land we want, making babies on we want? Just, just who do you think you are?


DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: "Who Do You Think You Are?" Tell us about that.

RHIANA YAZZIE: This is from our play 2012, The Musical. New Native Theater commissioned this play. I wrote the play, which was brainstormed with our Native actors ensemble. And I commissioned local singer songwriter, Marissa Carr, to write the music and lyrics with me. And I believe that this is the first full-length Native American musical comedy ever. And--


RHIANA YAZZIE: At least, I can't name one. I can't think of one. And so doing things like that and pushing the envelope is really important in New Native Theater. And even, you could just hear the lyrics.

This is a moment in the play where, in a nutshell, the story is about the Native perspective on the turn of the Mayan calendar in 2012 because that idea was so co-opted by New Agers. And we thought, well, what do Minneapolis Native people think about that concept? So we wrote this play in a way that's an ode. It's a love story to the Minneapolis Native community, and the set looks like Franklin Avenue.

So in the story, what we find out is that our ancestors didn't suffer from massive genocide. Instead, they had the technology to go into space. And now that it's 2012, they've come back, and they're bringing the buffalo, and they're setting everything straight. So this is the climactic moment where this five-star general is facing down these ancestors.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: Wow, wow, wow, wow.

RHIANA YAZZIE: And that's just not a story that anybody but a Native theater company run by Native folks is even going to approach or think about. And the wonderful thing about it is it's comedy, so it was accessible to every single person that came and saw the shown.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: In a minute, I want to go to Vincent. But before that, I want to hear a little bit about the actors and the performers that you work with. I mean, obviously in the beginning, it was just a handful of folks, and now you're working with more than 60 or 70 Native artists. Tell us a little bit about those people.

RHIANA YAZZIE: Yeah. Over the last six years, we've grown a roster of about 70 community members, people who've come in, taken classes from us or have participated in staged readings or in our plays. And most of our demographic are Native adults who had always this hidden heart for performing, except in-- there are so many barriers that stops a Native person from pursuing theater.

So the majority of the folks that we meet have either never done theater before or did it once in high school, but were never encouraged that this could be a viable art form for them or a viable career. And I've found that just by offering a safe place that reflects back who they are. I've seen Native community members blossom into full-blown theater artists.

For example, Marissa Carr, I remember first meeting her about nine years ago. And every now and then, I'd see her pop up with her guitar at a community event or a pow wow. And then I challenged her, would you like to write music for full length play? And she absolutely rose to the occasion.

Marissa is now a Naked Stages fellow. She had a play produced last year by Pangea. And it's just this validation we're able to give Native artists and the safety because so many times as a Native artist, you'll work in a non-Native theater company, and you end up being the only Native person there. And you end up spending about 90% of your time trying to educate everybody about basic Native culture when you could be creating art.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: And this all while you actually have a day job, too.

RHIANA YAZZIE: Yes. Up until end of August, I was splitting my time between a day job working in Native community with at-risk youth and being a playwright and running New Native Theater. So the wonderful thing about the six-year anniversary that we're having is that we are now a non-profit, and I am able to devote my full time to the company. So there is really nothing that we're not shooting for at this point because we want to be that large, professional Native theater. In Minneapolis, the Twin Cities is an excellent hub if there was for a thriving Native theater and performing arts scene.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: Earlier this week, I heard you and Vincent both speak at The Loft Literary Center. It was a panel about diversity, white privilege, and appreciating culture versus appropriation of culture. And I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about that conversation and help us understand how this impacts your work.

RHIANA YAZZIE: Yeah. I think that Vince said it really succinctly and well. Appropriation is "I want that." Appreciation is "I like that." I think Vince could say it a little better than me. But it's about the line between appreciation and then just flat-out stealing. Just because you see something that is interesting, you think that you can co-opt it into your own practices without the full context of how those images, and objects, and stories, and culture came about in their full being.

Now, with New Native Theater, for us, I find it's so important to create work that is directed right at our Native community, right at our contemporary Native community, because those are the stories that are not being told. And usually when you see a Native story being told, it's always filtered through the digestibility of the mainstream culture. So in turn, you don't get an authentic sense of what Native people are like.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: In other words, talking about not educating others about Native Americans, but, in fact, almost sharing each other's stories with one another.

RHIANA YAZZIE: Yeah, absolutely. And the thing about doing that is when we are very specific about who we are and speaking to each other in our own language, that actually is the most universal thing that we can do. And I've never had an audience member say, hey, you know, I didn't really get that Native thing you're doing, or, I felt like I was outside the circle. I didn't get it. I didn't feel like it was accessible.

Nobody's ever said that to us because when we tell our stories, we tell our own stories. We're able to bring our full humanity to it. And that is what's been missing when non-Native theater companies attempt to tell Native stories.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: Vince, let me bring you in here.

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: That's cool. I like listening to you guys. Don't worry about it. I'm just going to go sleep for a little bit.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: You were on that panel, too. And you were talking about reclaiming identity.

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: I really think that's important. I really think there's an idea in America of being willing to melt into this thing that we don't fit into. And for me, being able to go back to my home, being able to go to Twin Buttes in Fort Berthold and be able to sit with my grandpa or sit with my aunts, uncles, that's the best thing about the internet, being able to tease my family on the internet, but being able to make that connection and start to be able to pull the culture into myself and pull the language into myself as it were.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: What you're really saying is that it isn't easy to be you in your skin here in the Twin Cities. Isn't that right?

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: Well, man, that is pretty amazing. But it's hard to be yourself in this town that is just moving so, so fast. And so, for me, I really latch on to my Indigenous self, the things that are best and good for me and my people. I'm still getting over the fact that I heard Sisokaduta singing just a little bit ago.

That was my most favorite bit of that play is when he gets up because I really felt like, as an actor here in the Twin Cities for the last couple of decades, it really was this renegade idea of, who can I get and put on there? And he's a University of Minnesota Dakota language professor. And so I just really feel like being able to find like-minded people, Indigenous people thinking about their art with respect to the people that make art is really, really great because this is all we have. We are 1% of the population no matter where we are. And so to be able to reach out and see other people making incredible art, you know, it inspires me. It's important.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: I myself am of the Hmong ethnic background, and there are moments when I speak in my language or when I see someone who looks or gets who I am, immediately I perk up. And I'm like, oh, god, talk to me. Or I'm in a bus, and suddenly I hear a conversation that not a lot of people can hear. And for you, having that conversation with like-minded folks or people who look like you just can't be easy.

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: Well, you know, I would sometimes call the neighborhood that I come from the reservation at the bottom of the barrel of crabs because we're all just surviving. And so for us to be able to make it up out of the barrel is incredible. But sometimes, man, it gets lonely out of the barrel. And I just really like to reflect in my art the places that I've been. And really, that's all over the South side of Minneapolis.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: Now, talk a little bit about how you got into this art because it's not every day that on an Indian reservation you decide, oh, I'm going to be a poet, and this is the path that I'm going to choose. You came to that how?

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: Well, I was a student at Augsburg College, and I had gotten there by auditioning for a play at Pangea World Theater. And the playwright-- well, she's incredible. I really wanted to really just understand her better, have a better knowledge base for her. She was a poet, so I took Poetry 1 with Kerry Waterman. And from there, things exploded.

That was a little under three years and some change ago. And the very first slam I entered, I won. It was the International World Poetry Slam or Individual World Poetry Slams Indigenous Slam Championship. And I took it with all 10's. And so sometimes, I sit and think and go, man, I really wish I would have known

I was a writer when I was younger. But then I think, well, I wouldn't have all the experiences that I do now. You know what I mean? So that's really where it was. I took a class to be able to understand one of my favorite poets. And from there, I've just been climbing.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: You have a poem called "Fade Into the Teal and Purple." I wonder if you can share that poem with us.

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: Oh, yeah, absolutely. This was created in response to a visual art and music exhibition, writing, and fresh water, contemporary Native artists from our Great Lakes.

"Fade Into the Teal and Purple, in response to Continuation by Carolyn Anderson."

Nega, I no longer climb lonely Butte in star blanket made of ice and solitude to roll your name up and out past gathering of constellation. Grandmother, you dance and tease among blue and muddy brown of the water people now. Pity us as we have forgotten how to listen to our own song.

For sister, can you see kernel of our kinship responsibility withers as this season scorches our skin? We are as you left us, spiteful, surviving in the row you've sown for us all.

Last memory, I can no longer remember your voice. It is stretched spectre that hides just beyond my reach. Our most beautiful and cherished champion, her beautiful brown features fade into the teal and purple geometry our ancestors first laid across our sacred convergence.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: Thank you, Vince.


DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: Part of the subtitle of this is, "in response to Continuation by Carolyn Anderson."

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: Yeah. The Minneapolis Institute of Art, it's so amazing. And so they had this event where they got most of the artists together, and we mingled and high fived each other and stuff like that. And what they had said was, Vince, we'd like you to perform a poem. More times than none., I found that visual artists need a lot more prep time to be able to talk about their work.

They really internalize all of their narratives. And so to be able to sit and speak about it-- unless you're Jim Denomie. I mean, that guy is just a visit champion.

But more times than not, they're a little more introverted. And so they asked me, Vince, would you do poems? And I said, yeah, absolutely. What I had been starting to work on was at least one poem for each of the pieces in the exhibit.

And I just rushed over to the exhibit and really just sat with Carolyn Anderson's piece because she is really awesome, and really eloquent, and really speaks directly to the themes that she's working on, but she just wasn't feeling up to it that. So I just made this poem. I sat with it. And I'm pretty sure the MIA docents are thinking I'm a stalker of the exhibit because I constantly go in, and I'll just edit right in front of them because the work is incredible.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: Well, for people who don't know who Carolyn Anderson is, help us understand where she's coming from.

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: Well, the piece that I was writing in response to was actually a piece that she went down to the Diné land and met with her grandmother, to be able to learn traditional weaving technique. So it's this incredible piece. It looks like it's a woven piece. But actually, she's painted onto it a portrait of her and her grandmother. It is incredible.

And for me to be able to talk about my own nega, to be able to talk about Blanche Benson was just an incredible opportunity. So to be able to be inspired by all their work is one thing. But to be able to bridge that connection with my own heart has been the work of my life.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: Rhiana, when you hear poets and writers like Vince, and you know that they're in that process and in that journey to become a lifelong full-time artist, how do you help them along? How do you talk them into staying in the game?

RHIANA YAZZIE: I think that being an artist is something that comes from deep inside. And I think that what I can offer is a place where they feel safe to create. I love that we're talking about Carolyn Anderson because, actually, the play that we're presenting here today, I've worked on that play with Carolyn, and she created original visual art for our--


RHIANA YAZZIE: --for the story. So I just I think that there's this really beautiful seamless overlap of different genres that Native artists work in and collaborate with. And in New Native Theater, we have had visual artists come work with us, try out different forms. And then, our artists, they're usually not just specializing in one form.

So being a place where people feel like somebody is going to understand them is, I think, the most important thing to a Native artist because there are so many places where, when we do try to do our work, that either the worldview that we're coming from just plainly isn't understood, and we have to spend all of our time trying to justify ourselves and explain that. Also, our history-- a lot of times, we have to end up focusing on that. So when a Native artist can just create, I think that's the most wonderful thing that I can offer to them.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: Call us with your question or comment at 651-227-600 or toll free at 800-242-2828 and at We'll come back to more on Native arts and artists after the latest check of this morning's news with Mike Moen. Good morning, Mike.

MIKE MOEN: Good morning. Police are walking along the waterfront in the Mexican resort of Puerto Vallarta, advising people to evacuate. A category 5 hurricane is headed that way with winds near 200 miles an hour. Most businesses are closing, but authorities say some business owners have told employees to stay put as a security measure. Airports in the area are closing, and tourists are checking out hotels.

Remnants of Hurricane Patricia, meanwhile, could hit parts of Texas, still trying to recover from heavy rain that caused flooding and knocked out power to thousands. A flash flood watch will be in effect through Sunday. Coastal flood warnings have also been issued.

The field of Democratic presidential candidates has narrowed again. Former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee announced today that he's ending his campaign for the White House after failing to gain traction against Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Chafee's departure comes days after former Virginia Senator Jim Webb dropped out of the race and Vice President Joe Biden decided not to get in.

And the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says it will end treatments to rid Christmas Lake of zebra mussels. Aquatic specialists say a recent inspection by drivers found the zebra mussel population is established in the lake and reproducing, so further treatment would not be effective.

In the Twin Cities right now, we have 50 degrees, some pockets of light rain, showers throughout much of the day for much of Minnesota. News time, 11:32.

TOM CRANN: Later on All Things Considered, all the news from wherever it happens, and since it's Friday, we'll eavesdrop on Stephanie Curtis and Euan Kerr as they set the silver screen agenda. I'm Tom Crann, Cube Critics and the news. Join me on Minnesota Public Radio news starting at 3:00.


SPEAKER 1: Coming up at noon on MPR News Presents, Kirk Hanson of Santa Clara University speaks about ethics and leadership in politics and business. Hanson spoke this fall at the University of Saint Thomas Law School. Tune in for that at noon.

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SPEAKER 1: Programming P supported by Minneapolis Institute of Art, presenting the upcoming exhibition, Delacroix's Influence, The Rise of Modern Art from Cézanne to Van Gogh, exploring Delacroix's impact on some of the biggest names in art with paintings from over 40 international museums--

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: This is NPR News. I'm Doualy Xaykaothao, in for Tom Weber. Today, I've been speaking to R. Vincent Moniz, Jr., a writer/performer, citizen of the three affiliated tribes located on the Fort Berthold Indian reservation, and Rhiana Yazzie, Navajo playwright, producer, director, and actor, and currently in Marshal, Minneapolis-- I'm sorry, Marshall, Minnesota.


Welcome back to the program, and call us if you've got any questions or thoughts on this. Vince, I'd like you to talk a little bit about your poetry and some of the unpacking of identity that you have been experiencing. There was one point where I remember you talking about how this is the season when people are wearing you.

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: It is. We are in the season of people wearing a stereotyped version of us, and we have to constantly say, no, don't. Please appreciate us from afar. Don't wear us like skin because there is this idea that red face is as American as apple pie or really boring games. And for me, and the month leading up to it is this anxiety that builds because I moved into a new neighborhood, and now I'm worried that tiny fake Indians are going to come to my door demanding candy. And what do I do about that? What do I say? And what is this new place for me?

And that's what I always think about because we are inundated with our stereotypes every single day. I mean, you can go to the grocery store and see our decapitated heads on baking powder. You can see subservient butter maidens right there in the dairy aisle. For us, it is a constant fight back to claim an identity that's not this forced mold of us.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: And superheroes-- here we are, the weekend of Star Wars and new--

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: Oh, my god, less than 60 days away. I am so excited. All of my nerds of color friends, as soon as the trailer was over, we're like, find where we can get tickets. And there was just this mad scramble, incredible writers and nerds alike, just trying to find a place where we could all go together and watch one of the greatest stories ever told.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: Yet there's still this concern about, well, what about a superhero in a different context?

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: Well, you know, and that's the thing for us. Marvel just put out an all new, all different. And they got a Korean writer Illustrator to be able to turn Amadeus Cho into a Korean Hulk. And I say that Korean Hulk, he's the Hulk now.

That's what's amazing to me. And, of course, Ms. Marvel, you know, long history of being amazing, is now a little Muslim girl. It's, quite frankly, the best ever. They have a team of people writing specifically with that background.

But Marvel Comics decided that Native America doesn't get all new, all different. They resurrected a guy called Red Wolf who pretty much looks exactly like the Washington slur skins' logo and said, no, what we're going to do is we're going to turn this guy into something better. But I'm just waiting for our all new, all different. But more times than none, in any industry, what they have us do is co-sign their stereotypes.

And so what they did is they got an Illustrator to do covers and do a little bit of cultural consultant. But honestly, everywhere you look, we are not superheroes. We're just magical Indians.

And that's the thing. We'll be magical Indians until we start making our own stories. And that's why I like Lee Francis, Jr. and Arigon Starr, the work that they're doing. Arigon Starr does an incredible comic called Super Indian. Oh, it is the best. I just really like that they're thinking beyond the magical Indian stereotype, and they're putting these heroes in contemporary US.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: And it's also why you write. It's also why you put in characters and write about your experiences, to essentially show others.

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: Really, that's really what I like. I like to be able to reflect where I come from and the places that I am. And there was one piece I did for Missy Whiteman, an incredible filmmaker, for her show, The Coyote Way. It's in post-production right now.

And she asked on the internet, who is Coyote to you? And I thought to myself, well, I've known that guy since forever. And it just comes. You just see these ideas, and you just-- you know these heroes, right? You know, these villains. And they're just a part of your life. And I'm just really thankful that I have an ability to be able to tell it like I tell it.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: I really appreciated your poem called "My Pop's Liver, Indigenous Peoples, and the Weeds in the Backyard." Tell us a little bit about that, and then I'd like you to read a couple of lines, if you don't mind.

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: Well, absolutely. The poem itself was actually for an Open Books New World Citizen International Peace site. And they really wanted something that really spoke to resilience and being strong. And I was just in the middle of coming home, and I wrote a larger series about this. And most of those poems will be in the fall edition of the Yellow Medicine Review. But what I was working on--

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: Congratulations.

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: Yeah, I know, super excited, oh, my god. And so I was really working with this idea of how Indigenous people continue beyond the genocide that is currently happening to us and has happened since the first boats arrived. It's our ability to continue, to be able to hold on what is us as a life raft and be able to go into the future. One day, I'm hoping that Rhiana Yazzie's play turns real, and the space Indians come home for us. But until then, we'll just have my--

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: We'll all be rooting. We'll all be rooting.

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: Yeah, exactly. But yeah, that's really what it was, being able to talk about resilience and find a way to be able to share the story about my Pops.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: Can you read a couple of-- from that?

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: Absolutely. "My Pop's Liver, Indigenous Peoples, and the Weeds in my Backyard."

The too-tall weeds and flowers in the backyard were exactly like my Pop's liver the other day, void of growth, revealed bare dirt, deep and dark like the strong coffee all the Indian carpenters and academics sip in the 5:00 AM moments they forget they share with each other.

In between blades of steel and absence, I look out, see finished jobbed and raw agony of destruction. In each cut stock, thin and bold, the long entire journey below is reflected, revealed in a tiny plot with a pear tree that a one-eyed rabbit and two albino squirrels share with me. Every day, the liver in my Pop's sagging, shrinking body is a framed graphite family portrait on the back of a waxy poster-sized prison calendar, fading away, leaving indentation as legacy.

Part of Billy Bum's body now looks like the oatmeal cookies my mom and sisters make, which my grandma and aunt now only create in the bittersweet concealment of my shaded memory. Weeks passed, and I would spend these days dripped in worry that my seceded 18th of an acre would stay dry and cracked like the lines on [? Toshunkaloosa's ?] withered and broken hands. Then, the weeds themselves called out past the yellow jackets' buried lodge to whisper and buzz to remind me about cultivated strength just below the surface of my rage. You see, water escapes. Air is only caught in motion, but Earth and Indigenous peoples grow and regrow through triumph and tragedy, just as the weeds and flowers in my backyard [INAUDIBLE].

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: I love it, cultivated strength, the whole thing, all these lines. Was that hard for you to put together?

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: This series in general was really-- and, you know, the emotions of loss and hearing that my father's hard life is reflected inside of his body is-- it is a thing that I'm working through. But there are-- and other incredible artists that are making art just the same. There is an incredible textile artist, Maggie Thompson. She also is dealing with the loss of a family member. And to be able to see someone else as strong as Maggie being able to put that into her art, I think it made it easier for me to be able to put dealing with my father's downness in a way that not only is literary, but helps heal me a little bit, and that's really cool.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: We are coming to the end of our conversation, but I want to come back to you, Rhiana, because you have a very exciting podcast that's happening, and I'd love to hear about Little Apple, Big Apple. Tell us about this podcast. It's awesome.

RHIANA YAZZIE: Yeah, I-- Little Apple, Big Apple. It's a story about two sisters living in the Twin Cities. One of them is a failed theater maker. She tried very hard to make theater in the Native community, but failed.

And so now she is a student loan officer. And her sister is a therapist. So they team up to create a mental health acting troupe in the Native community.

So it's a comedy that I'm really excited to be writing because-- and it's taking place over 13 episodes because I think one of the most important things I find as being a Native woman in the world is that I don't have enough stories about my own experience. And I love the nuances that happen when Tribal people come together, when you fall in love with a Lakota, or and you're Navajo, all the jokes that ensue, or what happens in our community politics, also the fact that so many Native people, we are working tirelessly for the betterment of our community. And most of my friends are all activists. And what is the toll on that? What is that real inner working of being a living Native person in your own community?

So this podcast is really trying to bring across that experience that I don't think has ever really been deeply examined over-- especially, I mean, we're going to have a lot of time to examine it, 13 episodes. And if that goes well, then we'll do a second season. So we are we're working on that this fall, hoping to have that debut by winter.

And Little Apple, Big Apple, it's a bit of a play on words. I know Vince laughs every time he hears it, playing on the apple imagery. And then, of course, Minneapolis being the little apple.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: Rhiana, thank you so much for joining me, Vince, I want to give you the last word here, a minute. What is next for you? When can we hear you again?

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: Oh, absolutely. Tonight, I'll be at the Third Place Gallery in support of all the Franklin Library students. Zillion Voices has this incredible project where they bring in artists like myself to-- Rhiana was there as well-- to bring us in and work with the students. Saturday, I will be at the food building over in Northeast, along with Sean Sherman and his organization, The Sous Chef, reading poems there. And then next week, I'm with Spinning Stories, which you covered, and I'll be doing--


R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: --poems about my neighborhood, or rather, the ghosts of Phillips.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: That's right. And that's going to be at what hour?

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: It's going to be--

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: Not at midnight.

R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR: Oh, no, not at midnight. I am assuming probably around 6:00 or 7:00, probably 7:00. It's me and another artist. Yes, absolutely. Please, nobody go into my neighborhood at midnight expecting me to be there, telling poems.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: Thank you so much, Vince Moniz, junior writer/performer here in the Twin Cities. Rhiana Yazzie, thank you for joining me today.



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