“Being Indian is not a character or role one can play”
- Charlene Teters
Charlene Teters possesses many masks. When she is not busy being a mother of two, she is teaching, creating art, or participating in multiple campaigns. Interestingly enough, she found a way to mesh all three activities together. From Spokane, WA, a descendant of the Spokane Tribe, Teters uses her voice and her art to protest mediums that appropriate her culture.
Teters marks the beginning of her activism for the Native American/Indian culture when she protested the University of Illinois mascot, “Chief Illiniwek” and it worked. In 2007, Chief Illiniwek danced his last dance as the Sioux-inspired get-up was retired after being banned due to protests. Teters continues to picket sporting events that appropriate her culture, but continues on with another medium to help combat the stereotyping of Native peoples.
When she is not using her voice to protest, she is using her art. Teters is an active artist and uses her paintings to rid of stereotypes. She took her passion for art further and began teaching at the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a Professor of Art.
“Teaching is a cherished cultural skill amongst Native people and as such I take my responsibility as a teacher to heart.”
Passing on her knowledge of art and activism, she teaches the next generations to continue the fight even when she is well beyond her years. People like Teters show that activism takes on many forms. Peaceful protesting is the most common, but using art and teaching can impact the masses and bring forth more supporters internationally. This November as we celebrate Native American Indian Heritage Month, let us not forget those that are continuously fighting the battle to regain their heritage. As Teters says, “Being Indian is not a character or role one can play.”
by Noah Burton, Gladeo League Reporter