Five Native Americans who are leaving their mark


Illustration by Adamaris Sanchez/The Et Cetera

ADAMARIS SANCHEZ, Graphic Designer

Former President George H.W. Bush declared November to be National Indian Heritage Month, commonly known as Native American Heritage Month in 1990. As we celebrate the achievements of Indigenous peoples, here are five who stand out for their contributions to the world of politics, entertainment and art.

Sharice Davids
Sharice Davids is a U.S. Representative from Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, and one of three Native American women to serve in Congress. Davids is also the first lesbian from Kansas to be elected to Congress.

Davids is a member of the Ho-Chunk tribe, whose historic territory is Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois. They are also known as the Hoocagra or Winnebago people. The name Ho-Chunk means “people of the parent speech” or “people of big voices.” They were known for fur trading with the French and later with the British.

Davids’ current term ends on Jan. 3, 2023.

Lila Downs
Ana Lila Downs Sánchez is a Mexican singer, songwriter and actress. Her music is known for its traditional Mexican style, and she has recorded songs in the indigenous languages of the Maya, Zapotec, Nahuatl, Mixtec and Purepecha. Downs received her first Latin Grammy for best folk album in 2005 for “Una Sangre,” and she has won four additional Latin Grammy awards. She also had a small role in the 2002 “Frida Kahlo” movie as a mariachi singer.

Downs is part Mixtec, which is the third largest indigenous tribe in Mexico. The tribe call themselves “Ñuu Savi,” which translates to “People of the Rain.” The tribe is located in the Mexican states of Oaxaca, Guerrero and Puebla.

Mixtecs are known for writing their history and genealogy on deerskin. Some of these codices date back to pre-Hispanic times.
Downs is now preparing for the Tecate Pa’l Norte music festival on Nov 13, 2021.

Jason Momoa
Actor Jason Momoa starred as the title character in the 2018 movie “Aquaman,” alongside Amber Heard and Nicole Kidman. Momoa is also a producer and environmental activist. He launched the company Mananalu which sells drinking water in recyclable aluminum cans.

Momoa is Native Hawaiian on his father’s side and from the Native American Pawnee tribe on his mother’s side. The Pawnee people are now located in Oklahoma, but historically they lived in Nebraska and Northern Kansas. The Pawnee are known for their interest in astronomy and semi-nomadic hunting.

Momoa is working on another installation of the Aquaman series, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” set to release in 2022.

Jonathan Joss
Joss is known for portraying the voice of John Redcorn III in the animated sitcom show “King of the Hill.” Joss is a member of the Rarámuri tribe, one of the largest indigenous groups in North America. Rarámuri means “those with light feet,” and members of the group have been known to run as far as 100 miles in a day.

In 2013, Joss began singing under the stage name of The John Redcorn Experience. He collaborated with the Graywolf Blues Band, and their version of “Still No Good” earned them a nomination from the Native American Music Awards for best country song in 2013.

Joss’ last screen appearance was in 2016.

Joy Harjo
Harjo is a poet, playwright, musician and author. In 2019, she became the first Native American poet laureate of the United States. In 2017, she was awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for outstanding lifetime achievement.

In 2009, Harjo earned the Native American Music Award for best female artist for her album “Winding Through the Milky Way.” Harjo has also written 18 books.

Harjo is a member of the Muscogee tribe, whose ancestral homeland is in parts of Georgia and Alabama. The Muscogee are known for craftwork baskets, glazed pottery and sculptures. The tribe is also known for their beadwork, which they took up after being forced to move to Oklahoma where they didn’t have the proper materials for their traditional crafts.

Harjo is serving her third term as the nation’s 23rd poet laureate. Five Native Americans who are leaving their mark