Mohawk artisan and designer, Iakowine Oakes, holds a handcrafted necklace she made in the Mohawk tradition of raised beading. When European settlers arrived, the lace work was influential on the intricate beaded designs, but beadwork was always an art form that Oakes says has been important for the Mohawk community.
Oakes teaches her student the beginning phase of flat beadwork in the Native Indian Community House. She gives educational workshops every Tuesday, Thursday and some Saturdays - to Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. Oakes focuses on the craftsmanship, while also discussing current Indigenous issues.
Students work on projects from materials that Oakes offers to create the jewelry. Since the Trump administrations funding cuts to Indigenous programs in May 2017, Oakes must increase her class rate as the Native Indian Community House is no longer receiving government support. The centre has been around since 1969, offering services for the approximately 27 000 Indigenous people in New York City.
Oakes discusses growing up on her Iroquois reservation, which was on an island in Ontario, with the Canadian and U.S. customs 400 yards from her homestead. While Oakes describes herself as transient, she has primarily been in New York City since 2009, seeing this city as the best option for the growth of her design business, KwiioCouture.
On the public holiday recognized as Columbus Day, Oakes waits on the steps of the American Museum of Natural History to attend the Decolonize This Museum: the 2nd anti-Columbus day tour. Behind Oakes, the Theodore Roosevelt statue is sectioned off by police, as protestors want the statue to be taken down. The statue shows a slave and chief standing on either side of Roosevelt, which is a symbol of oppression and misrepresentation for Indigenous and black communities.
An organizer of the event recites the Indigenous land acknowledgement to the attendees and protestors in the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall. The acknowledgement states, "We are standing on the ancestral territory of the Lenni Lenape. This was, and is, their land...We stand in support of the return of their lands. This is where we must begin." They want to rename the public holiday, Indigenous Peoples' Day.
Oakes waits in the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall. Behind her is the statue of Roosevelt, who said in a 1886 speech, "I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indian is the dead Indian, but I believe nine out of every ten are, and I shouldn't lie to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth."
Protestors sit in the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians, where curators of the museum have decided to renovate it in consultation with Indigenous groups, whose possessions are displayed in this hall.
Representatives of the Native Indian Community House begin a chant saying "F*** White Supremacy" and call to arms all people to aid in their effort to recognize the rights of Indigenous people.
Oakes stands in front of the museum, hoping that next year they will be protesting and taking down the statue of Columbus by Central Park. Oakes wants Indigenous Peoples' Day to be celebrated in order to make her community less invisible, "we're here, but we're not seen."