+ SPOTLIGHT | Tokeya Richardson

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What are your tribe(s): Oglala Lakota and Haliwa-Saponi
Whats your age: 27 but my body screeches 80
Ndn Name: Tokeya Waci U, Comes Dancing First
Name: Tokeya Waci U Richardson (yes my ndn name is also my legal name)

• What are the first 3 words that come to mind when you hear the word healing?
Nature, Ceremony, Expression

• Bio/ backstory, tell us what you DO and a bit about how you came to do it.
I am a Ledger Artist, but what I believe makes me different from the other artists, is that I tell stories within my art. I use tribal stories, experiences, and doings that was told to me by my elders or things that I learned throughout my time on this Earth.
How I came to doing this was during a dark time for me. I was very depressed and had a hard time finding happiness, until my therapist suggested art therapy. I decided to give it a try and fell in love with the release of emotion I had experienced. I began to realize how much it reminded me of my younger years as a child, drawing my favorite dinosaurs, dragons, or Pokemon, and using them as toys. I would often put my real life on pause and then draw, giving me peace and clearing room within my heart and mind to come back to the real world with a new feeling.
After a few of my friends started seeing my drawings, they kept pushing me to show the world what I could do. And after a year and a half, here I am! Doing art shows/ demonstrations and being asked by the Smithsonian to apply to their art shows! Amazing what healing can do, right?

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• How do you heal?
I often attend Inipi (sweat ceremonies), and other ceremonial doings that require sacrifice of the body and mind. This is where I can reconnect with Maka Ina (Mother Earth), and also give thanks by using myself as a vessel to carry out prayers for whomever may need them.
Another way I like to heal is to be with nature. I like to sit and listen to the rush of water, the whisper of air that brushes the plant life, and also see how animals react with one another. Doing this always reminds me of how the old ones would observe the earth around them and learn from it, and that comforts me.
A lot of the stories I tell within my drawings not only empower the viewer, but they also remind me of the power that I have within myself. I want my art to give comfort to those who seek it just as I had sought it out when I first started.

• What is your calling rn?
I feel like my calling is to show love and to empower my indigenous people through my art work. I want to remind everyone to look within their tribal stories and find that strength that all the characters would use to overcome whatever trial they encountered.
I also want to encourage the beautiful release of expression. Recognizing your pain may be hard to do, but with small outlets that require emotion (dancing, art, acting, singing, etc), you can face all your problems head on.

• Do your ancestors affect what you do, how you live? If so, how?
I would definitely say that my ancestors have a big impact on what I do and how I live. My bloodline is full of well-known chiefs/warriors and strong women. How they lived was simple and close to the Red Road, so I try my best to do the same to pass on the love to my daughter they had given me when they prayed for my well-being.

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• Who are your Mentors/ role models?
If I had to be honest, I would say that my dog is my biggest role model and mentor (lol). The reason I say that, is because he has been very abused in his life but can still show all the love in the world. Society bashes his breed (Pit Bull) and does not consider the love and gentle nature he gives to anyone. I wish to be able to forgive my past the way he does and take on life with a positive heart.

• What inspires/ drives you to keep going?
The power of knowing that I am the change to my family’s repetitive cycle. My wife and daughter remind me every day that I have this power. It’s like having the butterfly effect because every fork in the road where I must make a decision is history repeating itself to see if I will fall back into that cycle again.
But I give credit of my success to my little family. My wife, who is always supportive in every decision I make. She is the bow that guides my arrows. Her cheering me on is what mends my old broken heart. And to my daughter. She teaches me to enjoy the beauty all around us, and teaches me to receive exactly what I deserve and nothing less.

• If you could relay a mantra, message, wisdom, ism, food for thought to Indigenous 20 somethings from the US and abroad what would you say?

Everyone’s road is different. Some people will stop for gas before you do, others take side roads, most blaze on through. But we still make it to our destinations, at our own pace. Enjoy the ride.

I20SP