Tailinh Agoyo, actress and Santa Fe arts maven (she’s director of marketing for the Indigenous Fine Arts Market) has embarked on a photo project with Ryan Begay that features young children addressing taking on environmental issues. It’s called “The Warrior Project: Indigenous Children Defend the Planet,” and we gave you the broad strokes in our previous post, “Step Aside, Adults: Native Kids Defend the Planet in Photos [7 Images].” Alex Jacobs caught up with Agoyo to get more of the story and, of course, more pictures of the children.
How did this project come about for you?
There is something extraordinary about capturing images of children when they are intent on doing something or have a strong belief about something. I have four young boys. They often ask questions and voice their concerns about the environment and the future. My 11 year old, Quaye, and I decided to tell a photo story about what the planet would be like if we continue treating her with disrespect. He and I worked on concept, props, and location together. We arrived at the location and discussed the scenario. When I started shooting, I was completely amazed by the expressiveness on his face and with his body. Children have that innate ability to feel and share raw emotion. I was incredibly moved; the whole experience blew me away. When I returned to the studio to edit, I was captivated with his photos. They were poignant and fierce. The props and location took a backseat and his eyes and spirit told the story. I realized then that The Warrior Project would be the vehicle to impress upon the world the urgency of taking action to ensure the earth is sustainable for the future generations.
How did you come to pick these particular Native communities to document and are you getting any requests to visit other communities?
There are many communities that we plan to visit, but my creative partner Ryan Begay and I chose the first three locations because they are places where we feel strong personal connections to the people and to the land.
You’re already shot a number of pictures, even though you’ve got two weeks left in your funding campaign—what’s the full plan?
The Warrior Project has had great impact already. It is an important project and we are extremely passionate and dedicated to telling our children’s stories. I feel I have no choice but to do so. We have been shooting in and around New Mexico with no budget but we’ll need to raise funds in order to travel and represent the diversity of Indigenous children and the plight they face. If the fundraising campaign is successful, we will document our travels on film and share our photos digitally online. We will also have a show in Santa Fe in 2016 to share 40 photographs from our travels. We have fantastic rewards on our Kickstarter page including high-resolution digital images, post cards, archival prints, and more. We hope your readers will please check them out, and please support our project so we can continue capturing and telling these important stories through the eyes of our brilliant and beautiful Indigenous children.
What else can people do support “The Warrior Project: Indigenous Children Defend the Planet”?
Donate. We must raise $9500 on our Kickstarter campaign (kickstarter.com/projects/2049080322/the-warrior-project-indigenous-children-defend-the) by March 13 or we lose all the funds already pledged. Pledges of any amount, even $1, help to support our project. Spread the word. Please tell everyone you know about the project and share our website and our Kickstarter page. I wish you all could experience what it’s like at The Warrior Project shoots. They are quite profound but there is also lots of silly fun. Updating our website WarriorChildren.com and Facebook page allows us to give you a glimpse of what we experience. With every photo shoot, I am more impressed by our children. They give me such confidence for the future. The world needs to know how phenomenal our Native children are. Please share, share, share!
Did you know that Amazonian tribes have been using videotape for years to document their own international political campaigns? And there must be other similar campaigns by Indigenous people in North America and around the world that you could connect with?
We have big and long-term plans for The Warrior Project and they include partnering with other Indigenous and environmental advocacy groups.
Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers in and around Indian country and those who want to support Indigenous communities?
Phase I of The Warrior Project is just the beginning. Our mission is to photograph Indigenous children from tribes around the world, each facing unique environmental concerns. By drawing upon traditional beliefs and creation stories, we will represent Indigenous people as a thriving, evolving people who are committed to positive change. We feel strongly about telling our story in this way. We hope Indian country will join us in shedding light on this movement for positive change.
Santa Fe NM
This story was originally published on February 27, 2015.