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Survival of the First Voices Festival includes many popular workshops, performances

Hannah Grover The Daily Times
The Daily Times

KIRTLAND — Miss Northern Navajo Teen Alexandria Holiday made it her platform to encourage the conservation of Navajo culture.

"Our culture is dying," she said Saturday while giving the closing keynote address and performance during the final day of the Survival of the First Voices Festival at the Brooks/Isham Performing Arts Center on the Kirtland Central High School campus.

The festival, which started Thursday, aims to encourage Native young people to use arts and media to promote their culture.

"It's really good to have our youth to start embracing our culture," Holiday said.

This is the Survival of the First Voices Festival's second year. Both years have surprised the co-founders, Jourdan Bennett-Begaye and Allie Young.

"(The attendance) has always been better than we've expected," Bennett-Begaye said.

The festival includes performances, competitions, speakers and workshops.

Some of the popular features included hip hop artist Frank Waln's performance and workshop, the Sundance Institute's Native American and Indigenous Program's presentation, and the "sex is ceremony" workshop led by Keioshiah Peter.

While at first Peter's workshop might seem out of place at a festival centered around arts and media, Peter's use of storytelling in her sexual education workshops made it a good fit.

"She connects it to our culture," Young said.

The festival also included various examples of Native art.

Keno Zahney, a Shiprock artist, displayed his art at the festival as a way of encouraging young people, and sharing his work and culture.

"Native art has always been powerful," Zahney said.

He said the paintings all tell stories.

"It's got power to heal," Zahney said. "It's got power to bring people together."

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.