You know those moments in life when you’re experiencing something so powerful it feels surreal? This session spent with styled shoot leader and member of the Choctaw Nation, Manda Weaver, felt just like that. On my last morning in Utah at The Hybrid Collective, I ventured out one last time to River Bottoms Ranch for Manda’s session dedicated to honoring and educating the attendees about her people: the Choctaw Nation. Our model, Beckah, is also a member of the Choctaw Nation, and graciously agreed to aid Manda in her noble task of honoring their people and allowing us to be witness to their culture.
During the session, Manda and Beckah shared with us stories of ceremonial dresses, jewelry made by local artisans, and poems written by Choctaw authors. But beyond the beautiful material items before us, Manda shared her family history with the Choctaw Nation, and stories of her mother and grandfather’s joy and sorrow. Her stories were profound and personal, and the whole room stood quietly in awe of the charge before us to be part of something greater. While the styled shoot itself was absolutely stunning and produced images that I adore sharing, even more meaningful was the message of education and the charge to do something more towards fighting oppression. It is no secret that the United States has an ugly history in its treatment towards Native groups. What is unknown to many is the ongoing attempt to devalue and ignore the modern Indigenous experience. As we speak, many Native women continue to go missing, be assaulted, or be murdered throughout the country. This is not a pretty topic, or an easy one to discuss, but I, like Manda and Beckah, believe the only way to initiate change is to strive towards education, compassion, empathy, community outreach, and a call to do more.
Below I have including several links that I’d like to leave you with. Some will teach you about the incredible Choctaw Nation that Manda and Beckah are a part of. Some will lead you to MMIW’s (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) page filled with resources for education and awareness. Some will lead you to Indigenous owned brands you can be supporting. This topic is not easy; it is extremely convicting, humbling, and full of emotion. But within the difficult we find compassion, and if we have compassion toward ourselves and toward others, there is nothing we cannot do. Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read this one; it means the world.
To the incredible vendors who made this such a wonderful experience: thank you thank you!
Host: Manda Weaver for The Hybrid Collective
Planning and Design: Array Creative Design | Erika Bellitt
Venue: River Bottoms Ranch
Tribe: Choctaw Nation
Floral Design: The Potted Pansy
Choctaw Model: Beckah Boykin | Model Agent: Mother Fox Management
Hair and Make Up: Sandra C. Fernandez
Indigenous Artisans: Leona Rivers (small collar and matching earrings), Soverly (white opal earrings), Only Child Handicrafts (long mixed-medium earrings), By Yellow Tail
Poet: Phillip Carrol Morgan || Choctaw/Chickasaw
Gowns: Choctaw Dress Maker || Ephemerl || Gossmer
Paperie: Sophia Loves Letters
Ring Box: The Styling Reserve
Videography: Salt Rock Studios
Styling Surfaces: Ultra Violet Backdrops