Dream Warriors collective members: Tanaya Winder, Lyla June and Christopher Mike-Bidtah (Def-i) visit the Four Corner’s Region on their latest ‘Wake Up Your Warrior Tour.’
Beginning Wednesday, Sept. 15 their first stop was in Towaoc, Colo. at the Ute Mountain Ute Casino and Southwest Open School in Cortez, Colo. Then in Ignacio, Colo. on Thursday, Sept. 16 at KSUT Tribal Radio the trio performed a live on-air act. During the tour in Ignacio, they were also able to visit with youth at the Ignacio High School and Ute elders at the Multi-Purpose Facility’s monthly Sip, Chat and Chew luncheon. The final stop of their tour was at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo. on Friday.
Dream Warriors is an Indigenous Artists collective that was founded in 2015. It’s a group of artists and people who travel throughout Indian Country teaching people how to activate their inner talents, while also sharing their own artistic gifts such as culture, music, poetry and spoken word. They teach workshops, perform for events and different movements that are important to each artist. Currently there are seven members in the collective, Tanaya Winder, Lyla June, Jessica Calderon, Def-i, Gunner Jules, Tall Paul and Frank Waln. Together these artists share their ‘Heartwork’ across tribal communities and the world.
The definition of ‘Heartwork’ is defined on Tanaya’s website as “When you were born into this world, the Creator took light and breathed life into you, that light and breath of life is your heartwork. You were born with purpose and a work that only are you charged with in this life. This heartwork comes from your heart and spirit and it is the work you spend your lifetime practicing.”
Tanaya Winder is a writer, educator, motivational speaker, and spoken word poet from the Southern Ute, Duckwater Shoshone, and Pyramid Lake Paiute Nations. She grew up on the Southern Ute Indian reservation and attended college at Stanford University where she earned a BA in English.
After college, she pursued her passion of poetry and received her graduate degree, an MFA in creative writing from the University of New Mexico. Since then, she has co-founded As/Us: A Space for Women of the World. Tanaya guest lectures, teaches creative writing workshops, and speaks at high schools, universities, and communities internationally. Winder is also the founder of the Dream Warriors collective.
“We’re about working with the community; we like our shows to be for youth and elders — were kind of an unconventional management company.” Winder stated. “We have done six events in the past 72 hours, that’s the type of work we like to do — sharing our heartwork with as many communities as we can.”
Lyla June is a poet, singer-songwriter, hip-hop artist, human ecologist, public speaker, and community organizer from the Diné (Navajo), Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) and European lineages. Her dynamic, multi-genre performance and speech style has invigorated and inspired audiences across the globe towards personal, collective, and ecological healing.
Her messages focus on Indigenous rights, supporting youth, inter-cultural healing, historical trauma, and traditional land stewardship practices. The Indigenous worldview she grew up with guides her perspectives and solutions. Her internationally acclaimed performances and speeches are conveyed through the medium of prayer, hip-hop, poetry, acoustic music, and speech. Her personal goal is to grow closer to the Creator by learning how to love deeper.
Christopher Mike-Bidtah otherwise known as Def-i has been a rapper, writer, educator, and youth advocate for years now. He is from the Diné (Navajo) Nation and currently operates out of Albuquerque. He is continuously helping foster a “cross cultural creative exchange” that can be used in diverse communities.
“I’ve maintained my resilience by focusing on my name Def-i, there’s a lot of different meanings within my name, one of them being that defying or defiance can go hand in hand with resilience,” Def-i said. “Resilience is with me all the time especially at those tough times early in the morning when I know I’m tired I can think about my craft and tell myself that I need to keep going—that makes and fuels my resilience.”
At each event, the warriors talked about their struggles and successes, music, art and poetry have helped them find and strengthen their craft. The artist’s firsthand knowledge of substance abuse, mental health struggles and other unique life experiences have directly influenced their decision to perform and speak across Indian Country; breaking cycles within communities and helping others find their own inspiration to follow their ‘heartwork.’