Meet Joey Montoya, founder of Urban Native Era a company with a mission to "create a vision and voice for 7th generation Native America by reclaiming our traditional knowledge and identity in a rapidly changing world; simultaneously redefining what it means to be indigenous and free."
When people dress up as Native people for whatever reason, it dehumanizes us, it shows that we do not exist, and it affects our native women, youth, and communities when you do. Many people might not see it that way, but it can mentally affect our youth and put physical harm to our native women.
What is the passion behind Urban Native Era and how did your company begin?
In 2012 we were inspired by a movement called Idle No More. Idle No More is a movement that started in Canada. It was in response of the continuance of the infringement on Indigenous water and land rights in Canada. That movement sparked an engagement across the world. I was inspired to share what was going on in Canada. So I attended solidarity rallies in the states. Mostly around the bay area or in California. I was able to use my camera, Facebook, and other social media platforms to spread and share what was going on in Canada to our first nations relatives. From then I continued to find ways to spread awareness. Towards the summer of 2013 we officially launched the apparel side to Urban Native Era. This would not only be used as a forum of spread awareness, but it would help us raise funds for certain causes as well as allow us to continue to work and create projects in which we would share to the greater public.
What are some roadblocks you face as a Native entreprenuer?
I started Urban Native Era my first year at San Jose State University. It sometimes got difficult to manage a start up business and attend school. Especially when most of these issues were on going and happening around the world. I had to continue to push myself. Take what I learned in school, whatever it was, and apply it to my business. It helped me continue to grow Urban Native Era.
One current Native issue you wish to increase awareness about across America?
There are so many issues, from Environmental, Indigenous rights, health and suicide. Currently, there is an on going issue on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Its an issue in which I learned about in 2015. There so many Indigenous women who go missing on and off the reservation, thousands of women in Canada and in the U.S. Its an issues that needs to be highlighted more and attention.
Your #IAMNOTACOSTUME post speaks volumes, in a few words can you explain the damage that the costumization of your culture inflicts?
There are so many issues in Native Country, but we sometimes think this issue isn't important. When people dress up as Native people for whatever reason, it dehumanizes us, it shows that we do not exist, and it affects our native women, youth, and communities when you do. Many people might not see it that way, but it can mentally affect our youth and put physical harm to our native women.
How can those of us that are not Indigenous best support the Native community and movement?
We always get asked this question a lot. I think being aware of the issues that are happening in Native Country. Once we are aware we are able to share to other folks. Then get involved when you feel the need to assist in a good way. Lastly, there are so many Native entrepreneurs. This holiday season research, follow, and support them by spreading the word and if you can buy some of their products it comes a long way.