Repurposed Vans: A Shoe Born of Inspirations or "Where You At?"
by Alexis Munoa Dyer
Artist's Statement by Alexis Munoa Dyer
Míiyuyam míiyuyam! I am from the Payómkawichum Nation, from the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians. Our Ancestral Territory stretches from San Onofre to Idyllwild to San Pasqual Valley to Cardiff out to the four lower Channel Islands. We have shared territories along the waters with our relatives the Tongva, Acjachemen, Cahuilla, Cupeño and Kumeyaay.
We have been here since time immemorial. This is our home. Our world views and daily life are dependent on the surrounding geography. The slavery in mission systems cut off our families from Móomat, the ocean. Then the reservation and boarding school systems made sure that our connection with her suffered. Our belief systems were illegal until 1978. The poor health of the coastal territories ecosystems is a direct result of our traditional care being prohibited. Our generation is finally safe to work on healing the relationships with the coast and the ocean.
Surf is an Indigenous sport! Skate was born from surf! Wave riding has been a tradition here with our canoe cultures since the beginning. So it’s only natural that a shoe born from those inspirations is often the one of choice for us Native kids. Southern CA Native kids have been wearing Vans since the company’s inception. Often when we take the kids out gathering there’s the trademark crosshatch soul imprinted in the sand.
It’s about time we had a line that was very specific to our Payómkawichum (western) Culture. I am a film photographer, wife and mother, basket weaver, singer, surfer. Finding ways to celebrate and center our way of life for my family is very important to me. My kids skate and surf. It felt really natural to use the customize tool to make what we wanted to see! A reflection of our biggest strengths! Skate and surf is about getting back up after you take a fall. Nobody is better at that than Natives! Haha! These shoes are a very small expression of the step forward in healing what has happened to us and our homeland.
We can look at the earth and have a reminder in our modern fast world that we as the Human Beings belong to a way of life that prioritizes waves over schedules, winds over money, abalones over diamonds. In our language we say “Michá $ú’ ‘íyq?” Instead of “How are you?” it literally means “Where you at?”
Where have your feet taken you? What are you bound to? If our tukmalum (baskets) are on our feet, visible, we can carry the strength of our Ancestors and Chamkí (our home) forward one step at a time.
Alexis Munoa Dyer (Payómkawichum Pechangayam) of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians is a film photographer, traditional basketweaver, traditional food lover, surfer, wife and mother. She loves being on the ocean in any form. She hates anything grape flavored, people who yell from cars, and talking about herself.