Iowa Arts Council
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Iowa Arts Council

Iowa Musician Amplifies Indigenous History and Promotes Healing

Genevieve Salamone in “Les Petits Mocs,” a music video filmed at Ledges State Park near Boone, Iowa. (Photo: The Farmhouse Studios)

Last year the Des Moines violinist Genevieve Salamone received an Iowa Arts & Culture Resilience Grant through a program the Iowa Arts Council designed to help artists, filmmakers, musicians and writers adapt to the challenges of the pandemic.

And that’s what Salamone did. But the pair of music videos she produced demonstrate resilience in the face of a much older ordeal: specifically, the lingering trauma caused by centuries of discrimination against Indigenous people like herself.

A member of the Huron-Wendat Nation, which is based in what is now Quebec, Salamone plans to premiere her two new videos during “A Night of Resilience” at 7 p.m. May 21 at xBk Live in Des Moines. The multimedia concert will feature fiddles, drums, piano, spoken word, an aerialist performance and a few songs from “Catharsis,” Salamone’s first original album, which she released last year.

It was one of that album’s numbers, called “Brave,” that led to the new videos, which blend Indigenous and Western musical themes.

The first, called “Les Petits Mocs” (the small moccasins), pays tribute to the generations of Indigenous children who were forced to attend government- and church-run boarding schools in Canada and the United States. They were forced to cut their hair short and forbidden to wear traditional clothing or speak Indigenous languages.

Images from “Les Petits Mocs.” (Photos: The Farmhouse Studios)

“It was a way to take our culture away from us. As some people describe it, it was a way to ‘kill the Indian child within,’” said Salamone, 29, whose mother attended one of the schools.

The second video, “The Unforgotten,” draws attention to thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women, victims of a troubling and stubbornly persistent phenomenon.

Genevieve Salamone, center, in an image from “The Unforgotten,” said many Indigenous people believe red is the only color spirits can see. (Photo: The Farmhouse Studios)

Salamone grew up in Quebec and Iowa, where she has made connections with the Great Plains Action Society, a nonprofit group that champions Indigenous causes through activism and education. She grew up speaking French and English and plans to enroll soon in an online class to learn her nation’s Indigenous language, which is at risk of fading away.

The more she learns, the more her artwork reflects her roots.

“Each Indigenous person has their own journey to discover their heritage,” she said. “It’s a beautiful journey, but you’re going to be on it the rest of your life.”

Michael Morain, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

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The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs empowers Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to resources. iowaculture.gov