There Is No Indigenous Monolith: Q&A with Nicky Deschine Parkhurst and Jaymes Parkhurst
Intersections of Beauty is a platform to celebrate the unique perspectives, aesthetics, and life experiences within the industry and our communities. We believe that beauty isn’t just one-size-fits-all. It ‘s FOR all. It’s Native American Heritage Month, and to celebrate we’re welcoming folks from Indigenous communities to share their stories. This week we spoke with blogger Nicky Deschine Parkhurst and Jaymes Parkhurst about identity and embracing their roots. Keep reading for the full conversation.
How would your best friend describe you in a sentence or two: “My best friend Nicholet is fierce, passionate, and ambitious! She loves to learn and shares her knowledge to cultivate a kinder, more responsible world.” -Nasreen
Location: Akimel O’odham and Pee Posh lands (what is known as Tempe, Arizona)
How would your best friend describe you in a sentence or two: “Jaymes is the life of the party! They are very giving and like to include others.”
Location: Akimel O’odham and Pee Posh lands (what is known as Tempe, Arizona)
Hair Type/Texture: Medium length, thin, black, straight hair.
It’s Native American Heritage Month! What does it mean to you, and how do you like to celebrate?
Nicky: I am an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and I am also Navajo. I am both excited and conflicted about Native American Heritage Month. Native American Heritage Month (NAHM) happens at such a complex time during the year. It’s right after Halloween when it’s common to see costumes stereotyping Native Americans. And Native American Heritage Month happens in November when there are often stories told about Native Americans and pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving. It’s not hard to be conflicted about how to feel about Native American Heritage Month. On the other hand, every day is a good day to be Native American and NAHM is a time to join in community to celebrate our Indigeneity and to celebrate with other Native peoples. I love celebrating the artistic skills of Navajo silversmiths and American Indian beaders by wearing Native Bling – beaded earrings and silver and turquoise jewelry handmade by American Indian artists.
Jaymes: Native American Heritage Month means to me a chance to be able to connect closer to my family and my friends. And to be able to recognize the different Tribes that live around us and live with us in this time. And it gives me a chance to be able to connect and be prideful of my own Tribes and family.
What are three things you love about your heritage and culture?
Nicky: I love a lot of things about my heritage and culture, but three things are the connections and relationships I have with family, with land, and with the communities I am a part of. Jaymes: Three of my favorite things about my culture and my heritage are family, representation, and definitely the food.
Was there ever a time when you struggled with your identity? How did you work through that?
Nicky: I identify as Lakota and Diné and I have struggled with the categorization of being a reservation Indian versus an urban Indian, a duality that is imposed on us. I grew up and was raised on the Navajo Nation. After high school I moved to the city for college, and although I return home for visits, I don’t anticipate moving home to the rez in the near future for a variety of reasons, the most being structural issues. Calling ourselves urban Indians or rez Indians, or categorizing us as one or the other, is a disservice when our experiences as Native people is diverse and complex. Where Native people live and reside is shaped by colonial institutions that have historically forced the movement of Indigenous peoples from their homelands. I work through this by remembering my Identity as a Native person is not dictated by where I reside, and my diverse identity is valid and worthy of celebration. Jaymes: A couple years ago, I struggled with figuring out where I stood between being non-binary and a Native person. And in that struggle, I debated with myself whether I could consider myself as a two-spirit or just trans. And along those lines I realized that not everyone can conform themselves to certain terms. And that helped settle my personal dispute between figuring out who I see myself as.
Justice and equality have been major cultural topics in the last year. What stands out to you as some of the biggest moments for the Indigenous community?
Nicky: There have been some big moments for American Indians in the United States in the last few years that I think can’t be ignored – Gaining support during Standing Rock to stop resource extraction and protect water; advocating against Native American mascots that resulted in the Washington NFL team changing their name; and Deb Haaland being the first American Indian Secretary of the Department of the Interior is important for American Indian representation in government. Jaymes: One of the biggest moments that I have noticed for the Indigenous community was bringing to light the effect that boarding schools currently have on all of our Indigenous communities. And being able to get justice and visibility for those kids who were put through that.
What do you think the beauty industry stands to learn from Indigenous culture? How should the industry change to be more inclusive?
Nicky: I think the beauty industry could learn from Indigenous culture in the fact that Indigenous people are not all one type of person. We don’t look all the same and we’re not even from the same Tribe. There are many different Tribes within the United States, federally-recognized Tribes, state-recognized Tribes, and even Tribes that are not recognized by the federal and state governments. We are very different. We look different. We have different skin tones, different hair types, and different body sizes. There are all different kinds of fashion styles and aesthetics that we enjoy. And I think the biggest thing the beauty industry could learn from and to be more inclusive of Indigenous peoples, not only to have more Indigenous representation, but also to change the narrative of the Southwest being the place of westerns and Native American people. That vibe could change. Jaymes: One way I think the beauty industry could be more inclusive could be bringing love and attention to more types of bodies and styles and allowing those to also be seen alongside what’s currently mainstream.
How do you use your platform as a step toward radical inclusion in the beauty industry?
Nicky: I started blogging in 2013 because I was feeling frustrated with the fashion and beauty industry. As a plus-size, Native American woman, I couldn’t relate to the people I saw in advertisements, magazines, and entertainment, and I couldn’t relate to the fashion and mom blogs I followed. Not only was there almost no Indigenous representation there was also no intersection with social justice. I use my website and social media platforms to share aspects of my life, the places I travel, my plus-size fashion and beauty experiences, but also to center my Native culture, heritage, and to bring awareness about the causes myself and other Indigenous people are advocating for.
Tell us the first lesson you ever learned about caring for your hair. Who was with you when you began your hair care journey?
Nicky: When I was a kid my mother was the person who showed me how to care for my hair. My hair was really long and I remember when I was allowed to use her hair conditioner. The conditioner smelled fruity and made my hair feel silky and smooth as it ran under water. This was a hair conditioner she had bought for herself and was different from what us kids used. I felt special. My mom also taught me how to fold my hair into a tsiiyéél (Diné hair bun). This meant a lot to me because my mom is Lakota not Diné and had to learn what was involved in styling a tsiiyéél. My mom has been part of my hair care journey, even when I made the decision to cut my hair and perm it as a young teenager! Jaymes: The most memorable lesson about me learning to care for my hair was during my kinaaldá, the Diné coming of age ceremony where me and my auntie were both learning together how to wash my hair with yucca and put it up in a tsiiyéél. Going off that lesson I realized the importance of my hair to me, and it helped me continue with my experience with my hair figuring out what to do with it even as a teenager where I shaved the sides, cut it a little short, and the first time I dyed it.