Red Ink magazine gets back on track after hiatus
''Humor, all Indians will agree, is the cement by which the coming Indian movement is held together. When a people can laugh at themselves and laugh at others and hold all aspects of life together without letting anything drive them to extremes, then it seems to me that people can survive.''
- ''Custer Died For Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto'' (1969), by Vine Deloria Jr.
TUCSON, Ariz. - Red Ink magazine should be sitting snuggly with other university publications on the shelves of Borders and Barnes and Noble bookstores. But the grass-roots publication, edited and constructed by students at the University of Arizona, lacks the funds to pay a staff and to circulate beyond online orders.
Aside from the obstacles, it's a glossy and inviting must-read magazine.
It features the best in Native contemporary art, poetry, short stories and non-fiction essays. There are also book and movie reviews.
Seven members of the nine-student editorial staff are Native, and most are majoring in American Indian Studies. As for submissions, only a select few pieces are published by non-Natives.
''We're not trying to exclude non-Natives but, again, we're a Native publication,'' said Eddie Welch, managing editor and an American Indian Studies doctorate student. ''We take submissions from all age groups; we're intergenerational.''
Each issue embodies a theme. The spring 2007 issue spotlighted humor and taboo, and it opened the floodgates for contemporary Native artists and writers to showcase their funny and edgy side.
The humor may be plain for the Native reader to find within the confines of the freshly printed 87 pages. What's taboo in this issue could be a matter of taste.
''Laughing is very positive,'' Welch said. ''It helps to cleanse and heal. You can make fun of yourself or other people.''
The provocative cover could easily reel in the culturally appreciative reader or a curious Web surfer who notices the handsome young Indian man wearing only boxers and a headdress. Artist Bunky Echo-Hawk, Pawnee/Yakama, dubbed his 2006 painting ''Designer Loin Cloth.''
Echo-Hawk, 31, said that the cover painting represents the lack of a Native presence in mainstream media. ''You never see a Native American pose for an underwear advertisement,'' he said.
Echo-Hawk was the featured artist at the April 13 premiere party for the new issue. Weeks prior to the party, editors held an online drawing to raise money. Welch said they raised about $1,500.
The winning prize: a live painting by Echo-Hawk. Keeping in line with the theme, at the party he painted ''1492 Is a Four-Letter Word.'' It features a young Indian man wearing a hooded sweatshirt bearing the title of the painting, his left fist extended forward.
Echo-Hawk said the humor is in the young man's smile. And it's the taboo in the sense that mainstream society wants to avoid looking at Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus' noted abuse of indigenous people.
''With these live paintings, I never plan on what I am going to paint,'' he said. ''I just reacted to the atmosphere of the party.''
Ten of Echo-Hawk's paintings are featured in this issue.
Additionally, excerpts from ''Custer Died For Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto'' by the late Vine Deloria Jr. were reprinted with the blessings of his widow, Barbara Deloria, who also attended the premiere party.
And there's plenty more love for the written word. Featured slam poet Ben-Alex Dupris, Colville, humbly said that he's a newcomer to the genre. ''I am still developing as a performance artist,'' he said.
After spending time trying to make it as a screenwriter in Hollywood, he found himself lost in the mix. In 2004, the Spokane, Wash., native moved a little closer to home, this time to Seattle. It's during this time that he heard slam poet Saul Williams, and he knew that he had found his niche.
Nine of Dupris' poems are featured in the magazine. He noted that the humor and taboo theme is most obvious in his poem, ''America the Beautiful.'' It starts out: ''happy fourth of july suckas/ it's like this ...'' and continues on by exposing the darker side of a few American icons.
''It was my way of poking fun at the sacredness of American society,'' he said. ''I was deconstructing the American dream.''
Red Ink was first published in 1989, and the first two issues were in newsprint. After a five-year hiatus, Red Ink resumed publication in a magazine format and published two volumes each year until 2002. After that, only two more issues were published within the next four years. A factual error in the last issue forced the publication to pay $4,000 for reprinting costs.
So, it could be easily said that the latest issue marks a new era, a renaissance of the magazine. Welch, 27, a non-Native student from Pierre, S.D., was nominated as the managing editor last fall. He said that while he wasn't expecting the nomination, he was honored to help get the magazine back on track.
Each issue cost about $14 to print and sells for $15. Donations are needed to help the circulation of the magazine grow.
''There's no faculty involved with this publication,'' he said. ''We're very grass-roots as far as raising money.''
The theme for the fall 2007 issue is popular culture, and Welch encourages Natives to submit their work. For more information, visit www.redinkmagazine.com.