Native Americans are often invisible in our public discussion of America, and even more so in any discussion of Muslims in the United States. As a group, Native Americans broadly make up 1.8% of the US general population. As such, they are often overlooked, invisible and underrepresented in public conversations and decision-making. And Muslims broadly make up an estimated 1.1% of the US general population. Among Muslims in the United States, Native Americans make up just 1-2%. There is an absence of awareness and lack of representation of Native American and Indigenous Muslims both in the broader US public and within the US Muslim community.
Visions and Voices, the first publication from ISPU's Native American and Indigenous Muslim Stories (NAIMS): Reclaiming the Narrative project, is the first-ever photo narrative project to center the lived experiences of Native American and Indigenous Muslims in the United States. This research amplifies Indigenous Muslim voices to highlight the challenges, strengths, and needs of this small but incredibly diverse community.
This project seeks to:
- Provide an accurate representation of Native American and Indigenous Muslims, on their own terms.
- Raise awareness, facilitate cultural competency, and offer educational materials tailored for broader community understanding.
- Identify the specific needs and assets of Native American and Indigenous Muslims more broadly.
- Gain a greater understanding of the views of Native American and Indigenous people of other faiths and no faiths toward Muslims and Islam.
Native American and Indigenous Muslim Stories: Reclaiming the Narrative will be released in two parts.
Visions and Voices, released in November 2022, uses a narrative portrait approach. ISPU Researchers conducted 17 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with Native American Muslims over a period of six months. Interviews explored identity, ways to navigate multiple marginalized communities, and insights into participants' struggles, hopes, and dreams. From these interviews, professional storytellers developed and summarized participant stories. Photographers met each of these participants in their communities all across the United States to capture portraits. By centering their voices and images, this form of storytelling opens up the possibilities of new ways of understanding, while disrupting dominant narratives about Native American and Indigenous Muslims.
Trends and Treasures, to be released in the spring of 2023, is a thematic report of the strengths and struggles of Native American and Indigenous Muslims. It will draw on the narratives of participants in the Visions and Voices portion, as well as on a series of focus groups with Native American and Indigenous people of other faiths and no faith.
This project is published in partnership with and made possible by generous support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Arts Building Bridges Program and with support from IllumiNative. The mission of the Building Bridges Program is to support national efforts, working with U.S. Muslims, to increase mutual understanding and well-being among diverse populations for the benefit of building stronger, inclusive communities. IllumiNative is a Native woman-led racial and social justice organization dedicated to challenging the narrative about Native peoples.
Photography for this project was conducted by iDigiMedia + Swish Marketing Agency. Slide to the right of each photo to see additional photos and continue the story. Stories were developed by Nura Maznavi and Ayesha Mattu.