“You will suffer.”
“This is a sacrifice I am willing to make.”
“But, Shi yahzi (my son), why do you want to do this? The dark spirits will dance around you for daring to watch them so closely.”
“I feel that I must do this, Shi Cheii (my Grandfather). It’s not for entertainment. It’s not for the fun of it, or for the thrill of it, nor is it to simply profit by making a scary film. It is for ownership. It is for pride. Sir, this is for our People. This is for the Dine’.”
“This can be something that brings the People back to who they are. This can reach those who wander, the children, the lost, and help them to believe. The dark dance is something that is already happening. It is already here. It is everywhere we look.” – Kody Dayish
The Medicine Man nodded, a grave nod that seemed to acknowledge the martyrdom of the man’s quest. “You do your People a great honor, and you put yourself at great risk. This is the true path.”
And now, Kody was holding true to that oath even as he filmed the last bit of footage by drone flying low and fast, across spring green on the desert, towards the towering ship on the ocean of sand. The Red Hogaan was complete, a true Skinwalker Film had been made, but this time by a Navajo director. He had been as true to custom as tradition demanded. He had represented his culture with dignity, reverence, and honesty. We have all seen the other stories…. the outsider stories…. the Navajo werewolf stories….
But this One is OURS.
Kody Dayish Productions started with a fierce desire to make an impact coupled with the known reality that enthusiasm is contagious – but fades. “You get boring”, Kody told me over the phone as we discussed the details of this press release. I was immediately struck by the unapologetic bluntness of his phrase. The last thing an artist wants to admit, is that they do indeed get boring. Look at the number of great acts who have tried to harness that limelight for too long; ending up tainting even the best of times on that stage. So I guess, really, what struck me was not so much the honesty of the comment, but the fact that one so young had already discovered it, and who not only embraced it, but wasn’t scared of it. This leads to passion. It leads to drive. It fuels inspiration. When these elements combine in an artist – greatness is within his grasp, and daring to chase it – to harness it! This is the quest.
“It was about setting a goal to actually do something” Kody continued. “Two years seemed more than enough time to hit it, hit it hard, and have something to show for it. More time than that simply allows excuses.” So the three siblings: Kody, Kolette, and Kolin formed Kody Dayish Productions with an explicit, personal two year contract taken out with each other setting the length of time of their partnership. As an artist I understand the necessary, but daunting relationship one has with their deadlines – in comparison, the intensity and driven focus on success, with a self imposed deadline, taken on by Kody and Krew is impressive, to say the least.
“It is easy for people to think that I was lucky to be in this position, like I was born into it, or happened upon it.” I found it interesting to be having a discussion about privilege with a Native American. Discussions have erupted across all forms of media over the last year or two, when it comes to White Privilege, and I am certainly not going to argue that it does not exist. I do however appreciate the fact that a discussion of privilege can be had between people of different race, culture, and history: especially when that discussion can bridge those differences rather than reinforce them.
THE RED HOGAAN TRAILER # 1
The world all around us is becoming more competitive. There are a lot of individuals out there doing really cool things, and most of us would do anything we could to give our kids the best chance at success. My wife and I looked into putting our son in Ice Hockey Club, as there is no little league, or park league for hockey in Arizona. It would have amounted to the tune of several of thousand dollars a year. Club football, club baseball (because Little League is not enough if you want a kid in the Majors), club hockey, club soccer, all of these are ways to give your children the greatest advantage at a life of fame: think about it.
All of those kids, involved in all of those activities, are benefiting directly from being winners of a genetic lottery ticket. Already, those kids have a leg up on your kids, because the parents had the resources and forethought to get their kids involved.
But the last thing we see on ESPN or NFL network when they do A Football Life or any of those other type of shows, is a documentary about privilege. Instead, we see a documentary about hard work, hard knocks, and hard lives.
The Red Hogaan Trailer # 2
Thomas Grey wrote as a meditation in a country churchyard that many of us are born to blush unseen, never having our talents noticed by the rest of the people we share the world with. All flowers are beautiful, but some grow in places they are never going to be photographed. John Donne said that no man is an island, that we are all interconnected and that we glean strength and edification from each other.
Fannie Dayish was no different. As a mother, Fannie empowered her children, starting with her eldest, Kody. From his early years: being involved in baby pageants, playing guitar and singing in parades, visiting Los Angeles for photo shoots, working at modeling gigs as far east as Tennessee.
Fannie taught her children the value of hard work, dedication, and a love of their culture and people from an early age. These lessons are obvious in a trio of siblings that are motivated as highly as they are about using their talents to empower the Native youth around them.
Is this not the American Dream? Is this not what all of us as parents, or future parents, want to be able to do? Isn’t this concept the very motivation behind things like ‘college funds’?
In the end, one can only buy so much. In the end, one can only lead the horse to water so many times. There is nothing in the contexts of privilege that deals with the idea of forcing the individual to do something with that opportunity. No amount of coaxing or throwing money around can completely replace the need for talent and personal commitment. We have all heard the stories or seen the movies of spoiled little rich kids that go off to school and never have to worry about anything because they are going to simply inherit their lives from their parents anyway. That is not what we are discussing when it comes to Kody Dayish and his siblings. We are discussing a trio of people who see themselves as blessed to be able to put themselves in a position to give back to their People, or to politely use the Navajo term: back to the Dine’.
Fannie Dayish chose to give her children the best advantage that she could in a world full of uncertainty. One does not need to look very deep to see the poverty on our Native reservations. One does not need to look very deep to see the statistics of inner city schools. In fact, living here in Mesa, I see families choose to take advantage of open enrollment policies all over the place: willingly choosing to drive for miles simply to have some degree of control over who influences their children. I have yet to see the pages of the Education section of a newspaper overflowing with articles about all of the white people selling out their own people or capitalizing on their privilege. It is simply seen as normal.
But when Fannie Dayish made a similar decision, choosing to get her children into a private schooling system that would give them every possibility of success – she traded a better education for a sense of cultural inclusion. Kody Dayish came back to Shiprock High School on the Navajo Nation seen as an outsider: as a person who saw themselves as too good, too high and mighty, too special for the Rez. And here, in the developmental petri-dish of adolescence – Kody entered the crucible.
Merriem Webster defines ‘crucible’ as follows: 1. a vessel of a very refractory material (such as porcelain) used for melting a substance that requires a high degree of heat. 2. a severe test: He’s ready to face the crucible of the Olympics. 3. A place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development: He was conditioned by having grown up within the crucible of war.
When a person goes through trying, difficult times: and voices them, using them as justifications or rationalizations, it can be tempting to pause and question those motivations. Doing so is fair, and the answer to that questioning – when it comes to Kody Dayish as an artist of vision – is that the crucible can crush the strongest of people. The heat and hurt and pain that comes with those trials can fragment the most vivid of dreams. The scalding torment can twist a person, filling what was once bright and lucid with the darkest and most poisonous of venoms. Or one can come forth from that inferno folded and melted down and re-folded into the sharpest of blades. One can emerge from that inferno more focused, with more hardened steel of purpose, than they ever had before.
Kody brought that sense of dedication, that sense of purpose, and that sense of love back to the Navajo Nation. It was tested in the trials that happen beyond the watchful eyes of loved ones: in a world of conflict and continual measuring where children practice all of the cruelties they have seen. That reality did not dampen his resolve to want to turn his life into something that could help and inspire. The fact that he had to win over the respect of the people he wanted to ultimately inspire speaks volumes. It speaks to his tenacity. It speaks to his honesty. It speaks to his vulnerability. It speaks to his clarity of sound and vision.
Kody Dayish is the artist that he is because of the Crucible of his experience. Giving something back to the Dine’ is his purpose. His body of work is the proof in his resolve. The Red Hogaan is the epoch of that vision as a filmmaker. Winning the awards that he has won, has not given Kody an easy pass. On the contrary, they have set the bar of standards even higher for what he was expected to accomplish. Kody Dayish Productions is the testament to that accomplishment. Late last year, Mike Easterling wrote an article about the Dayish siblings and the company they put together with a two year personal contract to provide a goal for their endeavors. Follow the link, and read the FULL STORY HERE.
“The Beginning” was the first undertaking by Kody Dayish Productions, and was meant to serve as a “blessing” on their endeavor. The film is based on a song called “Generation Hand Down” from the 1996 album Etsi Shon from Canadian artist Jerry Alfred.
As their second project, the Dayish siblings tackled the song “Dead Oaks” by the band NowNow out of Chicago. Visit the band’s Facebook Page Here. The film is a semi autobiographical depiction of a first date, and is meant to not only inspire youth to RESPECT each other, but to actually do the unthinkable….. and actually GO OUT ON A DATE. Hook ups are over rated! The production schedule on their particular project was cramped, so it was decided to do the film in two parts. Expect news of the second part SOON!
If “The Beginning” was meant as a blessing on the Dayish’ endeavor, and Kody’s visit to his tribal Medicine Man was a continuation of that spiritual process, then all of that positive energy needed to come together in full force for the production of The Red Hogaan. Kody spoke at length with DGO Magazine‘s Patty Templeton about skinwalkers, horror, and the need for blessing yourself and your crew on set – when trying to authentically portray one of the most taboo corners of Navajo Lore. Read DGO’s full interview HERE.
Currently, Kody and crew are spending a great deal of time on their musical side project. The Red Hogaan is complete, and Kody is actively shopping the project, including setting up applications for several major film festivals this Fall. In the mean time, one cannot stop a rolling stone with a purpose, and an artist Must Create! Our Last Chants have started performing live in the Farmington and Shiprock, New Mexico area. Look for the release of their Debut Album East very soon!
“Those of us on a spiritual path and more specifically on a Vision Quest believe that we are put on this earth for a special reason, but that reason is not always clear to us. We want to know what we need to accomplish in life for our highest benefit, and, in turn, the benefit of the world. The quest can reveal our life’s purpose, but it is an arduous journey into the core of our being that we should only embark upon with sincerity.” – Native Americans Online
Keep it Scary my Friends….