Unify Festival 2016 Review

By Moriah Hope and Kayla Lofton

Photography by: Shaunti LallyiAm

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If we could shift one thing about the festival scene, it would be the over-consumption of alcohol and other substances. Dabbling with mind-altering substances is a sensitive spiritual matter, one not to be messed with. We are aware of the healing that can occur through plant medicines, but in order for us to come together and truly UNIFY, we must arrive to the collective with great clarity and centeredness.

Spirituality. Sobriety. Health. Transformation.

These words embody the founding principles of the first annual Unify Festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico. On a warm weekend in September, participants shared in Unify’s medicines of choice:

Clean water, organic food, prayer, song and dance, community, and ceremony.

Reverence, respect and appreciation for the Indigenous people of the southwest are at the core of Unify’s ethos. The Tewa Dancers of the North offered the opening ceremony, a beautiful traditional dance called the Eagle Dance. In Tewa tradition, song and dance are inextricably interwoven. Each song is a prayer. Each sound informs the movement. Each movement carries meaning. This philosophy reminds me of a quote by a Native performer at Unify:

“They say to dance like nobody is watching. I think that implies we are afraid or ashamed to dance in front of people. I say dance like everybody is watching. Dance like your children are watching, your ancestors, your family. Dance for those who are hurting… Let every step be a prayer for humanity! Most of all dance for the Creator, who breathed into your soul so you may celebrate this gift of life!”

-Supaman, Crow Nation hip-hop artist

Soulful Soundscapes

Amongst the stacked line up were a few Shakti Journal favorites including Ayla Nereo (past Shakti Journal Cover Warrior!) Yaima, Lily Fangz, Chances R Good, and One Tribe. (Check out our Muses of Musical Medicine section for an exclusive interview with the One Tribe crew.) Families, travelers, artists and activists who flocked to the gathering were truly raised and spiritually fortified by the messages in the music.

We stumbled upon a musician that we’ve been tuning in to almost every single day since we discovered him. ‘Momentology,’ fueled by artist Patrick Kiebzak, “…is an expansive project blending rich layers of organic soundscapes with elements of live instrumentation and vibrational healing frequencies. Patrick’s vision is an awakened world through invigorating and nourishing musical journeys.”  Learn more about his project at www.momentology.guru.

Workshops and Councils

Cultivating a relationship with Mother Earth was a common workshop theme. “The Wild Wisdom of Weeds” lead by Katrina Blair taught us how to forage wild foods in our own local communities through a highly informative guided herb walk.

We learned that Katrina had decided right after high school to camp for the summer with the intention of living off the land, consuming primarily the wild foods that were around her. Living this way, she was able to connect to the land and the wisdom it has to teach us. She went on to say, “When we ingest the wild food around us we are ingesting the evolution of hundreds of years of plant wisdom into our body.” Her wisdom solidified the saying “You are what you eat!”

We ended the foraging experience by making a delicious green juice from the herbs we had gathered. Turtle Lake Refuge, a non-profit ran by Katrina in Durango, CO, provided the bicycle-powered blender.

Rainbow Lightning Children’s Village held a phenomenal Peace Sticks Ceremony workshop. Participants partnered and passed sticks back and forth between one another, co-creating a rhythmic cycle while maintaining eye contact. This workshop brought children and adults together with eye-gazing as a vehicle for profound connection.

A council meeting was held in the Visionary Village to support Standing Rock, particularly the movement’s original camp, Sacred Stone. Founded by Ladonna Bravebull Allard, Sacred Stone Camp assembled in response to the invasive Dakota Access Pipeline project being illegally constructed under the Missouri River and through land belonging to the Standing Rock Sioux Indians. Indigenous elders and others committed to the protection of clean water for future generations came together to pray and organize assistance efforts for the camp. Sacred Stone Camp has been preparing for winter by building permanent structures that will become part of a self-sustaining ‘eco-village.’

The Fire Burns On…

Unify stoked the fires of our souls. Every workshop embodied prayer and intention. Every performance dove straight into the heart of the audience. We were encouraged to honor and listen to the wisdom of the elders. Most importantly, we were reminded of the seeds we are planting in our children. We must help them flourish and give them the tools to cultivate the evolution needed on Earth. We all left filled with inspiration and the knowingness that we each have a sacred responsibility to care for this world. 

In the words of producer Nathan Crane, “Unify Fest is a new transformational festival dedicated to bringing people together to support organic, healthy, sober, conscious, spiritual, sustainable living.” They have succeeded.