While Colorado hosts a variety of comic and pop-culture conventions, its first one focused on Indigenous cultures will be taking place this weekend.
An expansion of Albuquerque’s popular Indigenous Comic Con, Indigenous POP X Denver will feature indigenous artists and panels.
For Native Americans, seeing themselves reflected in popular culture has been a long, difficult path, said IPX Denver director Kristina Maldonado-Bad Hand.
Disney’s “Pocahontas” is a prime example. The 1995 animated film was a steppingstone towards more representation, Maldonado-Bad Hand said.
It was one of the first times Native Americans saw themselves showcased in a major way in a mainstream movie. But it also featured stereotypes and cultural appropriation, as well as historical inaccuracies.
“Then there were movies like ‘Coco’ and ‘Moana,’ where the communities were heavily involved and it showed,” Maldonado-Bad Hand said. “You have kids who can relate to those movies on a whole other level. Because it doesn’t just look like them, it sounds like them and it acts like their families and their cultural dynamics.”
That can be a powerful thing, she said. The way popular culture in movies, television, music and comic books perceives a culture can strongly influence how young members of that group see themselves.
The event will also help a number of emerging artists make their pop-culture convention debuts. Organizers, including the Denver American Indian Commission, sponsored a Novice Artist Program to help some of the participating artists - ranging in age from 16 to 28 - receive marketing training as well as donated tables to help them get a foot in the door, Maldonado-Bad Hand said.
IPX Denver guests will include artists Gregg Deal and “Super Indian” creator Arigon Starr, as well as actors Irene Bedard (“Pocahontas”), Rachel House (“Moana”) and Eugene Brave Rock (“Wonder Woman”). In addition there will be panels such as “Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse: Rez Style” and a drag show by the Mile High Two-Spirits. There will also be several panels and events around costume play - better known as “cosplay.”
While the event doesn’t restrict the types of cosplay that can be worn, Maldonado-Bad Hand said attendees are asked to be mindful of issues such as cultural appropriation.
“It’s always difficult when people cosplay Pocahontas because she was an actual person and not a character,” Maldonado-Bad Hand said. “And the true story of Pocahontas is that she was a 12-year-old girl and a victim of, basically, human trafficking. And the real story versus the romanticized Disney version of her story brings up a lot of feelings for people when they see Pocahontas cosplayed.”
Maldonado-Bad Hand said it’s also important to note that while IPX Denver does feature many Native American artists and panels, the event isn’t limited to Native American representation.
“We’re trying to reach the actual definition of the word (‘indigenous’), which is ‘of and from the land,’” she said. “So by that definition, everyone’s indigenous ... The hope is that we invite everybody and then it’s open and inclusive to everyone to really think about that definition and to do their own stories based on their connection to their land and their history.”
IPX Denver, July 26-28, McNichols Civic Center Building, 144 W. Colfax Ave., Denver. $20-$225.