AKWESASNE — Around Akwesasne campfires, Michael P. Francis, a U.S. Marine Corps and Army National Guard veteran, spun stories of his military life overseas to his children.
Herbi M. Francis, the middle child of seven, listened to her father’s riveting tales, and her wanderlust was born.
She never leaves the “Land where the Partridge Drums” without a camera or pen.
“Thru the lens,
The words I speak
The touch of my pen
Whether my mind thought it
My heart felt it
My soul sang it
My body built it
It is thru my hands
I created it
I am a soul artisan
An artisan of the trades
Keeper of my youth
The fruit of thy womb
The future I will birth...
And the legacy I will leave...
That is how my self-reflection
The Mohawk photographer/poet/painter has traveled to China, South Korea, Senegal, South Africa, Belgium, Amsterdam, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
“All have heavily influenced my personal growth and development, beyond opening my mind and exposing myself to a wide range of cultures and societies,” she writes.
“They all have been integral in ridding myself of my own ignorance and to begin to let go of the emotional weight of history.
“As indigenous peoples to their lands all over the world have heavy histories, we can easily get into colonialism, westernization and all the -isms.”
She is an Onkwehon, a global woman, which allows her “to connect with people, to share and exchange ideas and learn about each other, really has helped me understand and put into perspective not only how I self-identify as an indigenous woman, but a global woman.
“As a Mohawk woman, I come from a rich, matrilineal society, and through my travels, I constantly found myself breaking barriers, whether its idealized stereotypes of being Native American, but really being a woman, an empowered one, an independent one breaking the stereotypical gender and societies’ roles of a woman … and beyond womanhood.