February 26, 2020 


Tell us about yourself

Yá’át’ééh – I am Diné, raised on the Navajo Nation in Arizona. Immersed in the cultural traditions of my Diné people, I was inspired to share my knowledge through the fine arts. I received by BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and am currently pursuing my master’s degree in Art Therapy from The George Washington University. From 2014 to 2015, I had the honor of reigning as Miss Navajo Nation, serving as the ambassador of the Navajo Nation. In doing so, I exemplified the essence and characteristics of Navajo cultural teachings, history, and language interweaving storytelling, performances, and art. My prolonged work since then as an advocate, student, and intern has been dedicated to cultivating a more diverse community in the field of art therapy for Indigenous peoples and values to be acknowledged and accepted. My commitment within the profession is geared towards the compassion and the importance of community-based activities formed from cultural practices initiated by my response to the significance of art and the component of art therapy.

What excites (or inspires) you most about your studies right now?

My passionate pursuit in the art therapy field has been ignited specifically by an area of concentration applied to the precision in types of effective training in counseling, use of current art therapy methods, and the integration of trauma theories through focused and constructive research designs and analysis. As an Indigenous art therapist, I believe it would be an essential element to intertwine cultural knowledge with clinical therapeutic methods when treating Indigenous communities in a healthcare setting to promote more positive and healing relationships.

Has working with a particular client group shaped your professional focus or specialty? What have you learned from working with these clients?

As I currently working within a diverse communal facility providing resources for adults diagnosed with acute mental illness(es). This experience has shaped my focus in the field of art therapy,to help diverse communities prevail over the negative impacts of intergenerational trauma, self-identity issues, and major life changes; to transcend into a more positive and functioning way of living life. One way I know would create an impact would be through formulating cultural awareness advocating for cultural sensitivity and cultural humility within the healthcare system for minority populations.

What advice would you give someone interested in pursuing a career in art therapy?

Always be curious and be comfortable with asking questions that allow a different perspective and approach to art, process, and understanding.

“A Weaver’s Modern Tale” by McKeon K. Dempsey. Mixed media. 2018. 

Artist statement: “My personal relationship to art as a personal transformative process ties into my identity as a Diné (Navajo) woman with the ebb and flow reverberating from past generations of rug weavers, sand painters, and potters. My art not only increases the magnitude of historical agency, but also in the transformative power to delineate that of intergenerational trauma within my family. Art engrossed a sense of perseverance through hardship as an American Indian living in society today, as my art is a tribute to the resilient and unacclaimed agitations of assimilation. I can allude to the method of discovering the spectrum of human experiences through my ancestors and creating something of equivalence to their strength and guidance as leaders. My art reveals transpersonal themes through the basic archetypal principles emphasizing the importance of growth. The importance of defining, and redefining oneself spiritually as human experiences occur, my art ties into my identity within my community, in society, as I continuously seek the personal relationship with the Divine presence into reeducation to live a more holistic life.”