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Speaking Out for Indigenous Rights and Cultures on Turtle Island: Tia-Alexi Roberts

Tia-Alexi Roberts (Narragansett), from the Turtle Clan, fell in love with dancing when she was four. A few years later, she learned how to dance from her cousin, Eleanor Dove Harris, and her aunt, Dawn Dove. Tia grew up in Rhode Island as a mixed person from the Narragansett Indian Nation. She spent her childhood in Exeter, West Greenwich, and Coventry, where she learned not just Native dancing but also about her culture from her family, especially her grandmother. “She took me to so many places, including the reservation, often going to luncheons, Tribal events, and pow wows,” Tia says.

In addition to her love for the arts, communications is another of Tia’s passions. She believes that sharing and learning one’s culture is both a privilege and a duty, and as an Indigenous person in communications, it is very important to disband misinformation and harmful rhetoric and prioritize sharing information about Indigenous issues in a positive light. “Our words and stories serve as our oral history,” she says. “Within my Peoples, most of our culture was not traditionally written in history books and has been passed down through word of mouth from our ancestors. These stories matter and help other territories with the same experience.” Land rights have always been a major concern for Tia’s reservation. While the Narragansett Indian Nation is on their ancestral lands, many other Nations have had that connection and kinship severed with their original land due to colonization.

Dinalyn Spears and Tia Roberts

Dinalyn Spears (Narragansett) and Tia-Alexi Roberts dancing Fancy Shawl at Dartmouth College Powwow. Photo Courtesy of Tia-Alexi Roberts.

Tia joined Cultural Survival in September 2023 as Editorial and Communications Assistant. “My current work gives me a sense of purpose and combines many passions and personal interests,” she says. “Cultural Survival is giving me the opportunity to learn Spanish to communicate effectively and expand my horizons with other Indigenous communities outside of the U.S., which is one of my long-term goals. I believe that working with other Nations will help us rebuild Indian Country. We can learn how to combine our strengths to help our Nations to thrive and protect our lands and cultures. Another long-term goal is to further grow my skills in project management,  marketing, grantmaking, and fundraising, as it has always been a dream of mine to start an Indigenous nonprofit dance program.”

Tia believes that Indigenous Peoples have to find a way to collaborate and communicate with each other because “we cannot fight a war if we are fighting amongst ourselves. Holding discussions, webinars, and conferences . . . are all valuable and are starting points to larger initiatives.” She also comments, “It is our duty to amplify our perceptions to foster growth and improve our circumstances for those who come after us and in honor of those who came before us, and to enforce our rights as Indigenous Peoples.


Tia says she is inspired by her grandmother’s honesty, kindness, and the joy that she spreads to others, her grandfather’s realism, wisdom, and oversight, and her Aunt Paulla, who shares many of these same qualities. “Ultimately, my ancestors and Elders serve as my inspiration, as they truly are the pinnacle of my world,” she says, adding that she also admires Loren Spears (Narragansett), Executive Director at Tomaquag Museum; Silvermoon Mars (Narragansett), Assistant Director at Tomaquag Museum; Dinalyn Spears (Narragansett) Director of Community Planning and Natural Resources at Narragansett Tribal Nation; Shawna Yazzie (Choctaw/Chickasaw), President and Founder of NDN Companies; and Larry Yazzie (Meskwaki/Diné), Native Pride Productions Founder. Tia is also the reigning Miss Sweetheart America 2024, and is the first Indigenous woman to compete and capture the national title. “I can attribute my public speaking abilities to pageantry, which has offered me many opportunities to grow my network and to elevate my ability to speak about my platform, ‘The Art of Being Indigenous.’ Without pageantry, I would not have gained the courage to do what I do today.”

In her free time, Tia enjoys reading, writing, beading, and making regalia. She plans to continue working for Cultural Survival and with Native Pride Productions and eventually to manage a dance program. “I am so happy to have found a place where I feel I can use my talents to help others, which is also something I’ve dreamt of for a long time.”


All photos courtesy of Tia-Alexi Roberts

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