Each employee at Cohere has the opportunity to take a volunteer day within the calendar work year.
We know that when folks come together to support a cause, strong bonds are forged and the satisfaction of doing good for others lifts the entire community – this intentional paid day off exists because of this. We practice what we preach.
On Monday, Oct. 10, I used my volunteer day to assist in the production of Indigenous Peoples’ Day Phoenix Fest (IPDPF), a celebration of all Indigenous nations in the heart of downtown Phoenix. In 2021, President Biden recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a holiday intended to serve as a time of reflection and celebration of Indigenous people, their land and contributions to history.
The Phoenix event was hosted by CAHOKIA, an Indigenous and women-led platform for creative placekeeping. The team and volunteers transformed Roosevelt Row – the creative downtown heart of Phoenix – into a hub of family-fun activities, live music, film screenings, native food, art, and even a skate competition.
Choosing this as my volunteer day was a no-brainer – honoring relationships and spaces is a complete alignment with our company ethos. CAHOKIA embodies Cohere’s core values – trust, reciprocity, spirit and legacy – by co-creating projects focused on inclusive collaboration, eco-conscious practices, holistic systems, and creating a safe cultural space specifically designed with and for Indigenous people.
At Cohere we believe people own what they help create. Similarly, CAHOKIA believes that working in unison with members of communities allows for an authentic reflection of their culture and builds trustworthy partnerships that will stand the test of time.
As I made my way to the volunteer check-in, I stumbled upon some familiar faces including Cat Zingg – a woman from the Ho-Chunk Nation and one of my best friends, outside painting a live mural on her coffee bus. Surrounding her were dozens of children dressed in the rainbow, performing traditional hoop dances while the crowd beamed with smiles and laughter.
I received my IPDPF volunteer tee, plus a lanyard with my name scribbled, and made my way to CAHOKIA’s headquarters where I’d be assisting the art exhibition titled “Restoring the Balance: Rematriating Indigenous Lands.” CAHOKIA partnered with Local Matriarch – an Indigenous women-led storytelling and community building platform – and Gateway Community College to create the exhibit featuring an intergenerational group of Indigenous artists. The gallery explored the nurturing of sacred and reciprocal relationships between people and land through various mediums.
When I arrived, the set-up was in full swing – tables, florals, projector, DJ equipment, and cocktail tables were being placed about. I found my friends, Claudia and Tashena López, the queer couple behind Local Matriarch and the brains behind the exhibit. They greeted me with hugs and put me to work.
Later that evening, Claudia and Tashena opened with a land acknowledgement and a few words of gratitude. (Peek at this map to see which Indigenous lands you reside on.) The evening weaved in and out with music, spoken word, dance performances and even a special appearance by renowned native photographer, Cara Romero.
We chowed on blue corn frybread and sipped prickly pear aguas frescas while we basked in community and stories – some filled with laughter, some filled tears. But that’s what community’s all about – to find solace, to honor, to empower those around you. And we did just that on Indigenous Peoples’ Day.