Billboard Artwork Celebrates Bond Between Elders and Youth

Makkeyo Mahkuk poses in front of her “Love Our Elders” artwork. Mahkuk submitted her drawing as an entry in Tribal Victim Services’ “Love Our Elders” billboard design contest and was selected as the winner by Elders in the community.

A new billboard honoring Native Elders can be found on the east side of Highway 75 between 150th and 158th Roads, facing north. The artwork on display was created by Makkeyo Mahkuk for PBPN Tribal Victim Services’ “Love Our Elders” billboard contest, which asked Native youth to submit designs that celebrate the special role of Elders in the community.

Makkeyo Mahkuk and her Auntie Shawna Williams stand in front of the “Love Our Elders” billboard. Mahkuk said that she decided to create a design after Williams showed her the contest announcement flyer.

“I heard about it from my Auntie Shawna [Williams],” Mahkuk said. “She had brought me a contest paper home because she knows I love to draw. And I submitted one because I thought it would be fun, not expecting to win.”

The design contest received 29 entries from youth of all ages, which were displayed at the Elder Center and judged exclusively by Elders.

Tribal Victim Services (TVS) Program Manager Sarah Draper said that the goal for the “Love Our Elders” project was to bring youth and Elders together.

“We want Elders to know they are loved, thought of, and supported by the youth,” Draper explained. “We want young people to have opportunities to slow down their busy lives and show that love to those who have paved the way before them. Elders play an instrumental role in passing on their customs, traditions, and stories to the young. It is important for them to remain connected and grow together as they learn from each other in positive ways.”

Mahkuk’s winning artwork was inspired by the PBPN Early Childhood Education Center’s logo, which depicts two parents and a child.

“Since the topic was Elders, I made the parents Elders with their grandchild and added my own twist to it,” Mahkuk said. “I hope people take away from my drawing that our Elders are very important and still play a big part in our lives. Also that they deserve our utmost love and respect and they’ll forever love you more than anyone else.”

“As we consider these relationships through our victim services lens, we wanted to create a safe space for both groups to learn the vital roles they play in maintaining healthy relationships, to recognize abuse, and how to seek confidential help from local resources,” Draper said of the project. “We chose the billboard as a prize to serve as a reminder to us all that we have a vital role to play as we seek and maintain healthy relationships.”

Tribal Victim Services (TVS) staff and contest winner Makkeyo Mahkuk pose for a photo in front of the “Love Our Elders” billboard. From left to right– Teshawna Martinez, TVS Specialist; Audrey England, TVS Specialist; Makkeyo Mahkuk; and Sarah Draper, TVS Program Manager.

Mahkuk’s design, along with all the other billboard contest entries, were displayed at the “Love Our Elders” Art Gala held at Fire Keepers Elder Center on October 19, 2023. The Gala served as a culminating event for the “Love Our Elders” project, during which the entries that the Elders had chosen as the first, second, and third place winners were announced.

“All of the submissions were wonderfully created with the spirit of Loving Our Elders and the turnout for the Gala and announcement of the winners was astounding,” Draper reflected. “We felt in that moment that our goals were achieved as two events collided to positively impact the community.”

TVS often works closely with the Elder Center. In addition to the “Love Our Elders” contest and Art Gala, the two departments have collaborated to facilitate ongoing weekly Healing Through Art sessions, host a community cookout for the Elders, and offer various activities and events throughout the year.

The “Love Our Elders” billboard design will be on display through the end of March 2024. TVS staff hope that the billboard will act as a reminder for passersby to reflect on their own relationships and take the necessary steps to find ways of showing love to others.

If you would like more information regarding the Tribal Victim Services Program or have thoughts for future events to strengthen Elder and family or community relationships, contact Sarah Draper at 966-8398.