Eruera "Ed" Napia is a New Zealand and Maori-born artist who lives in Salt Lake City. Since 2004, he has developed programs at the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake. Ed has designed and taught university courses, performed song and dance around the world, won several awards for his sculpture, and presented at conferences across the United States. Ed joined the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) Community Advisory Board as a founding member in 2018.
Why did you decide to join the Community Advisory Board?
One of my many flaws is I have a hard time saying no when I am asked to do something for others! And then when I found out who else was on the Community Advisory Board, I knew I would be in good company. I also believe it is my responsibility to humbly accept opportunities to represent the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake, the Native community, underrepresented populations, and myself and my Pacific Islander heritage whenever, wherever, and however I can.
What motivates you to do the work you do in your community and with your team at the Urban Indian Center?
My work is less about motivation and more about responsibility. My younger brother, who is the traditional spokesman for my family, told me that whenever we move and live on the land of another people, it is our responsibility to do all we can to work for, support, and uplift those people.
It was not my intention to teach American Indian Studies at the university level or to work for an American Indian organization. Originally, I was thinking about my own personal needs. In 2004, I was asked to apply for a temporary job at what was then called the Indian Walk-In Center. We were developing a summer literacy program for Native youth. During my interview, I even encouraged them to hire the other candidate! Little did I know I would have the opportunity to create and develop at least six programs. Every program fills me with energy—and now my program coordinator is creating her own programs.
What is your personal philosophy?
One of my philosophies is that I’m not afraid to surround myself with people who know more than I do, work harder, and are smarter than me. I think that who they are and what they do might rub off on me! They may make me look better than I really am.
What is one of your favorite or most significant projects you have worked on over the course of your career?
I have had some very enjoyable and rewarding experiences. I created and taught the very first Pacific Islander American Studies program. I performed in "An Invitation to Paradise" in the marvelous night show at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Hawaii, where I also served as a Maori Section dance instructor and demonstrator and tour guide.
I have travelled to Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, and the Philippines with a performing group called Showcase Hawaii. I travelled to the southern states, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii, Florida, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Ecuador, East and West Germany and Austria, and Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia with the Lamanite Generation from BYU. And I have presented in many conferences through the continental United States, Alaska, and Hawaii.
However, the highlight of my life is my art. I am a clay artist and possibly one of my most favorite projects is teaching my pottery style to a group of students at Red Kiln Pottery Studios here in Salt Lake City. I teach in a way that allows them to build and develop their own style. The greatest sense of satisfaction I feel is when I complete a piece of art that has taken me to a new level.
What do you love most about living and working in Salt Lake City and Utah?
I love living in Salt Lake City because it is not a large city but it has two Costcos. Nothing is far away, so it’s possible (before COVID-19) to attend four meetings in one day. Our airport makes it easy to travel to other cities, including Las Vegas, Chicago, DC, and Honolulu. At the moment, it’s affordable to live here. For a small city, Salt Lake City does some great things.
And if you can't live by the ocean, you might as well live in the mountains.
The Community Advisory Board comprises 36 members from Utah and the Mountain West who serve as Ambassadors of Huntsman Cancer Institute. The board provides strategic input to prioritize work and engage the community in cancer research, services, and prevention efforts.