While there are aspects that I patently dislike about the internet, it’s become an exceedingly useful initial research tool for me, whether I’m looking for something while I’m designing a show, writing an article or simply trying to fulfill my insatiable curiosity. If you’re an avid DG reader, by now you know one of my great loves is art–any kind of art– as it is a great humanizer. Most people like some incarnation of art, whether it be music, 2-D, 3-D, performance or writing.
During one of my web-based excursions, I learned that, in the US, November is designated Native American Heritage Month (NAHM). Although my mind can’t help to lean in the direction of unfortunate irony as this particular month was selected with consideration to a certain holiday, I am at least glad for the information I gleaned as I tumbled down the digital rabbit hole on my search for Indigenous Artists.
According to the Native American Heritage Month website, by way of the Library of Congress, it was museum director Dr. Arthur C. Parker (Seneca) of the Museum of Arts and Science, who first approached the Boy Scouts of America to ask them if they could appoint a day for the ‘First Americans.’ Afterwards, both Rev. Sherman Coolidge (Arapahoe) and Red Fox James (Blackfoot) separately endeavored to encourage the country to observe such a day as well. Thus, ‘American Indian Day’ was first celebrated in May, 1916. Fast-forward until1990, when President George H.W. Bush signed the now month-long observance into effect.
There are numerous and informative websites cropping-up, to keep the public apprised not only of artists past, but present artists as well. People sometimes tend become so entrenched in the history of art, that they forget that present people are creating some really amazing stuff. The aforementioned Native American Heritage Month website is where I started, and it does have some interesting reference and articles, plus it lists current museum exhibitions.
Beyond Buckskin is a website run by Dr. Jessica R. Metcalfe (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), and it is positively a fount of Native American fashion, design and overall art awesomeness. Additionally, there is a section full of thoughtful articles regarding appropriation, and an online boutique if you’d like to support the artists and designers showcased on the website. Some of the numerous, notable artists and artisans showcased are silversmith Kristen Dorsey (Chickasaw Nation) and accessory designer Samantha Hunter (San Carlos Apache and Hopi)
Another interesting website that I happened to stumble upon is writer Chelsea Vowel’s âpihtawikosisân: Law, language, life: A Plains Cree Speaking Métis woman in Montreal. It seems to be part journal, as the reader gets a look into Ms. Vowel’s life and point of view, but it’s also highly informative, especially of indigenous relations as they especially pertain to Canada. She provides a section on Indigenous Artists, which is actually how I found the website, in addition to articles regarding Indigenous Issues and a plethora of culture resources.
Lastly, I read a very recent PBS article by Corinne Segal, wherein Alaskan Native poet and writer Joan Naviyuk Kane talks about not only her poetry, but speaks to the point that, “There is something that is very troublesome to me about … playing into this continued exoticization or fetishization of the Native person as a relic of the past, as a romantic figure, as something outdated or very other,” she said. “Native people from very different parts of the United States are expected to have similarities because we happened to be colonized by the same government — there’s something problematic there.” That remark is simultaneously poignant and infuriating, although it must be infinitely more so for the individuals experiencing such a travesty. It certainly hits the nail on the head, however. If you visit the article page, you have the opportunity to listen to Ms. Kane read an English translation of her poem Compass, as well as the original Inupiaq version!
What era or area of art and design would you like to see represented here? Do you have a particular artist or designer whom you positively admire? Let us know in the comments below!