To the Dakota people, Ȟemníčhaŋ (Hemnican) / Barn Bluff is one of the most sacred places in the world. The City of Red Wing, Minnesota had a call for a creative artist to listen to community voices to add to the different associations people in the area have to Ȟemníčhaŋ/Hemnican (Barn Bluff); from the history of the geological formation to Indigenous peoples such as the Dakota and Ho-Chunk and to the immigrants of recent times. I was the artist selected for the project.
The use of the American flag by the Dakhóta and Lakȟóta people of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (“Seven Council Fires”, as we are collectively known) shows a conscious thoughtfulness of our ongoing relationship with the United States: at times a political symbol, at other times used to protect our sovereignty and traditions.
Why would oppressed peoples adopt the preeminent symbol of their oppressors and employ it as a design element in their decorative arts? I used to be one of those people who hated seeing the American flag at powwows on reservations. Then I read a scholarly report about the American flag imagery throughout Native art and cultures for the Plains tribes. It helped me understand the meaning from Native peoples perspective throughout history.
WHAT ROLE DOES ART PLAY IN SOCIETY?
On an individual level, art is the way the artist is confronting the problems they see. They are asking questions, they are seeking a new way of thinking. As I mentioned before, there was no word for Art in the Dakota language, what people created then was like creating a prayer through their designs…
There are several words people associate with regional Native artist Marlena Myles’ digital illustrations. Freeborn County Arts Initiative President Elisha Andrew Marin calls them “incredibly painstaking.” Curator and artist Susanne Crane calls them “techy,” “current and of the essence.”
Native Art, Native Voices: A Resource for K-12 Learners
12 essays I wrote for the Minneapolis Institute of Art about artworks in Mia’s collection and questions to support deep looking, critical thinking, and discussion. Native Art, Native Voices includes information about Native cultures both past and present and supports Minnesota state standards for visual arts and social studies/U.S. history.