John Teply, Director of the Elisabeth Jones Art Center, said that even though the Dakota Access Pipeline protests are over “it is still an important issue.” Environmental and Indigenous civil rights issues continue to affect the current political landscape, and it is important not to lose sight of ongoing activism. The Elisabeth Jones Art Center is bringing art and activism together in an exhibition that honors the Native voice and vision in a way that is not typically seen in fine art galleries.
It is fitting that the exhibition is named for an ancient prophecy – The Condor and the Eagle – that expresses where we came from, where we are now, and where we are going. The prophecy, originating in the Americas, suggests that human societies are capable of making a connection between the mind and the heart, the individual and the community, to soar into a new level of consciousness together as one. The work of Water Protectors at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests embodies this belief that great change can happen when people put their minds and hearts together for a common cause. In this case, both Native and non-native people united to protect water, land and people from environmental hazards in an unprecedented display of Native resistance.
WHAT YOU WILL SEE AT THE EXHIBIT
Sixteen participating artists, four of whom are Native Arts and Cultures Foundation fellows, are included in the exhibit. NACF fellows include:
Shan Goshorn (Eastern Band Cherokee), 2015 NACF National Artist Fellow, weaves Cherokee baskets from reproductions of historical manuscripts and photographs documenting key themes in modern Native history. Her work, The Value of Integrity, was created to maintain awareness of the ongoing struggle Native people face enforcing treaties and protecting natural resources. Inspired by the Water Protectors, she uses the official Lakota tribal press release announcing Indigenous efforts to enforce treaties in combination with the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty granting land to the Lakota tribe to weave her basket.
Nicholas Galanin (Tlingit/Unangax̂), 2017 NACF Mentor Artist, and Merritt Johnson created a mixed media installation for the exhibition titled, Building an Eye the better to see you. The piece celebrates the resourcefulness and creativity of Indigenous people. At each end of a table, figures with wolves heads, are paused in their work of constructing a drone – one is carving a wooden drone the other is beading camouflage for the drone. The drone, or eye, of this project is a scout modeled after drones that were used at Standing Rock to monitor activity by Energy Transfer and its private security during the illegal construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.