Wicanhpi Iyotan Win Autumn Cavender

Pezutazizi K’api/Upper Sioux Community

GRANTEE:  Wicanhpi Iyotan Win Autumn Cavender
NATIVE HERITAGE:  Pezutazizi K’api/Upper Sioux Community
LOCATION:  Pezutazizi K’api/Upper Sioux Community, MniSota
AWARD:  2022 LIFT – Early Career Support for Native Artists
DISCIPLINE:  Visual Arts

Wicanhpi Iyotan Win Autumn Cavender is an artist, midwife, and activist currently residing in her home territories. She began her journey as an artist through a porcupine quillworking apprenticeship with master quillworkers in 2016. She began her digital art practice through an interest in developing original designs in quillwork and beadwork, and in its appeal to younger generations. Fiercely dedicated to decolonization, land rights, and birth justice, Cavender spends much of her time engaged in community work. She firmly believes in the power of community art and the legacy of craft to heal trauma and spur critical dialogue about Indigenous reality. Currently, she is launching her practice into the digital sphere, and explores the ways in which ancestral practice, generative tech, and the vibrations of sound intersect.

Cavender’s work as a digital artist includes creating Dakota floral designs and templates for personal beadwork, community projects, and public art. Additionally, she uses digital art techniques in her practice of “generative quillwork”. In developing designs and patterns using songs and sounds to explore the design applications of contemporary mediums, she aligns Dakota artistic praxis, rather than trying to fit “Indian” designs into contemporary mediums. This innovative practice is based in Dakota quillwork methodologies and informed by her personal understanding of Dakota techniques of encoding teachings of theology, cosmology, place, and genealogy.

How do we pull these things out of these empirical spaces into physical representations that not only do them justice, but still communicate some of that deeper, underlying truth?

—Autumn Cavender (Pezutazizi K’api/Upper Sioux Community)


Cavender’s LIFT project, Wowicakekage – Dakota Art Encoded, will compile an image library of historical Dakota designs, using digital machine-learning and 3D-rendering to create pieces that contrast “artificial intelligence” and “ancestral intelligence.” Her goal is to engage with and inspire intergenerational audiences about the creation of innovative techniques while also transmitting the traditional knowledge, designs, and cultural frameworks that are core to Dakota designs and aesthetics.