‘Land Acknowledgment’: Exhibition in Gonzaga Highlights Artwork by Indigenous Artists from the Region

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Land reconnaissances – the practice of starting gatherings by reminding the public that they are on land stolen by bloody Indigenous kidnappings – have become all the rage in recent years, from weekly Zoom meetings to exhibition openings. whimsical art.

But terrestrial reconnaissance was never designed to be comfortable for the listener. Nor were they designed to appease the wronged.

“The earth acknowledgments were actually a sweeping statement aimed at re-thinking non-Indian America and addressing another area of ​​failure in education,” wrote Charlene Teters, guest curator of a new exhibition titled “Land Acknowledgment,” which opened Friday at Gonzaga University’s Urban Arts Center. “You can barely hear the question posed by land surveys: ‘What happened to these people?'”

According to Teters, who is a member of the Spokane Tribe, the response resounding loud and clear from the exhibit is, “We’re still here. We have always been here.

“This group show is really about amplifying our Indigenous presence and voice,” Teters added. “We are the best representation of who we are as a people.”

Inside the large gallery at the Gonzaga Urban Arts Center at 125 S. Stevens Street are the vibrant and varied works of 17 contemporary Indigenous artists, primarily from the Pacific Northwest, including several from the Spokane tribes. and Coeur d’Alene. From handmade fishing tools to mixed media paintings of contemporary Indigenous peoples, the exhibition offers a breathtaking display of cutting-edge art and cultural heritage.

“I think the ‘Land Acknowledgment’ show is a small step towards creating a conversation where mainstream (white) culture can learn,” said GU fine arts professor Lenora Lopez Schindler, who helped curate organize the show with Teters.

“Not only is this an incredible exhibit with amazing artwork showcasing contemporary culture, but it’s truly time for non-Indigenous people to take on the land we stand on,” said Lopez Schindler. . “It’s not something we can just ignore.”

Tiffanie Irizarry, 26, traveled from her residence in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Spokane to participate in “Land Acknowledgement.” The artist is Ihanktonwan Dakota and lives on the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana.

Guest curator Teter, who now splits her time between Santa Fe and Spokane, was dean of the graduate school of the Institute of American Indian Arts when Irizarry attended the school. Teters retired from college when Irizarry graduated valedictorian last year.

“I was honored to be invited by (Teters) to participate because Gonzaga is such a prestigious institution, and having a voice there is really important,” Irizarry said.

One of Irizarry’s works in the show is a powerful portrait of the Iron White Man leader, who helped defeat Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.

“The army was trying to steal our land and force our people back to the reserve,” Irizarry said. “Chief Iron White Man was fighting for our right to live, for our way of life, our culture. That’s what this painting is about.

“I like to paint portraits acknowledging the history and legacy of this person, especially those who fought for our rights to exist and fought against assimilation, colonization and genocide,” Irizarry said. .

Irizarry’s partner, Joeseph Arnoux, also travels from Albuquerque to show his works. He lived in Spokane before moving to Santa Fe where he also attended the IAIA. His mother is local artist Diane Covington of the Sanpoil Band of Confederate Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation and a descendant of the Spokane Tribe. Covington’s artwork will also be displayed in “Land Acknowledgement”.

Arnoux’s piece in the exhibition is a mixed media portrait titled “Sp’q’n’i? Garry” (Spokane Garry), who was a chief of the Spokane tribe in the 1800s. Chief Garry never hesitated to insist that the people of Spokane have the rights to their native lands along the Spokane River. His own homeland was stolen by squatters and he was forced to camp in Indian Canyon, where he lived the rest of his life in poverty.

Arnoux de Garry’s portrait has unfinished parts and layers of regional maps. “I layer information like that in the paint,” Arnoux said. “It’s about how history has unfolded, and it’s about ‘recognition of the land,’ and how in the end it’s all indigenous land.”

Arnoux, Irizarry and Teters will hold a “Land Acknowledgment” roundtable for the public at 3 p.m. on TuesdayNovember 8, in the Hemmingson Ballroom at Gonzaga University.

Other works featured in “Land Acknowledgment” include several created by local artist and Spokane tribesman Shawn Brigman. An architect and small business owner, Brigman handcrafts Salish sturgeon canoes, traditional tools and fishing gear to reclaim Aboriginal culture.

If scouts are meant to educate, then Brigman said he’s got it all. “I want people to know this is not a 150-year-old town founded by Mr. Glover,” Brigman said. “Spokane has been a permanent and continuous fishing village for over 10,000 years.”

For the Gonzaga Urban Arts Center show, Brigman will display a canoe he built in Santa Fe during a past residency at the IAIA where Teters served as dean. Years before meeting her, Brigman said he was a longtime admirer of Teters for his decades-long activism that started the movement to ban the use of Indigenous imagery for sports mascots.

In 1989, after witnessing a white student performs a pseudo-native dance dressed as a fake Indian, Teters launched a one-woman protest. Quietly outside sporting events, Teters held a sign: “Indians are human beings.” She ended up starting a movement and helped found the National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media.

“Charlene was so criticized for this 30 years ago, trying to discredit her as an Indigenous woman, but now this football team in Washington, DC, has actually changed its name,” Brigman said.

“It’s the same thing with land reconnaissance,” he added. “It may take 30 years for this to lead to something. But we’ll just have to wait for pioneers and visionaries like Teters to do their job.

In the meantime, maybe a little more knowledge will spread and more minds will open, as people become immersed in the art.

Other Indigenous Land Acknowledgment artists include: Margeaux Abeta, Brianna Bruce, Leanne Campbell, Olivia Evans, Jeff Ferguson, George Hill, Ryan! Feddersen, Ric Gendron, Sulutsu (Barry Moses), Roin Morigeau, Annette Peone and Chad “Little Coyote” Yellowjohn. The exhibition runs until December 3.

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