Last month I bragged about knowing a lot of Native artists and how we could support their businesses. It seems to me that everything loops back to the circle and is intertwined. There is our current reality where we need currency to live in this culture and there is this spiritual creativity in Native people that sustain us also.
The selling of our Native arts and crafts is not selling out; that’s the crapy plastic and very racist items that were mass produced overseas. I’ve said it before and will most likely say it again – we Indians can’t ever have anything left to us. They took millions of our lives for our lands, the animals that sustained us, our children that were sent to boarding schools, and our cultural identities and still to this day make mockeries of it.
Art is an everyday thing for Native people. Our clothing reflects our tribal cultures, as do the things we used for day to day living. For instance, my people the Ojibwe used birch bark for pretty much everything from storage baskets, to pots to cook in, to backpacks, to our housing and the famous birch bark canoes. We consider the paper birch sacred and wrote our ancestral lineage and spiritual texts on them.
I’ve been very fortunate in that I got to see many Indian art show’s that feature contemporary artists as well as historical pieces like Dakota paintings on bison hides that depict events and stories and war shirts. I was fascinated to learn that the dragonflies on some of the shirts were there because of how the insects move and dart about giving the wearer the ability to dodge bullets. Dodge bullets, Yo!!!
In black and white photographs Ojibwe chiefs are wearing very fancy, intricately beaded regalia done in floral designs. As a person who was brainwashed since infancy, I used to think floral designs were only for women. But when I saw the steely eyes of resolve of the men who wore that clothing, no other thought but strength, purpose and pride came to my mind. When I see moose hide boots, leather mittens and other personal attire pieces I gasp at their beauty and construction and want, want, WANT!!! But see now, I would actually wear them as is their purpose.
If you were to visit my home there isn’t anything that immediately beats you over the head that an Indian lives here besides some sheets in my windows. In the permanent state of chaos that is my domicile I do have a few pieces of functional art, like my birch bark baskets that hold plants, a few dream catchers, some cedar, sage and sweetgrass to cleanse the surroundings.
I have very recently purchased a print I’m fascinated with by Steven Standingcloud. I have been gifted a painting by my beloved friend Lorri, and a print by graphic artist Opitchee Bellanger when we connected on our views about Alien intervention. I also won a signed poster from a recent art show opening, I attended and all are going to be matted and framed. I’m so very happy right now and I may have caught the collector’s bug for acquisition of interesting and beautiful pieces of Native art. All within my limited means, of course. Or I will beg.
Then there’s this. I have been thinking a lot about how Native arts and culture has been spread world-wide as the Ojibwe Dream Catcher has. I say they are a phenomenon in that they are now sold everywhere in the world, made by who knows but their cultural meaning has not been lost in translation. Indian mothers would hang small ones on their baby’s cradleboards and we put them above our beds so the good dreams can slip through and bad ones get stuck. That’s the way I heard it so if you differ, go ahead. The larger dreamcatchers are for decoration I’m supposing. Kokopelli, which is Southwestern in origin, has his flute and danced his way into pop culture much like the dreamcatcher has.
One does not have to look far to see how influential Native arts are. Native artists work hard at their crafts and arts. I’ve seen pottery, paintings, graphic arts, photography, jewelry and many other artistic mediums that are so stunning in their intricacy and beauty they literally take my breath away. I believe it is up to us to honor the gifts our ancestors gave us and keep up the traditions that sustain us. To them I say Miigwech.
Then there’s the fake war bonnets. The Poca-hottie costumes at Halloween. The disgusting professional sports mascots, those have to go like yesterday. As long as they persist Native people are not seen as real and deserving of respect.