Local Briefs
Native community pushes back against Scott Seekins’ art
Friday, August 05 2016
Written by Katie spielberge/TC daily planet,
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seekinswithhisart.jpg“If Scott Seekins had taken photos of Auschwitz and inserted himself into those photos, I can’t even imagine the moral outrage,” said Anishinaabe artist and activist Ashley Fairbanks. “This is art about genocide.”

Inside the crowded Douglas Flanders & Associates gallery on May 14, one of Minneapolis’ most recognizable artists, Scott Seekins, opened his exhibit “The New Eden,” a collection of paintings and drawings depicting the 1862 U.S.-Dakota War. Many of the pieces seem to mimic Plains Indian art forms, including work created on ledger paper.

Images of Seekins himself appear throughout the collection, which is typical of his work. But when Seekins, a white man, paints himself next to Britney Spears – which he did throughout the 2000s – it’s different than inserting himself into cultural work dealing with genocide and oppression.

Back in February of this year, Seekins similarly poached Southern Black culture in a series exhibited at Gamut Gallery titled “Uniquely Dark.” The paintings and drawings were co-created with his partner, Aleister White, and borrowed heavily from traditional Louisiana voodoo in an intimate depiction of their romance gone sour. Gamut Gallery could not be reached for comment on this story.

“I think a lot of times people are either being provocative to be provocative or being provocative because they don’t know better,” Fairbanks said. Since artists are expected to be ‘provocative,’ they are often excused from dialogues about race…. people will make those excuses for you. There’s no demand for people to respond, and you don’t have to, because you’re an artist.”

Taylor Payer, gallery associate at All My Relations Arts, a gallery owned and supported by Native artists, said “the art world traditionally has been a white world.” On Seekins’ newest exhibit she says, “It’s a depiction of Dakota history, but a very poor one.” And especially when plenty of Native artists are creating and showing work in a wide variety of styles in galleries and museums across the Twin Cities.

“It’s a perpetuation of the American narrative,” Fairbanks said. “Native erasure [had to happen] for those American stories to exist, for the ‘manifest destiny’ of the empty land that was just meant for white people.”
By speaking for Native people, Seekins is taking space that belongs to Native artists, Fairbanks said, and selling artwork that imitates Native styles for more than a Native artist might receive for their own artwork.
The Facebook page for the opening quickly filled with comments about cultural appropriation, links to Native ledger artists and calls for the gallery to cancel the show. Fairbanks was one of the first to alert her network, which includes a number of Native artists in the Twin Cities, via her social media. “It was good to just instantly light a fire,” she said.

“The fact that someone would show it, that this would have an audience, is all just kind of mind-boggling,” Fairbanks said. The same attitude that allows Natives to continue to be used as mascots for sports teams also permits artists like Seekins to produce and show this kind of work, she said.

As Seekins’s show opened, a small group of activists, including representatives from Showing Up for Racial Justice and Idle No More, offered gallery-goers fliers titled, “Are you looking to support real Indigenous art?” describing some of the many opportunities to do so. One of the fliers was even taped inside the window to the gallery.

Inside, gallery owner Doug Flanders appeared unfazed by the protesters, saying he didn’t mind them as long as they were “peaceful,” and continued with the business of selling art. One of Seekins’ paintings had already sold for $4,500.

Despite hearing from many people asking him to cancel the show, far more people had encouraged him to continue with it. He said Seekins, who “feels terrible” about the negative response, had suggested covering up all the paintings with a black curtain hanging on the back wall. “I feel that Scott really did a great job with this,” Flanders said. “I hope that people who have been verbally against it come and see the show.”

Art review – On Borrowed Time: Postponing the Inevitable
Friday, August 05 2016
Written by Andrea Carlson,
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fragmentsdetail.jpgMaggie Thompson’s solo exhibition “On Borrowed Time: Postponing the Inevitable” opened at the Textile Center in Minneapolis May 12th with a packed reception and an artist’s talk. The exhibition is comprised of works that range widely in materials and scale, but are unified by addressing the complexity of loss.
These objects push and pull and are beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time. With the aid of an exhibition statement the viewer is given a context: in 2014 Thompson lost her father due to pancreatic cancer.

Thompson’s work tends towards focusing intellectually on the things that can’t be fixed or the things beyond one’s control. By contrast Thompson’s process seems controlled and laborious, as if to allow for contemplation in an impossible situation. Many piece in On Borrowed Time reference her father’s sensitive observations and wisdom.

On the didactic for her piece Fragments (2016) Thompson writes, “When I was in college my Dad told me to look at the sunset whenever I missed him and now it is something I try to do in my daily practice. Since loosing my dad, one of my biggest fears has been of forgetting; forgetting all those special moments and details.”
Fragments is a blanket, or comforter, lightly arranged on a bed. The top of the blanket is constructed with a mosaic of photographs of sunsets mounted to foam core that has been cut into diamonds and pieced back together. The expression of the anguish in this piece is immediate and haunting.

grieving.jpgThompson’s material choices are deliberate and inextricably linked to her meaning. For example, Thompson’s piece Faces (2016) utilizes tissue-thin hospital blankets arranged and pin-tucked to create listless faces in the pleats as the work hangs against the wall. The wall text explains that while in recovery from one of his medical procedures, Thompson’s father had pointed out that the blankets bunched and folded on his hospital bed appeared to have faces the mirrored the mourning faces of those friends and family surrounding him. This shroud seems to fix onto her father’s observation into an  object.

Anchored in the middle of the gallery is a body bag emblazoned with a large star-quilt pattern. It lies horizontally and appears to hover while overlapping a pedestal. During her artist talk, Thompson explained that this piece titled For Love Alone (2016) is a difficult for her to address as it is attached to emotions around the finality of loosing her father.

The evening her father died she remembered seeing a dull, sterile body bag being delivered to his room. She had imagined that object enveloping all that she had loved and lost, without ceremony. The resultant piece is a hand-pieced eight-point star quilt constructed of vinyl and sewn into the form of a body bag. The pattern and colors that inform the piece reference a quilt that her mother had made her father as a wedding gift. Star blankets pragmatically give comfort, warmth and retain energy, but for the maker, they are meditative, loving gestures of care and embrace.

inloss2.jpgBut Thompson isn’t making objects as a way to make her loss symbolic or allegorical. Thompson avoids making broad declarations about loss, and she isn’t offering her audience advice, remedies or world views on the meaning of life and death.

By contrast, she humbly owns her experience as personal and individual. Referring to In Loss (2015), Thompson states, “Grief is a highly personal experience in that every individual’s process is unique.” This piece is a large weaving that combines two large self-portraits of the artist, abstracting and fragmenting Thompson’s face, “in order to demonstrate a heightened experience of hysteria and anxiety, overwhelming the viewer.”  

Maggie Thompson’s exhibition On Borrowed Time: Postponing the Inevitable is on view through June 25th at the Textile Center, 3000 University Avenue SE, in Minneapolis.

Poor American Indian graduation rates may have deep roots
Friday, August 05 2016
Written by Brandt Williams/MPRNews,
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alyssagraves.jpgIf you’re an American Indian student in Minnesota, your chances of graduating from high school in four years are lower than any other racial and ethnic group.

You’re also less likely to graduate on time than Indian students in nearly every other state in the country. Minnesota ranks 45th in the nation in on time graduation rates for American Indian students.

While there’s been gradual improvement over the last four years, the numbers remain hard to comprehend. Only slightly more than half of American Indian high school seniors in Minnesota graduated on time in 2015. The grad rate for Indian students in Minneapolis is even lower at 36 percent.

Some education leaders say it’s because American Indian students have to cope with a unique set of social pressures as they try to navigate the public school system.

“I think in a nutshell, the umbrella term would be historical trauma,” said Joe Hobot, CEO of the American Indian Opportunities Industrialization Center or OIC, which runs a high school and a GED center in Minneapolis.

The current generation of students still feels the effects of federal government policies, Hobot said. Some students have grandparents who attended Indian boarding schools, places where scholars say Indians were forced to reject their culture. Younger generations went to public schools where the history books portrayed Indians as savages who needed to be saved, Hobot added.

“The denigration of our culture within the formalized education system for so many years has created a sense of antipathy to the point where many of our elders withdrew from school, dropped out, didn’t complete and so our students that are currently enrolled now may not have had those role models,” he said.

Many American Indian families were also hurt by federal relocation policies in the 1950s and ‘60s, when the government’s goal was to relieve poverty on the reservations by moving Indians to cities to find work, Hobot said. But jobs were hard to come by, forcing families to split their homes between reservations and cities, and many families still live that way, he added.

That can make it especially difficult for students to adhere to the traditional public school model of the four-year track to a diploma. Too many Indian students fall behind in school because they don’t have a stable home base, and they can get discouraged, Hobot said.

“They feel their future slipping away. They feel this race to beat the clock, that I’m not going to graduate on time. So the pressure mounts and eventually they make decisions that are not in their best interest, like, ‘I’m going to just quit. I can’t get there anyway.’”

Last year, American Indian education advocates urged state lawmakers to increase funding for districts that serve large numbers of Native students. Legislators responded by passing a nearly $18 million funding increase for Indian education.

At Hobot’s GED center, Alyssa Graves said she likes it here because the teachers can take more time with each student.

“They make sure you’re focused and no, they don’t just hurry up and teach right away,” said Graves, 23. “They make sure you get it before they start going on.”

Like many students who didn’t finish high school in four years, Graves fell behind in her freshman year. She felt like the classes were too big and the lessons moved too fast. Plus, Graves’ family moved several times, so she jumped from school to school.

Even more detrimental to Graves was a bout with heroin addiction and homelessness, all which began in her teenage years. Graves decided to quit drugs after she became pregnant at age 21. The birth of her son also inspired her to go back to school. Graves said she wants to be a role model for her son, her younger siblings and her community.

“I just want to be able to go talk to the younger kids in the community and just hopefully prevent them from using and to finish school because you need school to get a good job if you want to support your family,” she said. “I know it’s hard, but anybody can do it.”

Minnesota  Public Radio News can be heard on MPR’s statewide radio network or online at

Whats New July
Friday, August 05 2016
Written by The Circle,
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10-year-old runs marathons for suicide prevention

tristangofundme.jpg10-year-old Tristan Smith ran in the May 19, Fargo 5K and the half-marathon on May 20, in Fargo, North Dakota. He plans to run all summer and has set up a GoFundMe page to raise $1,000.

On his GoFundMe page, Tristan said, “I am currently the White Earth Jr Brave and trying to represent the White Earth Nation as best as I can. I am asking for your help to raise money for suicide prevention. I have seen what drugs and alcohol have done to families and it makes me sad. I want to raise money to help kids get into sports because I think if they are active in sports like I am, they will stay away from drugs and not want to kill themselves.” The money raised will help White Earth Nation kids afford to play football.

Tristan is a 4th grader at Roosevelt School in Detroit Lakes, but used to live on the White Earth Reservation.
People can donate to “Run For Life” at any Midwest Bank, or donate on his GoFundMe page at:

Robert Lilligren new President and CEO of NACDI

robertlilligren.jpgThe Board of Directors of the Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI) announced the appointment of Robert Lilligren as their new President and CEO. Lilligren, a former Minneapolis City Council Member and enrolled member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, just finished an 18 month commitment as interim CEO of Little Earth of United Tribes in Minneapolis. Earlier this year Lilligren stepped down as the chair of the board of NACDI.  Lilligren took the reigns of NACDI on May 9, 2016.

“We are thrilled to have Robert take on the leadership of NACDI,” says the board’s Vice Chair Reverend Marlene Helgemo (Ho-Chunk), “As the founding board chair Robert has lived NACDI’s asset-based approach toward community development in his personal, professional, political and activist life. We expect great things from him in this new role as NACDI’s CEO.”

Founded in 2007, NACDI is committed to transforming the American Indian community to effectively respond to 21st century opportunities. NACDI works to promote innovative community development strategies that strengthen the overall sustainability and well-being of American Indian people and communities.

FDLTCC publishes Thunderbird Review Anthology

The Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College has published the fourth edition of its literary anthology, The Thunderbird Review. The 97-page book features writing and art submitted by students from Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College and residents of northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin communities.
The journal received over 100 submissions this year to consider for inclusion, and is an opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience in writing, editing, and publishing at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.
“Working on the journal is a great experience for students,” said English instructor Darci Schummer. “It is also so important for students to have a place to submit their work. The feeling of seeing your work in print for the first time, which it is for many of these students, is indescribable.”

For more information or to purchase a copy of The Thunderbird Review, contact Darci Schummer at 218-879-0845. People interested in purchasing copies of the anthology can find them at the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College Bookstore for $5 each. Funds from book sales go toward producing the current publication as well as the next edition.

Dream of Wild Health Receives National Kresge Foundation Grant

Out of more than 500 applications, Dream of Wild Health is one of 26 organizations selected for a national grant from the Kresge Foundation. The Kresge Foundation announced funding to develop food-oriented initiatives in cities across the nation through it’s “Fresh, Local & Equitable: Food as a Creative Platform for Neighborhood Revitalization” initiative, also known as FreshLo.

Dream of Wild Health (DWH) submitted a plan to establish, plan, and create an Indigenous Food Network in the Philips neighborhood of Minneapolis. As part of the FreshLo community, DWH will create and enhance pathways to opportunity for Native American people in low-income, urban neighborhoods.
DWH will receive $75,000 planning awards through FreshLo to design neighborhood-scale projects demonstrating creative, cross- sector visions of food-oriented development.

The Indigenous Food Network, Gimino-Wiisenimin (We Eat Well Together) is a cooperative Native American cultural food system that will address the community’s food needs by: expanding production of organic and traditional foods, improving healthy food access through innovative community distribution systems, developing job training and employment opportunities, and providing hands-on gardening and cooking programs for Native youth and families.

DWH is partnering initially with the Minneapolis American Indian Center, Nawayee Center School, Little Earth of United Tribes, and Division of Indian Work.

Native American Students with SMSC Scholarships Celebrate Graduation from UofMN

studenatgradstory.jpgThe Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) joined the University of Minnesota on April 30 to celebrate the graduation of this year’s Native American students who received scholarships from the SMSC.
 The scholarship program is part of the SMSC’s focus on bolstering other tribal nations and supporting talented Native American students with financial needs.

This year’s graduates are: Chad Auginash, Red Lake Nation; Hannah Brengman, Adopted Native American; Veronica Briggs, White Earth Mississippi Band of Ojibwe; Chilah Brown, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe; Robert Budreau, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa; Hana Bushyhead, Eastern Band of Cherokee; Travis Crego, St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin; Rachel Forrest, Koasek Traditional Band of the Koas; Vanessa Goodthunder, Lower Sioux Indian Community; Phillip Gullikson, Three Affiliated Tribes; Diana Hawkins, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate; Chelsea Holmes, Rosebud Sioux Tribe; Alayna Johnson, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa; John Kelsey, Huron Band of the Potawatomi; Olivia Mora, Manchester Band of Pomo Indians; Brandon One Feather, Oglala Sioux Tribe;  Jasmine Paron, Red Lake Nation; Cage Pierre, Avoyel-Taensa Tribe of Louisiana; Jesslynn Poitra, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians; Kate Shelerud, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe; Zachary Wilkie, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians; Jaimin Williams, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa; Tia Yazzie, Navajo Nation; Darian Ziegler, Lower Brule Sioux; and Mathew Zumoff, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

About 200 Native American students have received the SMSC Endowed Scholarship in the past eight years. The program was established in 2009 with a $2.5 million gift from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. The University of Minnesota matches the scholarship payouts from the endowment fund.

Name Change for Midwest Area Tribal Health Board and Bemidji Area Indian Health Service 
The Great Lakes Area Tribal Health Board (GLATHB) is working to change the Area Indian Health Service Office name from “Bemidji Area” to “Great Lakes  Area”. The GLATHB represents 34 tribes across Minnesota, Wisconsin and  Michigan. In an effort to promote uniformity, the board voted in April to change its own name from Midwest Area Tribal Health Board to Great Lakes Area Tribal Health Board.

One of 12 Indian Health Service (IHS) regions in the country, the “Bemidji Area” serves 34 tribes and nations in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan; plus four Urban Indian Health Centers in Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Detroit and Chicago.

The press release sent out by the GLATHB said, “This name will  promote unity, comprehensive representation and inclusion of the Great Lakes  area. Additionally, it will eliminate confusion regarding the composition of the  service area.”

American Indians Respond to Washington Post R-word Poll
Friday, August 05 2016
Written by Jon Lurie,
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redskins.jpgNative Americans are responding with incredulity to a Washington Post poll published last month which suggests a majority of Indigenous people are not bothered by the team name and mascot of Washington’s NFL football team.

The poll surveyed 504 Native Americans, 44 percent of whom said they were an enrolled member of a Native American tribe. The results claim that 90 percent of Native Americans are not bothered by the term “Redskins.” A further 340 Native Americans were also surveyed on whether they thought the term was disrespectful: 73 percent said they did not.

The Washington Post asserted that the survey was conducted in order to gather the opinions of “actual stakeholders.” From coast to coast, however, Native people and the organizations that represent them expressed their displeasure over the poll, the methods used to conduct it, and its results.

Many took to social media in May to express their unhappiness over the poll’s miniscule sample size using the hashtag #IAmNativeIWasNotAsked.

Twitter user Jacqueline Keeler (@jfkeeler) wrote: “A poll is not going to stop 5 decades of protest – nothing will until Native people are shown as more than mascots.”

Robyn Lawson (@robynwins111) tweeted: “I am Cree, Metis, Mohawk & I despise that name as much now as I did when I was called one as a child.”

Kenzie Allen (@cerena) wrote: All I can see here is [more] colonial take, take, take. But our cultures do belong to us, no matter what.”

Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians, said in an interview published by Fusion News: “The survey doesn’t recognize the psychological impacts these racist names and imagery have on American Indian and Alaska Natives. It is not respectful to who we are as Native people. This poll still doesn’t make it right.”

Change the Mascot, a grassroots campaign based in the Oneida Nation which has long advocated for discontinuing the use of derogatory team names released a statement the day after the poll’s release.  “The results of this poll confirm a reality that is encouraging but hardly surprising: Native Americans are resilient and have not allowed the NFL’s decades-long denigration of us to define our own self-image. However, that proud resilience does not give the NFL a license to continue marketing, promoting, and profiting off of a dictionary-defined racial slur – one that tells people outside of our community to view us as mascots.

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