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The Arts
Julie Buffalohead’s art gives no answers to the viewer
Wednesday, December 06 2017
 
Written by Deborah Locke,
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buffalohead3.jpgThe thing about Julie Buffalohead’s newest exhibit of art at the Bockley Gallery is this. You can second guess her till the cows come home on what raccoon is doing in the water pail or why duck stands on one leg at the kitchen table under a fond (or suspicious) gaze of fox. It’s easy to overthink what may or may not be a detail.

But that’s the point. Buffalohead wants the viewer to interpret the images and meaning based on what is true to the viewer. No glossary of terms is offered. Instead, you the witness, perhaps aware of current events in the local world of art, pick up on the clever juxtaposition of images that whisper or shout and sometimes just tease.

Buffalohead is an enrolled member of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma. She earned a B.A. from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and a MFA from Cornell University. The St. Paul artist is well known for her whimsical use of trickster coyotes and rabbits, and of deer. These days she’s just as likely to clobber you over the head with an interpretation of the very controversial “Scaffold” sculpture that was removed from the Sculpture Garden of the Walker Art Center in July. Some Dakota strongly objected to a gallows sculpture by artist Sam Durant which served as a painful reminder of the December, 1862 hanging of 38 Dakota men who fought in the U.S.-Dakota War.

In an interview, Buffalohead said that if the Walker had consulted with the Dakota before agreeing to show Durant’s sculpture, many people would have been spared pain. She addresses the sculpture in “Garden,” which shows some Walker iconic images as well as a woman contemplating a cherry on a spoon near a noosed rabbit and a coyote with eyes downcast holding a rooster.

I know what some of you are thinking. What is that about? Buffalohead’s work pulls you in and makes you think. Like the best of any art, you leave the room slightly changed and a little on edge.

One of my favorite works shows a deer enclosed in a white picket pen with a pesticide sign on the lower right, garden clippers on the left, and ravens flying away. The only small greenery is inside the pen. Another favorite: coyote on a lawn chair wearing a dress and appearing indifferent. Otter has an eye on coyote, the owls appear distracted by something off picture, and a toy boat rests against the water pail.

What does it mean? Whatever you want to take away.

Venture into the Kenwood neighborhood for this exhibit if you can. The “Julie Buffalohead” Exhibition is on display through Dec. 23 at Bockley Gallery, 2123 W. 21st Street, Minneapolis.  www.bockleygallery.com .

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Interview with artist Julie Buffalohead


buffalohead2.jpgWhen did you know that you wanted to be an artist?
I didn’t have a realization; I just did it. I took art classes in junior high and learned how to do art at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. When I got to college, I knew I would do something in arts for the rest of my life.

Did teachers encourage you to pursue art?
No, I didn’t have a strong mentor (in school). My parents encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do. They were college professors and as teachers, had experience with encouraging students. My father was brought to the University of Minnesota as Director of American Indian Studies; my parents knew Native artists like George Morrison. I grew up surrounded by writers and poets and artists.

What were the first objects you drew?
I drew horses and other animals and I kept drawing until they looked more like an animal. I studied pictures of them. I have a daughter who is nine and the thing I recognize in her is that she’s an extrovert who likes social situations. For me when I was younger, drawing and being bookish was a way to gain energy. My daughter gets pleasure in engaging with people and she talks a lot. She has some art ability, but isn’t self-motivated. When I was five, I tried to draw animals.

When was your first art show?
It was at Cornell University.  There is a large Native population in New York but I wasn’t near my own community which was hard. New York is different from the Midwest. I was really on my own and lonely.

Why do you do what you do?

If you don’t take opportunities as a serious artist, you miss out. My work received attention when I was in college and I met new people and forged relationships which led to other opportunities. When you are young you may start by showing your work in a coffee shop and that leads to bigger things. I’m not terribly driven, I’m shy and probably could be more successful.

You’ve had a lot of shows, and received good reviews. How do you keep building on that?
I’ve had opportunities to do shows in major institutions and can now choose where I want to exhibit. Right now I’m working toward a major exhibit at the Denver Art Museum which opens in July. It’s the first time I’ve done a show there.

How do you prepare for a show?
Preparation depends on the size of the space. Then you decide on whether you’re doing paintings or sculptures. Or sometimes a curator will come to my studio and choose what they want. So what is in the show is now always up to you. I have a studio at home and one a few blocks from my home. I do the larger pieces in the warehouse studio.

buffalohead4.jpgNow does your American Indian heritage inform your art work?
A lot of my work is based on Native American storytelling. I think of characters from the stories I heard and spin my own stories. I tend to use a lot of certain trickster characters like coyote and rabbit. I grew up in that culture and it is a natural part of my life. The work can be fun but because I’m a perfectionist, I have this battle in my brain about what I’m making and translating and how it looks aesthetically. Being an artist is like being a writer. You pre-write and write and edit and edit again. I know when a piece is done when I run out of time. Deadlines can be good things.

How long does the average work take?
If the drawing is experimental, one part of it may take a month or longer. By experimental I mean working with themes that are more political and less personal. In the past I was more emotional and ambiguous; now I’m getting into the politics of our time and am making statements about issues in my own life. Jimmie Durham who claims an Indian identity had a big exhibit at the Walker Art Museum but the Walker hasn’t done that for any other contemporary American Indian artist. (Durham “self Identifies” as Cherokee, according to the Walker Art Museum website, but none of the three Cherokee nations recognize him as Cherokee.)

Do you think viewers understand your work?
I don’t make images so they can be understood by everybody. If people derive their own interpretation, I’m happy with that. Art is like poetry: you may not understand what is meant by the poet, but the flow of words could still have an effect if you speak them out loud.

How do you compose your artwork?
I see something in my mind like a photo image, and sketch it out. Or I may start with something that interests me and draw it on paper and canvas and see a narrative developing of a place or objects, or an interaction.

Your newer works contain elements of current events. Wouldn’t it be easier just to do still life all the time, or scenery?
Many Native artists bring current events to our work – like the Walker scaffold story – and that has to continue. Institutions sometimes view Native artists differently from other contemporary artists. It’s not discrimination, but when they put on a show, they will leave out Native art. If a Native person were a part of the review in the decision-making process at the Walker, the scaffold may not have used.  These dialogues need to continue.

What are the best and worse parts of being an artist?
As an introvert, I’d rather just sit in a hammock for hours. Creation is the most rewarding part of being an artist. Creation is powerful, not just to stand back and look at what you did, but to go through the process. I want viewers who see my art to feel an emotional connection and feel a reaction.

You’ve been criticized for not being “Indian” enough. Why?
My dad is Ponca and my brother looks like my father. My mother is white and I look more like her. Some people in my life have not been receptive of me because I look like my mother. But I go by what my father taught: accept everybody.

Onigamiising: Seasons of an Ojibwe Year
Tuesday, November 07 2017
 
Written by Deborah Locke,
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 Onigamiising: Seasons of an Ojibwe Year
Linda LeGarde Grover
University Of Minnesota Press
October 10, 2017
200 pages

In her book of 50 very short essays originally published in the Duluth Budgeteer, Linda LeGarde Grover gives mini lessons on Ojibwe history, culture and values, as well as a large dose of growing up as an Ojibwe Baby Boomer in Duluth in the 1950s and 1960s.

If what you like is a broad and sometimes squishy overview of Ojibwe life, this mini memoir is for you. There isn’t much that’s new or controversial here, which probably pleased Grover’s weekly shopper reading audience. It seems unlikely that those readers were ready for a radical view on Indian policy and history, policies that still impact the lives of American Indians.

It’s more likely that the Budgeteer audience liked ordinary accounts of a wedding shower, play with a baby buggy, and the making of a ribbon skirt. The book is like a soft blanket of small detail from a woman who knows who she is and where she comes from. She doesn’t want to startle you, she wants to soft pedal a point of view nestled between chapters on sewing, making blueberry dumplings and coming of age in Duluth.

The Ojibwe called the Duluth area “Onigamiising” which means the place of the small portage. Grover’s book, “Onigamiising: Seasons of an Ojibwe Year”, tracks the seasons of a human life, starting with spring for youth and beginnings, summer for youth and young adulthood, and so on. Grover, now a grandmother, writes from the winter season of her life, reflecting on her childhood as the oldest of 13 children, and on ordinary daily occurrences like food preparation. A frequent theme is Mino Bimaadiziwin, which in the Ojibwe language means living a good life. Throughout the essays, Grover does a nice job of reminding readers of basic Ojibwe values, listed as gratitude, modesty, generosity and respect.

While reading the book, however, you may occasionally ask “so what?” Yes, we know that the federal boarding school era was horrible for American Indian families who were forced to send their children to distant schools with the federal government’s goal of assimilation. The historical memory from those nightmarish years mean that many Ojibwe parents especially cherish their children today, Grover wrote. Yet some families were fractured beyond repair. How do they put themselves together again at this time?

Grover, who is enrolled at the Bois Fort reservation, also writes about education often, which makes sense since she is a professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). She notes that the Indian student dropout rate from high school is still too high, and that it’s great when parents raise their children to value learning. But how do parents do that? She doesn’t really say.

Grover writes that junk food is a bad food choice. But in an era of fast food consumption and no time to cook, how do Indians re-introduce genuine traditional foods into their diet? Late in the book Grover described a job search following a quarter of failed classes at UMD. The experience begs a question – how Grover found her way to academic excellence after early failure. An essay on that kind of personal transformation would have added heft to the book.

What does add insight are Grover’s frequent reminders of living a good Ojibwe life, and the importance of gratitude. She wrote: “We understand that everything in our lives has been provided by the Creator, that these blessings have made us rich, and that of course the Creator wants us in turn to be generous with each other. A good Ojibwe is thankful and endeavors to develop a generous spirit.”

Another bright spot: references to Duluth. Those of you familiar with the area will recognize this observation: “Duluth is beautiful: stunningly, breathtakingly, sometimes even achingly, but a lifelong love requires more than a physical attraction. Our love of this place is more than the steepness of the hills with their startling assertions of rock, more than the big lake that changes color and surface under the skies of the seasons, more even than that spectacular variety of the four seasons…A sense of place intertwines time, space, and purpose as well as reason for being.”

     She briefly teases out memories of 1950s and 1960s Duluth with references to lunch at Woolworth’s in downtown Duluth, the use of a sticky hair product called Dippity-do, visits to Johnson’s Bakery on Duluth’s West End, UMD’s Tweed Gallery, and the joy of outdoor play as a child.

Grover was the oldest of 13 children; her father was a painter. Those facts beg yet another question: what was that like to be one of 13 kids? Did they eat in shifts? Where did they sleep? Is the family closely knit and how do they stay that way? Perhaps the sign of a good writer is to write enough to leave your readers wanting more.

This book covers a lot of everyday ordinariness and a smattering of Indian history and culture. Its stories are told with a fable-like quality that readers may find appealing.     

 

Traditional Native foods are highlighted in Sioux Chef’s cookbook
Friday, October 06 2017
 
Written by Deborah Locke,
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bookcover.jpgThe Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman (Author) and Beth Dooley (Contributor), University Of Minnesota Press, October 10, 2017, Hardcover: 256 pages

So you think fry bread is a long-standing traditional American Indian cuisine? Nope. Sean Sherman, an Oglala Lakota chef with a mission to show people how to use and enjoy truly traditional food, asked his mom if she grew up with fry bread. Sean was raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Sean’s mother told him that she remembered fry bread consumption starting in the 1960s. It became common in American Indian households as a way to use the federal government commodity food that included shortening and flour.

“If fry bread started in the 60s, it doesn’t go back that far,” he said in a phone interview. “There’s no reason that fry bread should be the go-to staple for every tribe in North America. It tastes good and people have had to survive off it, but it’s not healthy. We should be at a point now where we break that mold and bring better food to the table.”

Sean has just published a cook book entitled “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen” which will be available for sale in October. Much of that better and genuinely traditional food is highlighted in the cookbook recipes. For those readers who grew up on Minnesota reservations and ate lots of rabbit and venison, the book is a treasure trove.

Its recipes include ingredients that were a mainstay of Natives who lived here hundreds of years ago. Some of those ingredients are a challenge to find, such as sumac, juniper berries or rabbit. Sean offers some substitutions in the recipes, but the point this chef makes is simple. Go with your instinct. Taste as you go, trust your judgment, and know that the recipes were written more as an outline than a rule book. 

“Clean food from your own region is so good for your body,” he said, adding that if he could change the world in one swoop, he would make everyone fully aware of plants as food and medicine, and how they were used by Native ancestors to maintain health.
Much of that knowledge has been lost, and that is the challenge before Sean and the growing number of Native chefs who work to return yesteryear’s food to a 21st Century table. Sean cooks with fresh ingredients from a local co-op and uses a lot of seasonal ingredients. Missing from his table are European staples like wheat flour, dairy products, sugar, and domestic pork and beef. The recipes usually contain only four or five ingredients; the two I chose to make took little time and were delicious.

If you buy this book, give attention to the introduction where you will learn about Sean’s journey from a reservation boyhood to his 27-year career as a chef, caterer and food educator in Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana. As a child, Sean attended powwows, Sun Dances, family gatherings and school events interspersed with hunting game birds, mending fences, and riding in the open back of pickup trucks. The writing is so vivid and compelling that you will wish the introduction was 100 pages longer.
Then make a grocery list and make a few calls to find the sumac or chokecherries. You may find the cedar sprigs in your own back yard. By dinner time you’ll be eating a traditional meal not unlike those consumed by your great-great-great-grandparents.

Sean and co-author Beth Dooley will appear at a book signing from 6-9 p.m. on Oct. 18 at the Aster Café River Room, 125 S.E. Main Street, Minneapolis. Samples made from recipes in the cookbook will be served. Books will be available for purchase.
Additionally, Sean will give 30-minute cooking demonstrations from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 21 at the Mill City Museum. The museum is located at 704 S. 2nd St., Minneapolis. The cost to attend is included in your museum ticket ($12 adults, $10 seniors, veterans/active military, college students, $6 ages 5-17, free for those age 4 and under and for Minnesota Historical Society members.)
For more information, see the website: www.mnhs.org/event/4979 .

RECIPES
booksoup.jpgIt’s not enough that the ingredients from Sherman’s new cookbook create delicious, memorable food. They also introduce remarkable aromas to the kitchen that last like a natural air freshener for at least a day.

That delightful fact became apparent with the use of freshly chopped sage which brought a delicate flavor to both the bean cakes and the wild rice pilaf. Until now, the only sage I’ve cooked with was dried and from a jar. Fresh sage is far superior. For both recipes, the shallot added a milder flavor than the yellow onions I usually use, and the smoked salt added an unexpected pop.

When shopping for the bean cake recipe, I couldn’t find juniper, sumac or corn flour and used regular flour (sorry, Sean) and extra shallot and sage. Apparently corn flour is displayed in Hispanic food sections of the grocery store, not in the baking aisles. In a phone interview and in his book, Sean said that recipes are more like outlines waiting to become your own creation. If you don’t have an ingredient, substitute it for an ingredient that is closely related in flavor and texture. Or don’t. Do something completely different. This chef advocates for an adventurous spirit when you step into the kitchen.

When making the bean cakes, do not follow my example and use a blender to mix the dough unless you want to work with a sad, sloppy mess. Use a food processor, as Sean says. (And corn flour might work better as well!) I transferred the sticky mass to a mixing bowl and used a pastry cutter to successfully blend the dough. Also, I used the egg in only half of the dough. The eggless half turned out crispier.   

For the wild rice pilaf, try to use wild rice harvested and finished on one of Minnesota’s northern wild rice lakes. It is far better than the mass produced variety from the grocery store. You’ll find information online for Native wild rice producers from all or most of the state’s reservations. The wild rice I used from the Fond du Lac Reservation cooked up fluffy, flavorful and with just the right texture.
In preparing the recipe, I used eight ounces of baby bella mushrooms, and eight ounces of shitake mushrooms. The instructions didn’t require that the mushrooms be chopped, but I cut the largest ones into chunks. The vegetable stock evaporated and/or soaked into the rice almost immediately. I used pine nuts in lieu of chestnuts. The recipe was easy to prepare, and the results were spectacular. 

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Crispy Bean Cakes
Serves 4 to 6

Serve these as a first course on wild greens, or make them into tiny patties for finger food. They make wonderful appetizers and snacks.

2 cups cooked or canned beans, drained
1 to 2 teaspoons chopped sage
1 duck egg
¼ cup chopped wild onion or shallot
Pinch salt
Pinch crushed juniper
¼ cup corn flour plus a tablespoon for dusting the cakes as needed
3 to 4 tablespoons sunflower oil
Pinch sumac

Preheat the oven to 250°F. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse together all of the ingredients to make a rough dough. Using moistened hands, form the mixture into patties about ½ inch thick. Dust the patties with the flour and set aside.

Film a skillet with the oil, and set over medium heat. Working in batches, fry the patties until golden brown on each side, about 5 to 7 minutes per side. Transfer to a baking sheet and put in the oven to keep warm.
(From “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen” by Sean Shermann with Beth Dooley.)

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Wild Rice Pilaf with Wild Mushrooms, Roasted Chestnuts, & Dried Cranberries
Serves 4 to 6

Wild rice is a flavorful and remarkably satisfying food. The mushrooms add a dark, meaty flavor and texture, while the chestnuts are creamy (and high in protein). This meatless dish will appeal to omnivore and vegetarian alike. Cooked wild rice will keep several weeks in the refrigerator and for at least a year when frozen in a plastic freezer bag.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the mushrooms, sage, and onion. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are nicely browned and the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the stock, wild rice, and cranberries and cook until the liquid is nearly evaporated. Stir in the roasted chestnuts. Season with maple syrup and smoked salt to taste.

2 tablespoons sunflower or walnut oil
1 pound assorted mushrooms, cleaned
1 tablespoon chopped sage
½ cup chopped wild onion or shallots
½ cup Corn Stock or vegetable stock
2 cups cooked wild rice
½ cup dried cranberries
1 cup roasted, peeled, chopped chestnuts*
1 tablespoon maple syrup to taste
½ to 1 teaspoon smoked salt to taste

*To roast and peel chestnuts, use the sharp point of a small knife to score an X on the flat side of the chestnut and place on a baking sheet. Roast in a 350°F oven until the skins begin to peel back. The length of roasting time will depend on the freshness and size of the chestnuts and range from about 10 to 25 minutes. Remove, and when cool enough to handle, peel.
(From “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen” by Sean Shermann with Beth Dooley.)

RUMBLE documentary gives credit to Native American musicians
Thursday, September 14 2017
 
Written by The Circle,
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 poster.jpgMany artists and musical forms played a role in the creation of rock, but arguably no single piece of music was more influential than the 1958 instrumental “Rumble” by American Indian rock guitarist and singer/songwriter Link Wray.

When recalling Link Wray’s shivering guitar classic, “Rumble,” film director, and producer Martin Scorsese marvels, “It is the sound of that guitar . . . that aggression.” “Rumble” was the first song to use distortion and feedback. It introduced the rock power chord – and was one of the very few instrumental singles to be banned from the radio for fear it would incite violence.

The independent film, RUMBLE, explores how the Native American influence is an integral part of music history, despite attempts to ban, censor, and erase Indian culture in the United States. It tells the story of a profound, essential and, until now, missing chapter in the history of American music.

As RUMBLE reveals, the early pioneers of the blues had Native as well as African American roots, and one of the first and most influential jazz singers’ voices was trained on Native American songs. As the folk rock era took hold in the 60s and 70s, Native Americans helped to define its evolution.

Father of the Delta Blues Charley Patton, influential jazz singer Mildred Bailey, metaphysical guitar wizard Jimi Hendrix, and folk heroine Buffy Sainte-Marie are among the many music greats who have Native American heritage and have made their distinctive mark on music history.

RUMBLE uses playful re-creations and little-known stories, alongside concert footage, archives and interviews. The stories of these iconic Native musicians are told by some of America’s greatest music legends and other artist who knew them, played music with them, and were inspired by them, including: Taj Mahal, Cyril Neville, Ivan Neville, John Trudell, Steven Tyler, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Jackson Browne, Martha Redbone, Joy Harjo, Iggy Pop, Pura Fe Crescioni (Ulali), Robbie Robertson, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and many others.

The documentary is the winner of the Sundance Film Festival 2017 Special Jury Award for Masterful Storytelling, and Best Music Documentary.

RUMBLE is showing at the Landmark Lagoon Cinema in Minneapolis September 1st thru September 7th.

Rumble is scheduled to show throughout 2017 and 2018 at  locations around the country. To find dates and places, see: www.rumblethemovie.com.

“A Bag Worth A Pony” is a well-illustrated study of bandolier bags
Thursday, September 14 2017
 
Written by Deborah Locke,
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 Beadworkers Batiste Sam and Maude Kegg pause to relax with Fred Benjamin at Mille Lacs. c. 1994. (All photos courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.)A Bag Worth a Pony: The Art of the Ojibwe Bandolier Bag Paperback
By Marcia G. Anderson
Published May 15, 2017
Publisher: Minnesota Historical Society Press
Paperback: 272 pages

For students of American Indian history in general – and of niche Ojibwe history in particular – “A Bag Worth a Pony” is for you. Or if you’re a fabric and textile wonk or College of Design instructor or student at the University of Minnesota, “A Bag Worth a Pony” is for you. Or if Ojibwe family names like Kegg, Sam, LeGarde, Hole in the Day, LaFave, Moos, Benjamin, Posey, King, Smith, and a dozen others mean something to you, read this book.

“A Bag Worth A Pony: The Art of the Ojibwe Bandolier Bag” is a meticulous and exceptionally well-illustrated study of the history of beaded Ojibwe bandolier bags, or gashkibidaaganag (which loosely translates in Ojibwe as an item that is enclosed, attached and tied).

The author, Marcia G. Anderson, is a retired collections curator at the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) who stumbled over a storage box of beaded bags in 1981. The discovery whetted Anderson’s fascination for fabric, crafts and women’s work and presented challenging questions. Who were the women who created the exquisitely beautiful designs? What were the bags used for and for whom were they created? How old are the earliest bags? Why status did they confer to the wearer?

Those questions and more prompted countless trips to museums, archives and Ojibwe reservations to learn the history and artistry of the prestigious gashkibidaaganag.

Batiste Sam with her gashkibidaagan, 1995.In the first half of the book Anderson’s findings give a tremendous amount of detail about the evolution of the form, structure and motif of the bags. The book’s title is explained here – in the 1800s the Dakota found the Ojibwe gashkibidaaganag so valuable that they traded a pony for an bag. Hence the bags – that appear to be dated back to about 1870 – became a form of commerce and of cultural identity, Anderson wrote. Even if the Ojibwe dressed like “Christianized Indian farmers,” the addition of a bag over that clothing was symbolic to Indians and non-Indians of a proud Ojibwe heritage.

The sheer volume of information gives the first half of the book a textbook-like feel. Anderson goes into detail on bead types, thread types, border differences, tassels, fringes, and the disappearance of pockets.

You can easily imagine Anderson with gloved hands cautiously exploring the size and details of all 123 full bags in the MHS collection, and then the dozens of bags she examined off-site. The Society’s photo collection enhanced the study of gashkibidaaganag for Anderson as she ably identified the earlier loom-woven bags and their evolution to the later year spot-stitch applique bags.

In the book’s photos, Ojibwe men displayed full regalia which included the wearing of at least one bag. The published photos give an intriguing pictorial history of the Ojibwe in the 1800s and 1900s. In short, the reader wants to learn more about the bag wearers. Some were part of a treaty delegation, some posed for studio photographers, some posed in family portraits.

The heart of the book, however, is its second half where artistry comes to life through the stories of Ojibwe women (and a few men) from each Minnesota Ojibwe reservation who created the bags. In mid-book, two of the country’s premier bag creators and respected elders from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Batiste Sam and Maude Kegg, are pictured with Fred Benjamin. (Fred is misidentified in the photo as Kenny Weyaus.) The photo of these two beloved grandmas depicts pure exuberance and joy, and you’d just like to give each of them a hug.

Maude and Baptiste have passed away, but their amazing talent lives on in the applique bags stored at the Mille Lacs Museum near Onamia. Anderson wrote that the Ojibwe favored floral designs in general, but unique flourishes emerged at each reservation. Distinctive Mille Lacs designs included the cornucopia, the trumpet flower and the seed pod. Anderson wrote: “Maude’s bag was, like most Ojibwe gashkibidaaganag, filled with the fluidity, enthusiasm, and the unique signature of the individual bead artist.”

Gashkibidaagan made by Maude Kegg, 1982.That kind of conclusion arrives after careful study, but in addition to her research skill, Anderson demonstrates cultural sensitivity and an affection and respect for the women who created these objects of beauty. She pointed out the many decisions a beader made before picking up bead and thread, such as the taste of the man who would wear it. The beader considered the best of what was old and new in bag creation, what beads, thread and fabric were available, and colors and patterns.

Anderson wrote: “And she did all this, with the simplest of resources, while struggling with political oppression that amounted to cultural genocide – forced assimilation, outlawing of traditional religious practices, forced removal of children to boarding schools – and, often, severe poverty.”

Gashkibidaaganag became wildly popular throughout North America especially through the Arts and Crafts period of the 1920s. The women beaders of Minnesota were viewed as the best in the world and the money they earned from bag production was critical to their households.

Again, the book is not for everyone as its detail can be overwhelming at times. But the photographs of gashkibidaaganag are gorgeous, and the portion with personal accounts from master beaders is invaluable. If you are a serious student of Ojibwe history, you’ll want to know what is in this book.

 

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