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Posts Tagged ‘Ojibwe’

Photo: Jaida Grey Eagle / The McKnight Foundation
Marcie Rendon has received the McKnight Foundation’s 2020 Distinguished Artist Award. An enrolled member of the White Earth Nation, she is the author of poems, plays, children’s books, and novels that explore the resilience and brilliance of Native peoples.

This morning’s Google video about the famous Osage ballerina Maria Tallchief got me thinking about Native American women in the arts and how difficult their path to fulfillment often is. Consider the writer Marcie Rendon, whose reputation got a big boost when she received a McKnight Foundation award in August.

Mary Ann Grossmann reported the story for the Pioneer Press. “Marcie Rendon, award-winning poet, playwright, author of children’s books, short stories and the popular Cash Blackbear mystery series, is the winner of the $50,000 McKnight Foundation 2020 Distinguished Artist Award.

“An enrolled member of the White Earth Nation [Ojibwe], Rendon is the first Native American woman to receive this prestigious award, which honors artists who stay in Minnesota and make the state more culturally rich. …

“ ‘I’m kind of in shock and overwhelmed,’ Rendon said last week in a phone interview from her home near Lake Hiawatha in Minneapolis, where she lives with two granddaughters and a great-granddaughter. She has three daughters and 12 grandchildren.

“The Artist Award is always a surprise to the winner. The McKnight folks lured Rendon onto Zoom in August by telling her they wanted to talk about her work. But when she dialed in she found herself facing a roomful of people who told her she was the awardee.

‘I started crying. It just seemed unreal,’ she recalled. ‘Then somebody said, “Tell her how much the check is,” and I cried even more. I could give you a hundred names of people who deserve it. It never occurred to me I was in that category.’ …

“Rendon is pleased that her award turns the spotlight on Native artists.

“ ‘I grew up in northern Minnesota and never lived in the city. I didn’t even know book awards were a thing until one of my books was nominated. I don’t have an MFA. I’m writing because I love to create and because I love my community,’ she said. ‘Jim (Denomie) and myself getting this award says that Native artists are doing not just what is important for us as Native people, but important to the entire landscape of artists and people in Minnesota. It says we exist and have a significant impact on the arts. We are resilient and thriving. It says to non-Native people, “We are here, we never left.” ‘

“Among Rendon’s previous awards [is] the Loft’s 2017 Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship with Diego Vazquez. … Vazquez, a poet, novelist and editor, has known Rendon for years. ‘I am so excited for Marcie I almost cried when I heard about her award,’ he said. ‘I admire her for everything she does, in her writing and her life, where she is the central focus for her family. She gives her heart to everything.’ …

“Rendon is especially proud of partnering with Vazquez in the eight-year-old women’s writing project, in which they teach women incarcerated in jails in Ramsey, Sherburne and Washington counties. They have reached some 300 women and published 40 anthologies of their writing. …

“Rendon, born in the Red River Valley of northern Minnesota in 1952, was a voracious reader, creative writer and poet early in life. She was with her family, poor but happy, until she was in first grade and put into the foster care system. It was a bad experience, but she survived.

“While studying at Moorhead State College in the early 1970s, Rendon was part of a group of Native student activists who successfully demanded the launch of the university’s first American Indian studies department. She graduated with degrees in criminal justice and American Indian Studies and earned a master’s in human development from St. Mary’s University.

“Rendon moved to Minneapolis in 1978, because ‘this is where my people are, the birthplace of AIM (American Indian Movement),’ and worked as a counselor and therapist while raising her daughters.

“A 1991 performance by Canadian Cree-Saulteaux artist Margo Kane inspired Rendon to share her poetry and writing with a wider audience at venues such as Patrick’s Cabaret in Minneapolis. …

“ ‘I am super-excited for Marcie,’ said [writing buddy Carolyn] Holbrook. … ‘She’s multi-talented and sticks with it, all the while raising a family and putting up with the trauma of having been a foster kid. Her crime fiction knocks me out. Others write (mysteries) about Native Americans but she’s doing it from an authentic place.’ “

Read more at the Pioneer Press, here.

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broken20treaty20quilt20performance

Photo: Portland (Maine) Museum of Art
The quilts of artist Gina Adams tell the tale of broken treaties.

Lately, I’ve been reading books that have given me a deeper, more disturbing understanding of American history. Of course I knew about slavery and broken Indian treaties and adventurism abroad, but I tended to slink away from knowing too many details. You can hide only so long. Two books I would recommend are the novel Underground Railroad and the history Ramp Hollow.

Artist Gina Adams found her metier in quilts about broken treaties. There are no shortage of those, she says. This article by Indian County Today recounts the evolution of her work “Broken Treaties Quilts.”

“Gina Adams’ journey to becoming a political artist began as she probed deeper into her Native roots. Trained as a painter and printmaker, Gina Adams made apolitical art for many years. …

“While studying the effects of post-Colonial trauma and assimilation at the University of Kansas, Adams identified feelings of remorse and grief in her own life, stemming from her Ojibwe-Lakota grandfather’s forced boarding at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. Her art began to change.

“ ‘I realized how powerful it was to be able to speak about all of those feelings,’ said Adams, who lives in Longmont, Colorado. …

“ ‘Broken Treaties Quilts,’ involves sewing text from Indian treaties onto antique quilts. … Sewing the words of injustice, letter by letter, onto objects of comfort and beauty represents the turmoil that Indians have suffered. …

“Adams, 52, recently finished quilts about both the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie treaties, which she made in response to the Dakota Access Pipeline standoff at Standing Rock. She has made 18 quilts so far, and shown them from Maine to the Midwest. Wherever she shows her work, she makes a new quilt that’s relevant to the treaty history of that geographic area.

Her goal is to create a quilt for every U.S. state.

“There’s no shortage of broken treaties, she said, and all were populated with twisting, confusing language that purposefully misled people and subjected the treaties to misunderstanding and different interpretations.

“Adams has spent most of the past three years reading the treaties, word for word.

” ‘In cutting up these letters and reading and re-reading these treaties, you begin to realize how the language was meant to be confusing when they were written. They are still confusing today. They’re very duplicitous in their meaning,’ she said. ‘You can understand why the misunderstandings happened. …

“In Native cultures, the quilt transcends modern timekeeping. It’s been around forever, serving as a source of warmth and comfort, as well as a feeling of home and family. Quilting is also thoroughly American, she notes, and both the quilt and quilting bees symbolize community and the idea of working together. …

“Adams begins with antique quilts that she finds at flea markets and elsewhere. Many people also give them to her. She prefers quilts that are a century old or older, so they reflect the general vintage of the treaties she represents. …

“The process of making the quilts is time-consuming and labor intensive, and enjoyable, Adams said.

“ ‘It’s very contemplative. It’s very mindful,’ she said. ‘I so look forward to every single aspect of it, even when I am doing the detailed stitching on the quilt. It’s a really focused time. I am lost in my thoughts and just focusing on the work itself. I find it to be so rewarding.’

“Adams … descended from indigenous and colonial Americans. Her grandfather was Ojibwe and Lakota, and Adams has always identified with her Native roots. ‘I remember being 3 and 4 years old and going on hikes with my grandfather. He would talk to me and introduce me to plants and animals and things in nature in the Ojibwe language,’ she said. ‘He would tell me everything in Ojibwe and then translate it. It was a wonderful connecting point that stuck in my heart and soul and has been there my whole entire life.’

“Adams, who is not an enrolled tribal member, plans to take Ojibwe language classes this fall, to deepen her cultural immersion.”

Read about Adams’s quilting process here.

Hat tip: @WomensArt1 on twitter.

 

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Photo: Star Tribune
Ojibwe poet Jim Northrup

I have been trying to learn something about tribal cultures in the United States. I liked Spokane/Coeur d’Alene tribal member Sherman Alexie’s Thunder Boy (a charming picture book for young children) and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (an early, painful collection of short stories). Now I am reading some Native American poetry.

One poet, Jim Northrup, recently died. Here is a beautiful obit by Jana Hollingsworth in the Duluth News Tribune.

“Jim Northrup was a ‘tough man’ who taught his eldest sons to survive in the elements by living in a tepee on the Fond du Lac Reservation for several years, when money and jobs were scarce.

“But it was more than physical survival, said his son, Matthew, on Tuesday, the day after his father died from cancer-related complications. He taught them how to be strong in a world that didn’t treat everyone the same, he said, using humor — and education — as tools.

” ‘ “When you have really nothing else,” he said to me a lot, “you have your humor,” Matthew said. ” ‘When you grow up poor on the rez and when you grow up a lower class in society, you realize that.’

“Northrup, an award-winning writer of books, columns, plays and poetry — and a prominent member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa — died [in July]. He was 73.

“Northrup was a storyteller, known for his stark and honest writing about his experience as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam and his early years at a federal boarding school. He was funny and pointed in his writings about everyday life on the reservation, politics and change in Indian Country. He wrote as a way to heal himself from some of the trauma he experienced during the war, he said earlier this year.

” ‘I knew my poetry was being used in vets’ groups to help people open up (and) maybe even write their own poetry as part of their healing,’ he told the News Tribune in March. ‘It worked for me, so I hoped it helped (others).’ ”

More here, where you can hear Northrup read a poem in Ojibwe about passing along the culture. Read the whole obit. It’s really lovely. I hated to cut it.

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