Separating Native American Art from “American Art” in Museums: Part of Our Tangled History

Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) curators and Native American artists are wrestling with some powerful questions:

  • Why are American art and Native American art separated in museums and not taught together?
  • How would their entangled history and legacy be better understood if placed side by side?
  • What challenges or cultural issues provide arguments for keeping them distinct?
  • What can museum curators do to best showcase Native American Art in their institutions?

These questions have sparked a collaborative presentation on “Native American Art as American Art,” Thursday, Feb. 8, starting at 6:30 p.m. at Mia, 2400 3rd Avenue S. Minneapolis. ($10 fee, $5 for Mia members and free for Native American community members.)

Panelists are:

  • Film Director G. Peter Jemison, who represents the Seneca Nation of Indians on repatriation issues. He was the founding director of the American Indian Community House Gallery in New York City.
  • Kathleen Ash-Milby, a member of the Navajo Nation, and Associate Curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York.
  • Robert Cozzolino, the Patrick and Aimee Butler Curator of Paintings at Mia.
  • Jill Ahlberg Yohe, Associate Curator of Native American Art at Mia.

Members of Native American communities register by calling 612-870-3286, or email with your name.

Others register by calling 612-870-6323 or online at


Indian’s Give Chief Wahoo the Hook, But Team’s Announcement Lacks Integrity

One of many versions of the Chief Wahoo logo, 1946-1950. (Wikimedia Commons)

Buckling to pressure from Major League Baseball (MLB), the Cleveland Indians will stop using the Chief Wahoo mascot on their uniforms and stadium displays starting next year, according to a New York Times report.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred had pushed for the change, the story said. In announcing the decision, Indian’s Chairman and Chief Executive Paul Dolan failed to take a principled stand.

“We have consistently maintained that we are cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the discussion,” Dolan said in a statement issued by M.L.B. “While we recognize many of our fans have a longstanding attachment to Chief Wahoo, I’m ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred’s desire to remove the logo from our uniforms in 2019.”

Here’s three big problems with the team’s announcement.

The first is the team’s one-year delay in implementing the decision: If the team truly believed the image was offensive, it would have stopped using it right now.

Second is the team’s decision to continue to profit from a racist image: While Chief Wahoo will not appear on team uniforms after this year, fans will still be able to buy Chief Wahoo gear at the stadium souvenir shops and other northern Ohio retail outlets, the story said. (Seems like Dolan trying to thumb his nose at MLB.)

Third is the team’s lack of an apology: Most disappointing in Dolan’s statement is that he attributes the change to Manfred — not Native pressure.  “I’m ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred’s desire to remove the logo,” he said. That’s not an apology. That’s not a recognition that this mascot is offensive. It’s one rich white man saying he is willing to yield to a request from another rich white man, not to the deep wishes — and deep pain — of Native American communities.

It’s clear the team is not making a moral decision. That’s tragic.

Introduce Native Rights, Anti-Oil Pipeline Resolution at Your Precinct Caucus, Feb. 6

Map of the current Line 3, the proposed Line 3, and Anishinaabe treaty territory. (Honor the Earth)

Precinct Caucuses are coming up the evening of Tuesday, February 6. Caucuses are the first step in the process that political parties use to develop their statewide party platforms and endorse candidates, including Governor.

Anyone can propose a resolution at the Precinct Caucus. There are many worthy issues that need our attention, but consider introducing a resolution to stop the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline and similar projects through our state.

Enbridge has proposed to abandon its old and failing Line 3 and install a new and larger Line 3 along a new route. The line would come down from Canada, enter Minnesota at the state’s northwest corner, and travel 337 miles to Duluth/Superior. Along the way it would cross the Mississippi headwaters and pass by clean lakes, rivers, and wild rice beds. Significantly it would affect Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) treaty rights. While the new line would not cross reservation lands, the Anishaabe retain treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather across much of northern Minnesota. A spill would affect those rights.

Find your caucus location by clicking here.

Here is proposed caucus resolution language from MN350.

Line 3 Tar Sands Pipeline Resolution

WHEREAS, nearly 2.5 million barrels of crude oil already flow through Minnesota daily on Enbridge Energy pipelines;

WHEREAS, the demand for petroleum based products is down 19% since 2004 in the state;

WHEREAS, the route Enbridge Energy is proposing for the new Line 3 “replacement” pipeline cuts through 1854 and 1855 treaty protected territory and the headwaters of the Mississippi;

WHEREAS, the intervention before the Public Utilities Commission by five tribal nations, additional citizens groups and the Department of Commerce’s expert witness and staff, all maintain that the new pipeline is not needed and the old line should be removed;

WHEREAS, a spill of crude oil, and particularly tar sands oil, places water, wild rice, lakeshore property and the tourism industry at risk;

WHEREAS; the tar sands crude oil extraction process has the highest carbon cost of any other fuel and addressing climate change is increasingly urgent;

BE IT RESOLVED that the ____________________ Party supports:

The opposition to any new crude oil pipeline in Minnesota, including Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 “replacement”;

The right of sovereign nations’ to determine what construction projects take place in their respective territories.


Events: An Evening with Anne McKeig, First MN Supreme Court Justice Who Is Native American; Red Lake Youth to Perform Super Bowl Week

Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Anne McKeig will be speaking at an event titled “A Journey for Justice,” Thursday, Feb. 8, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Carondelet Center Dining Room, 1890 Randolph Ave., St. Paul.

According to the announcement:

[McKeig] rose from poverty and other challenges in the tiny town of Federal Dam, near Leech Lake, to become the 94th associate justice—and the first Native American—on the state Supreme Court. A descendant of White Earth Nation, McKeig has specialized in child protection and Indian welfare issues.

The event is being hosted by: Justice Commission Native American Working Group and the Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Corondelet & Consociates.

For more information and to RSVP, click here.

Red Lake Youth Get Gigs on Super Bowl Week

The Little Bear drum group from Red Lake will be performing on Nicollet Mall, tomorrow, Jan. 28, as part of Super Bowl festivities, according to a story in the Bemidji Pioneer. A dance troupe from Red Lake Elementary will perform. “Each of the youth traveling to Minneapolis will create a lanyard that will be given to Super Bowl staff and athletes,” the story said




Oyate Hotanin hosts a traditional storyteller and community conversation at the Mia

[Update: The headline and parts of this blog have been updated after the Mia requested corrections and clarifications. First, it’s Oyate Hotanin that is organizing this event, the Mia is hosting it by  providing the space. It is part of the Mia’s broader mission: to “create a space that welcomes Native people, and hold events that get Native people interested in attending.” Second,  the Mia wanted it known this isn’t a conversation about Scaffold, “this conversation is about the state of Native American art within Western Institutions,” and the Mia is in no way making a statement “directly against the Walker and the Scaffold incident.”]

The following announcement was posted on the Minnesota Indian List Serve:

Free Event
Friday, Jan. 26, 6-8 p.m.
Minneapolis Institute of Art
2400 3rd Ave. S. Minneapolis

Indigenous Estate [Oyate Hotanin] is the community response to the scaffold placed by the Walker in the sculpture garden and multiple incidents of invisibility and disregard of Native artists, narratives and images.

It is a series of conversations to engage community around the questions: Who governs identity and cultural appropriation? How do we navigate authenticity versus censorship? What is art in this reality? What is the role of the art world in responding? Is the art world complicit?

Join us for a reception at MIA with traditional storyteller Colin Wesaw.  We invite you to join the conversation and shape this vision with us.

Oyate Hotanin Indigenous Estate Leadership Team

Nick Metcalf, Heidi Inman, Al Gross, Crystal Norcross, Thomas LaBlanc, Laura LaBlanc, Cindy Killion

The MN Historical Society Needs to Reflect on its Colonial History

The Minnesota Historical Society was formed 30 years after Fort Saint Anthony (Fort Snelling) opened. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

The Minnesota Historical Society was founded in 1849, the same year Minnesota became a Territory. That’s only 30 years after Fort Snelling opened (known at the time as Fort Saint Anthony) and still nine years before Minnesota became a state.

It seems odd to create a Historical Society before you have that much history to tell. That’s until you realize just how important it is to control the historical narrative and define who are the heroes and who are the villains.

One of the early Historical Society presidents was Henry Sibley, the state’s first governor. (I leaned this fact by reading the new biographical sketch the Historical Society added to Sibley’s State Capitol portrait. The new narrative notes: “Sibley was a prolific chronicler of the state history he helped make.”)

Throughout its own history, the Minnesota Historical Society has been deeply rooted in telling the white colonial story. Even in the 21st Century it has struggled to free itself from that frame.

The Historical Society’s nearsightedness — and that of the state’s political leaders — was on full display during the recent Capitol renovation. There were contentious debates about whether or not to remove controversial historic artwork with images of Manifest Destiny. The Historical Society seemed resistant to change.

At some point, I hope the Historical Society does some self reflection and creates an exhibit that examines its own history, its past leaders like Sibley, and the colonial myths that they have helped perpetuate.

For now, let’s turn to the new historical interpretive plaques the Historical Society has added to the Governors’ portraits that line the Capitol hallways. In Friday’s blog, I criticized the Historical Society for the short and sanitized biography it added to Gov. Alexander Ramsey’s Capitol portrait.

Next let’s read the new biography that accompanies Gov. Sibley’s portrait. I have fewer criticisms of this narrative than I do of Ramsey’s. It offers a more balanced story, however, there still are parts of the narrative that are troubling.

Continue reading

Cante Maza to Speak on Decolonization at Plymouth Congregational Church Jan. 25

Professor Neil Cante Maza McKay will speak on the history and contemporary reality of colonization in the United States — and potential and strategies for decolonization, at the next Discussions that Encounter event. Cante Maza is the Dakota language senior teaching specialist at the University of Minnesota and a member of the Spirit Lake Nation of Dakota people.

The presentation and dialogue will be: Thursday, January 25 at Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Ave. S, Minneapolis in the Jackman Room. All are welcome, free of charge! Supper and social begin at 6:30 p.m. with program from 7-8:30 p.m.

Free parking is available in the main church lot, access parking from Franklin Avenue or from LaSalle Avenue, then enter the main door (door 1) and check with reception.