Earth, Land, and Creation
Native American artist, Ka’ila Farrell-Smith visited Eastern Oregon University on May 9, 2019, to discuss her art and activism career. Based out of Modoc Point, Oregon, Farrell-Smith creates art that focuses on the intersection between traditional Indigenous art and western paradigms.
The Artist’s Talk began with Farrell-Smith introducing herself in her native language, then in English. She then had a Land Acknowledgment, which included a map of the different Indigenous territories in Oregon. From there, she talked about her artwork and job at Signal Fire, an organization that supports both activists and artists.
Farrell-Smith’s first name, Ka’ila, is the Kalmath word for “earth,” “land,” and “creation.” Farrell-Smith grew up and went to school in Portland, but recently moved to her ancestral homeland. She has been spending her time making art and learning the culture of her people. Much of her art reflects this culture.
For example, one of her pieces, Wokas Gatherers, depicts a specific type of plant that is important to her people. She also creates art based on the baskets that her people make. She is trying to learn how to make them as well, but it proves to be more difficult than one would think.
Another piece is titled After Boarding School: In Mourning. This piece features a young woman with short hair. She is crying. This piece was a contemplation of the 1970s when Indigenous people were taken from their homes and forced into Christian boarding schools, in an attempt to whitewash them. Farrell-Smith’s close relative was taken from his mother and grandmother at six years old for this very reason, so the subject hits close to home for Farrell-Smith.
One of the many reasons that Farrell-Smith paints things that relate to her people is because of the way the United States forgets the past. She said, “We live in such an amnesia culture where people don’t even remember things from the 1970s, like boarding school, or maybe it’s just covered up.”
Ka’ila Farrell-Smith is a beautiful artist and woman who is working with Signal Fire to remove stolen Indigenous artwork from museums and to help the world remember what life was like before the colonization of this land.