Imaging Indigenous Resistance

Written by Glori Cheevers

Photo by Haylee Swiger/The Voice

November is known as Native American Heritage Month, also known as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. This month is known for celebrating all the rich and diverse culture, traditions, and history of Native American culture. November is also a great time to educate others on the different experiences and struggles these groups of people are forced to go through. This initiative was accepted by the Eastern Oregon University students with open arms. This led to the creation of Imagining Indigenous Resistance in Nightingale Gallery on Eastern Oregon University’s campus.

Having 54 Native American students on campus, the art program students worked alongside the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion to create some art pieces. These art pieces started with a red hand print mural along with hung red dresses, protest signs, a hashtag mural giving representation to different movements, a backdrop of protesters at Mauna Kea, mirror shields, and photos of different protests.

The start of the art projects for Native American Heritage Month was the red handprint mural. Students were able to go in, paint their hand, and put their handprint on the wall. This mural was a movement for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. The reasoning behind the red paint is due to the belief of many tribes that red is the only color that spirits can see. The red handprints are an effort to call on the lost spirits of the women and children who are a part of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). Along with the handprints, red dresses were hung around campus to represent the number of Native American women who have been murdered or have gone completely missing.

Photo by Haylee Swiger/The Voice

One of the art projects created by the art program with the help of the Office of Student Diversity was the creation of the protest poster wall. There was a chain link fence placed on the wall of the gallery as well as a table of supplies placed for making your own protest posters to be placed on the fence. This not only gets people physically involved in the movement, but it shows solidarity and support for the movement. These posters were made by students, faculty, and community members. This exhibit truly shows how big this movement really is and how it reaches all parts of the world.

Another big art project that was created was the hashtag wall. The hashtag wall was created with the intent to drive people to look up the hashtags on social media to educate themselves on what each one meant. The hashtags were also color coordinated to represent different issues. These issues were Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (red), Mauna Kea (yellow), and pipeline protests (blue). The main pipelines for this art project were the Dakota Access pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Dakota Access pipeline was a battle between the installation of an oil pipeline and the Sioux tribe. The construction for this pipeline started in 2016. The Sioux tribe was fighting the installation because it would be on sacred land. This protest grew so big that 100 Native American tribes joined in the protest. The protest turned violent when the policemen that were on the scene of the protest shot rubber bullets at protesters. One of the main arguments for this pipeline from the Sioux tribe is that 500,000 barrels of oil is going to be transported through the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, and zero of that benefit would be going to the tribe.

In regard to the Keystone XL pipeline, the protest was between the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Trump Administration. The protest was based on many violations of the law within the permitting processes of this pipeline. With the installation of this pipeline, there has been more than 383,000 gallons of oil spilled, affecting 200,000 square feet of wetlands.

Photo by Halylee Swiger/The Voice

One of the art projects in Nightingale Gallery is a huge photo of protesters posing at Mauna Kea. The summit of Mauna Kea on the Hawaiian Islands is viewed as a sacred place. The upper regions of Mauna Kea are known as wao akua, which means, “place of the gods.” At the peak of the summit, there are still rituals of the ancestors being performed. Therefore, when the construction for the Thirty Meter Telescope started, more than a thousand protestors met at the construction site at the start of the entrance road to Mauna Kea. In honor of the bravery of these protesters, there is a large photo placed in the Nightingale Gallery for the opportunity to take pictures in front of and show support.

The last art project that was added to the Nightingale Gallery was mirror shields. These mirror shields are the same design as the ones that were used by protesters at the Dakota Access pipeline protest. The original mirror shields were designed by, Cannupa Hanska Luger, and were inspired by a movement during riots in the Ukraine. Women and children would bring mirrors out during the riots to show the policemen what they looked like and what they were doing. With this in mind, Cannupa Hanska Luger wanted the same effect, but what was worried about the mirrors being shattered and causing injuries.

The art program and Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion at Eastern Oregon University, truly put their hearts in their art work to show love, support, and strength with all of their movements for Native American Heritage Month.

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