With a meager 0.5 percent of Clark students identifying as Native American and only 1.9 percent of Washingtonians, Native American culture faces diminishing representation of its arts and traditions.
Clark looks to rejuvenate the Native American culture by weaving its way onto campus through the exhibition of “Native Voices: Native Peoples Concepts of Health and Illness,” and Archer Gallery’s “Woven: The Art of Contemporary Native Basketry.”
Cannell Library was one of 104 grant recipients chosen to host the exhibition that’s put on by the American Library Association and the U.S. National Library of Medicine. They will be presenting six events between Feb. 9 and March 16.
Cannell is serving as the hearth of the the exhibition, hosting several events such as its opening and closing ceremonies, the showing of the documentary “One November Morning,” “30 Clicks,” and an Art Walk.
The Art Walk will take spectators on a tour through Archer Gallery’s “Woven” exhibit, as well as Cannell Library and the Vancouver Historical Museum’s “One November Morning” art exhibit. “One November Morning” is an exhibit created by descendants of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Native Americans, victims of the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre.
This traveling exhibition focuses on bringing awareness and prompting a revival of Native American cultures, while educating about indigenous healing techniques for historical trauma victims.
Indigenous people have endured many tragedies throughout history, such as the loss of their sacred lands, the separation of their tribes, their children being taken from their homes and put into boarding schools and the massacre of their people.
“We need to learn about the past so we don’t repeat the past,” said librarian Laura Nagel.
Native American Culture Club Representative Channa Smith reflected on the adversity she and her family endured growing up.
“I remember being teased in school, and for my mom it was severe, she was beat with a ruler and called a ‘dirty Indian’ by her school’s principal,” Smith said.
Smith said she is thrilled to see an event like “Native Voices” being incorporated at Clark, educating others on the past and present problems Indigenous people face, in hopes of creating a better future.
“I think Indigenous cultures certainly are alive,” Nagel said. “We want to recognize that people come from different backgrounds and highlight those who have been historically marginalized and oppressed.”
The exhibition is centered around five different themes, constructed from interviews with native tribal leaders by the National Library of Medicine. The five themes are Individual, Community, Nature, Tradition and Healing, according to Nagel.
Though not directly affiliated with “Native Voices,” the exhibit “Woven” was chosen for Archer Gallery as something that could expand and engage students in other disciplines unfamiliar to their own, according to Art professor and gallery director Senseny Stokes.
“It’s a really fun exhibit that plays with traditional craft and contemporary practice,” Stokes said.
Indigenous-inspired paintings hang from the walls of Archer Gallery and are accompanied by short historical references next to the intricate weavings by local and nationally-acclaimed artists, such as Pat Courtney Gold, Joe Fedderson and Gail Tremblay.
Stokes doted on one particular piece created by Tremblay, a basket woven with 16-millimeter camera film. Works by local Native American artist Kaila Farrell-Smith will also be on display. Farrell-Smith’s piece, “Vision Quest Glyphology,” is currently being featured at Vancouver City Hall.
The exhibit will also showcase historical baskets donated by the Native Arts and Culture Association.
The artwork will be shelled in glass casing, as some pieces are over 100 years old.
A workshop will be held following the exhibit in the last week of spring break, inviting the artists to speak of their works and share their talents with the public, Stokes said.
Clark is one of the first destinations for the “Native Voices” traveling exhibition, that will continue its tour for the next four years. All “Native Voices” events are free and open to the public.
Although “Native Voices” focuses on Native American culture, they also include Pacific Islander and Native Alaskan culture in their exhibits and events.
“My hope for the future is that humanity will be awakened, not just for Native people, but for all people,” Smith said.