For Native artists of the Seattle-Tacoma area, a recent NoDAPL art exhibit gives a united voice to support the Water Protectors of Standing Rock. The exhibit, “Protect the Sacred: Native Artists for Standing Rock” opened on the eve of the Presidential Inauguration, and features artists from many tribal nations.
Proceeds from the NoDAPL art exhibit go toward the Water Protectors’ efforts.
“Part of what makes this NoDAPL art exhibit different is the timing,” said Asia Tail, Cherokee, the curator of the exhibit. “We are living in a moment of unprecedented solidarity between Native nations across the continent. What has been happening at Standing Rock has drawn us together in an incredible way, and that is reflected in the variety of voices in this exhibition.”
As described by Tail, many of the contributions are direct reflections of Standing Rock. “Coastal Wombyn’s Resistance,” an acrylic painting on canvas by Nahaan, incorporates Tlingit designs with a woman raising her fist in resistance.
Erin Genia’s (Sisseton-Wahpeton) “Mobile Spill Response,” uses clay, vinyl and found art as a mobile above a child’s crib. Showing the dangers of oil spills, it plays on the usage of the word “mobile” and the Exxon-Mobil company.
The Standing Rock, #NoDAPL, and water protector themes are a common thread throughout the exhibit. Many pieces from the show use the “Mni Wiconi” and “Keep It in the Ground” phrases used by water protectors on the front lines.
There are also themes based on the activism in Indian country in the NoDAPL art exhibit. “Tell the Truth,” an artistic representation of the late Dakota poet and AIM spokesperson John Trudell by Cheyenne Randall, (Cheyenne River Lakota) is a mixed media portrait that Tail says “is critical in the exhibition as it reminds us that this is not a new fight.”
According to Tail, many of the 26 artists donated anywhere from 50 to 100 percent of their sales to Standing Rock efforts. Tail said she left the decision to each artist.
“About 400 people have seen the show thus far and the gallery space was full for much of the opening, with maybe 250-300 people in attendance that night,” Tail said. “Local high school and college groups have also stopped by to see the show, and the exhibition’s message has been shared widely online.
“In the aftermath of Trump’s executive order, Native peoples everywhere need your support more than ever,” Tail said. “Help us protect our sacred water, our human rights, and our sovereignty for future generations.”