First American Art Magazine No. 21, Winter 2018/19 - Page 93

MEMORIAL Excellent didactics explain all aspects of life before settler-colonists forced the people onto reservations. Visitors can listen to audio in English or Blackfoot. The trauma and long-term effects of residential schooling are reiterated, yet so is cultural resilience. Easily overlooked but most remarkable for this author was the display of Iinisskimm—buffalo calling stones, often part of sacred bundles. These were acceptable to show because they had never been used in ceremony. Numerous informational handouts throughout the galleries offer deeper explanations of particular items as well as nearby sites such as Old Woman’s Buffalo Jump and Utsitakakspi (Old Man’s Gambling Place). One can learn more about daily life and worldviews on an accom- panying interactive website, available in Blackfoot, English, and French. 6 Shell Canada is a major sponsor of this long-term exhibi- tion. Schmidt says that although the issue of natural resource extraction and ownership remains controversial, many things have changed in both corporate and Indigenous communities’ understandings and approaches to the debate in recent decades. There will never be consensus, but in Canada (perhaps more so than the United States), corporations acknowledge they should work with local communities for permission and subsequent economic development. Some Indigenous leaders advise corporate boards and recognize the possibility for growth. The company’s sponsorship of the Niitsitapiisini exhibition will not cleanse their image for many; however, Albertans know their arts have been funded almost exclusively from oil and gas revenues. Schmidt notes that in light of the recent economic downturn, funding sources are becoming more diverse. In 2008, Enbridge and Suncor Energy supported an exhibi- tion and accompanying publication titled Honouring Tradition: Reframing Native Art. Glenbow invited artist Frederick R. McDonald (Woodland Cree) to select items from the collection, then asked Mekwun Awisi (Joe Deschamps) (Nêhiyawak [Plains Cree]), Allan Pard, Rosie Firth (Gwich’in), and many of the artists for their insights on the objects. Honouring Tradition included over 40 artists from several regional collections. Most works were made after the 19th century, but one of the oldest sculptures was a bison figure from the Northern Plains carved from green quartzite around 1200. Cradle (1992) by Faye HeavyShield (Kainai) is powerful in its subtleties. Of the work, the artist wrote, “For a world that continues to believe that the noble savage is still up for adoption: the cradle is empty. The aged child stands beside you, with teeth, with voice, with song.” In a gallery featuring new acquisitions, Whalebone Carving (late 1970s) by Abraham Anghik Ruben (Inuvialuk) stands out for its size and ambiguity. Added stones and bones create numerous eyes and teeth, with the effect that multiple faces pop out from all angles. Comparable in some ways to work by Isamu Noguchi, Ruben’s dynamic sculpture demonstrates the impossibility of defining “Indigenous art,” and its placement in one of the nation’s largest collections reflects Glenbow’s ongoing support for Indigenous artists. 6. “Niitsitapiisini: Our Way of Life,” Glenbow Museum, 2018, blackfoot. DUGAN AGUILAR August 8, 1947–October 6, 2018 H IS CRISP, BLACK-AND-WHITE PHOTOS gave the world a vibrant, compassionate, and au courant vision of Indigenous peoples of California. For 40 years Robert Dugan Aguilar (Maidu-Northern Paiute- Achomawi) reflected back the people and natural scenes of his California homelands. His photographs have been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally, published in books and periodicals, and are held in public collections, such as Princeton University, Autry Museum of the American West, and British Museum. For 30 years Aguilar served as staff photog- rapher for the California Indian Basketweavers’ Association and California Indian Storytelling Association. From the heart of Indian Country, Aguilar created a visual testimony “to show that we as California Native people are alive and well.” 1 Aguilar was born in Susanville, California, to Virginia and Bob Aguilar. There he grew up in an intertribal community and regularly participated in the Bear Dance. He earned an industrial technology and design degree from California State University, Fresno, in 1973. A pivotal moment occurred that same year when Aguilar visited an Ansel Adams exhibition at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. The immense, black-and-white photographs of nature transfixed the young man, and he became determined to become a photographer. Aguilar enrolled in the University of Nevada, Reno, to study photography. While he worked as a graphic artist for 30 years at the Sacramento Bee, Aguilar was able to refine his skills and hone his artistic voice. Ultimately he became respected as one of the leading Native American photographers. As Tlingit-Nisga’a photographer Larry McNeil told the Santa Monica Times, “Dugan’s photography embodies the ancient spirits of giving and sharing: it’s visual poetry that resonates through time with the land and the people gently, yet assertively.… Beautiful and insightful photographic storytelling for all people of the world.” 2 Twenty-eight of Aguilar’s photographs are featured in a multiyear, statewide retrospective, She Sang Me a Good Luck Song: The California Indian Photographs of Dugan Aguilar. While showcasing his eye for natural settings and architectural elements, the exhibition focuses on Aguilar’s portraits—young, old, urban, rural, in ceremonies, working, relaxing. His photo- graphs reflect the diversity and beauty of Native California. On October 6, 2018, Aguilar walked on from Elk Grove, California. He leaves a legacy of publications, including the cata- logue, She Sang Me A Good Luck Song, and his photographs in The Dirt Is Red Here, Deeper Than Gold, Weaving a California Tradition, and News from Native California magazine, which will allow future generations to discover his unique, artistic vision. —America Meredith 1. Victoria Dalkey, “Reflections of a People: Keeper of a Flame,” Sacramento Bee (August 18, 2001), web. 2. “ ‘She Sang Me a Good Luck Song’: Photographs of Dugan Aguilar Exhibition at the DANA Adobe Cultural Center,” Santa Maria Times (June 14, 2018), web. WINTER 2018/19 | 91