Dakota elder leadership and Scaffold

I’ve written recently about the sculpture called Scaffold, that was being installed at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and then about the mediation that occurred and resulted in the sculpture being removed from the art center.

The story caught my attention because of my opportunities to spend time with Native Americans over the past year as we worked to try to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (#noDAPL).   And because I had seen the very moving Dakota video, Dakota 38, which is about the hanging of 38 Dakota warriors at the same time, one of the things the sculpture Scaffold represents.

The blog post referenced below is a very interesting discussion about cultural appropriation and the dominant culture.  This is a subject I have heard some discussion about, and thought about, at the Kheprw Institute (KI).  I had been used to taking many photos to document various situations I’ve been involved with.  But I quickly became aware that there was some discomfort/apprehension with me doing so at the KI meetings.  So I stopped, or asked permission to take photos.  I was glad to be asked to provide some photography classes during KI’s summer camp.

I’ve also been sensitive to this during the past year related to Dakota Access Pipeline gatherings.   But some of the gatherings were intended to call attention to the pipeline related issues, and I took many photos then.

From the blog describing the leadership of the Dakota elders in the Scaffold process:

But in the end, Dakota elders led a healing ceremony with all parties in the circle.

In the typical narrative, the Dakota are portrayed as aggrieved victims. It needs to be stated clearly: the Dakota elders were exemplary leaders. They spoke of bringing “positive energy” to the Garden. The Dakota had no institutional power. Their power and leadership came from their moral authority on this issue, which resonated with many of us in the community, both Native and non-Native peoples.

We will have to wait and see what emerges from the Dakota-Walker collaboration moving forward. Meanwhile, there remain important issues to reflect upon. One is how to talk about cultural appropriation, the other is removing the veil of the dominant narrative and acknowledging the leadership Dakota elders brought to the table.




This entry was posted in #NDAPL, Arts, Black Lives, civil disobedience, Indigenous, Kheprw Institute, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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