On Mass Cultural Council’s Power of Culture blog, multimedia artist Erin Genia, an enrolled member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate and a Mass Cultural Council Outreach Coordinator, wrote an intriguing post about institutional barriers to supporting Native American and indigenous artists.
One of the primary barriers is captured in this question: “How are arts and culture defined, and who gets to decide how they are defined?”
Arts and culture, as established by dominant Western discourses, are primarily the arts of description, communication, and representation… Museums, galleries, and theaters are where arts and culture live in the dominant world. This can be true for tribal communities’ arts and culture sectors, too, but our communities generally have an expanded concept of culture….
(C)ulture (to tribal peoples) is broadly characterized to include the complex whole of traditions passed down by each generation that evolve with our ever-changing world. Culture is comprised of the interconnected relationships between economy, governance, ecology, spirituality, art, language, and other aspects of life. Those collective attributes determine who the people are. Arts and culture are not necessarily synonymous….
Supporting the essential creative work happening in the communities of the original peoples of this land means respecting and fostering the ways arts and culture is truly practiced and defined.
Image: THE UNIVERSE IS MY REGALIA, a painting by Erin Genia.