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Sandra Hale Schulman
Special to ICT

The latest: A contemporary artist takes on American Democracy, a film on returning to pre-colonial sustainable food wins a top award, and sleuth Cash Blackbear returns in a new mystery

ART: Exhibition aimed at ‘bucking the system’

Indigenous artist Gregg Deal — whose work challenges Western colonizer perceptions of Indigenous people — has an exhibition, “Merciless Indian Savages,” at the Fort Garland Museum and Cultural Center in Colorado.

The title draws from Thomas Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence, “The Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.”

Works by Indigenous artist Gregg Deal, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, are being shown at the Fort Garland Museum and Cultural Center in Colorado through Sept. 30, 2022. The exhibition, "Merciless Indian Savages," draws from a reference made by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. (Photo courtesy of Fort Garland History Colorado)

The works are aimed at answering the question of what American Democracy means to a person whose ancestors were insulted in its founding documents.

Deal’s silkscreens and paintings use historical images and pop culture illustrations updated to reflect current ways of thinking. Cartoon images turn the tables on oppressors, while classic portraits of Indigenous elders have red Xs painted over their mouths.

In a TED Talk, Deal described his work as “honoring Indigenous experiences, challenging stereotypes, and pushing for accurate representations of Indigenous people in art.”

In these "disruptions" of stereotypes and historical representations, Deal creates sculpture, performance, paintings, and murals.

“How people think we exist, what we look like, what we sound like, how we dress, how we present: all of those things end up being a big part of subject matter that I use to disrupt,” said Deal, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

“It falls under an old punk ethos, too, I think, in just constantly challenging and bucking the system.”

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Originally from Park City, Utah, Deal now lives in Colorado with his wife and five children. He has lectured at educational institutions and museums, including the Denver Art Museum, Dartmouth College, Columbia University and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. His television appearances include PBS’s “The Art District,” “The Daily Show” and “Totally Biased with Kamau Bell.”

The show at Fort Garland runs through Sept. 30.

FILM: ‘Gather’ wins James Beard broadcast award

The documentary film, “Gather,” which explores the importance of Native food systems, has won a prestigious James Beard Foundation broadcast media award,

The First Nations Development Institute announced in mid-June that the film, directed by Sanjay Rawal and produced by Tanya Mellier and Sterlin Harjo, Seminole/Muscogee, had won in the category of documentary/docuseries visual media.

Sammy Gensaw is one of the subjects of the documentary “Gather,” which won a James Beard Foundation award for broadcast documentaries for its story of Indigenous efforts to reclaim sustainable foods. (Photo by Renan Ozturk/Illumine courtesy of First Nations Development Institute)
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The full-length film, the result of a two-year collaboration between First Nations and Rawal, showcases community partners and their efforts to rebuild healthy and sustainable food ways that have been diminished as lands have been taken away.

It also explores the importance of Native food systems and the “post-apocalyptic” efforts underway to rebuild them, showing Indigenous efforts to raise buffalo, gather Native plants and fish for salmon.

“This award is an achievement not just for First Nations and Sanjay Rawal, but most importantly for our community partners that are strengthening and advancing Native food systems,” said Michael E. Roberts, president and chief executive of the First Nations institute.

Gather is a story that everyone needs to see, and winning this award only increases the impact of this film and its message about the resilience of Native communities.”

The James Beard Awards recognize exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media, and broader food systems. The Broadcast Media Awards are open to all works from digital and terrestrial media covering food and beverage topics.

Gather” is available on Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, and Vimeo.

BOOKS: Indigenous novelist tackles MMIW cases

White Earth Nation author Marcie R. Rendon’s award-winning Cash Blackbear series will be back this fall with her lead character, 19-year-old Cash, seeking the truth behind the disappearance of Indigenous women in Minnesota in the 1970s.

The book opens with a young Native woman’s body silently floating down the floodwaters of a midwestern town before cutting to a small, unmarked grave in a church graveyard and the cries of a baby as another Native woman is being battered to death and dumped in the woods.

The latest installment in author Marcie Rendon's Cash Blackbear mystery series is due out in Fall 2022. Rendon, a citizen of White Earth Nation, is tackling the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women. (Photo courtesy of Soho Press)

The book, “Sinister Graves,” is the third in Rendon’s Cash Blackbear Mystery series. Drawing from recent stories about missing and murdered Indigenous women and children, Rendon’s book offers background and depth to the tragedies.

Rendon, a citizen of White Earth Nation, is a Pinckley Prize–winning author, playwright, poet, freelance writer, and community arts activist. She was the first Native woman to receive the McKnight Foundation’s Distinguished Artist Award, in 2020. She lives in Minneapolis.

Rendon’s Ojibwe heroine, Blackbear, is an intelligent sleuth as she works through the cases.

The book has already drawn high praise.

“[Rendon] is one heck of a mystery novelist,” said Oprah Daily. “Rendon’s Cash Blackbear books are gripping vehicles that tell broader stories about the historical persecution of American Indians.”

The Los Angeles Review of Books said Rendon “masterfully weaves two stories in a seamless, vivid narrative.”

Rendon will be on tour this summer in Minnesota, including appearances on July 22 at the Anishinaabe Art Festival in Bemidji; on July 25 at Brainerd Public Library in Brainerd; and on Aug. 25 at the Red Shoes Writing Retreat Workshop in Fosston.

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