Native American history and art are at the heart of a trio of exhibits at Edgewood College Gallery in The Stream, 1000 Edgewood College Drive. “Re-Riding History: From the Southern Plains to the Matanzas Bay,” “The Art of Ho-Chunk Basket Making,” and “John Hitchcock: Protectors” will be on display until Feb. 26.
At the core of “Re-Riding History: From the Southern Plains to the Matanzas Bay” are historical events that defined a century of the U.S. government’s policy of assimilating American Indian people. One of the earlier events involved leaders of the Plains tribes — Cheyenne, Kiowa, Comanche, Arapaho, and Caddo — being forcibly removed from their homes in Salt Fork, Okla., and transported by train to Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Fla. There, the 72 men were imprisoned for their involvement in the Red River Wars in Indian Territory, now Oklahoma.
As part of a plan to “civilize” prisoners, they were taught English, converted to Christianity, and given a trade. When they learned to draw in the new style, rather than their traditional symbolic drawings on rock or hides, they were encouraged and given old ledgers or account books to draw in. These now historic ledger drawings were made by 26, mostly Cheyenne and Kiowa, of the 72 prisoners. Hundreds of drawings depict the men’s former lives as warriors, hunters, and suitors; as well as their new lives as prisoners and students.
American Indians were also forced into off-reservation boarding schools. The federal off-reservation boarding school policy was upheld in the U.S. until the 1930s.
Co-curators of “Re-Riding History: From the Southern Plains to the Matanzas Bay,” Emily Arthur (assistant professor, department of art, UW-Madison), Marwin Begaye (assistant professor of printmaking and painting, University of Oklahoma), and John Hitchcock (professor, department of art, UW-Madison), reached out to 72 current artists to create a contemporary response to the historical experiences of the 72 prisoners and other American Indians’ forced assimilation. Each artist created an individual work on paper in the same dimensions as the historic ledger drawings made at Fort Marion.
The assemblage of the 72 exhibit artists include Native Americans, non-Natives, and descendants from the 72 imprisoned American Indian leaders, as well as the Chiricahua Apache peoples later imprisoned at Fort Marion.
Artists with connections to Wisconsin or UW-Madison include Faisal Abdu’Allah, Jennifer Angus, Arthur, Derrick Busich, Laurie Beth Clark, Sonya Clark, Michael Connors, Jim Denomie, Melissa Harshman, Hitchcock, Mary Hood, Tom Jones, Maren Muñoz, Alex J. Peña, Hoka Skenandore, Ericka Walker and Dyani White Hawk.
“Re-Riding History: From the Southern Plains to the Matanzas Bay” is a traveling exhibition that opened in January 2015 at Flagler College’s Crisp-Ellert Art Museum in St. Augustine, Fla. The exhibit’s closing exhibition is scheduled for June through October 2018 in the Trout Gallery at the Art Museum of Dickinson College, Carlisle, Penn.
Featured in the Gallery’s display cases, “The Art of Ho-Chunk Basket Making” has an array of historic and contemporary baskets. Once an economic source of income for the Ho-Chunk people, families would spend winters creating the black ash baskets to sell to tourists at roadside stands in the summer months. Now, the baskets are prized art objects in collections all over the world. JoAnn Jones, Tom Jones and Michael Schmudlach have loaned baskets from their collections for this exhibit.
“John Hitchcock: Protectors” was created by “Re-Riding History’s” co-curator Hitchcock. In the Gallery’s Atrium, multiple screenprint images of bison skulls are mounted on a background of Naugahyde pelts in forms that suggest land masses.