We Sing Our Songs
An exhibit catalog that features the digital photography work of Anishinaabe artists living in Minnesota.
In Progress proudly present We Sing Our Songs a collection of photographic works by emerging artists from Indigenous communities throughout Minnesota The works speak to the rich diversity that exists within every culture. It calls for everyone to watch and appreciate the traditions, values, aspirations and fears of the young artists that produced the contents of this book. These works were all created through the use of digital cameras and computers and were then printed, framed and presented publicly by the following artists Phyllis Nicole Isham ~~ William Robinson Stately ~~ Nicole Staples We thank all of the artists that have lent their work to the production of this exhibit Imagine something so beautiful, so enchanting yet so obvious, that you take it for granted, and you never miss it until it's gone. These precious things are our reservations. In my photo-work I see the inner-beauty, and capture it. Sure it may be beautiful for just a brief moment, yet within that moment, you see colors so vivid, so clear, it's like your eyes have just been opened…and it makes tears, its that beautiful. You feel the sunlight hit your face, the children laughing, the elders talking, even feel the wind playing with your hair. You might say "wow I've never noticed that in my neighborhood" yet it is there, every waking day and every starry night. That is what I do. I see the inner beauty of the reservations, capture it and show my people what we take for granted. I have seen the world like this all my life, and over the past few years I have learned to capture it through the art of photography. Thanks to my friends and mentors, I now see the many possibilities within my work. I am able to show the hidden treasures that all reservations possess, be it landscapes, children, elders, dogs, or even cars. Tarah Jean Jackson Ogichidaakweg Founding Mother OUR TRADITIONS OGICHIDAAG Royal Rock is a young warrior a father a brother a son a marine Cheyenne Whitefeather Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation THE MOON SHINES BRIGHT The moon shines bright in the night I shine too. . . . When I dance in the light of the sun my jingles create a storm of beautiful sounds I dance for the sun and the moon and the sun and moon shine back with their thanks! Shania Redday S Lake Village / Leech Lake Nation JUNIOR PRINCESS This is a picture of Amanda Crane. She resides in the little town of Ball Club, Minnesota! This young girl is Leech Lakeâ€™s Junior Princess. I have had the privilege of getting to know her from all the Pow-wowâ€™s that we traveled to. If you have ever gone to the surrounding community Powwows, you might have seen her. I hope someday, you have the privilege of knowing her! Yodi Georgianna Morris Cloud Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation KEEPERS OF OUR FUTURE Please remember our young ones. Take a few minutes out of your day to teach us our culture. Mii-Gwetch. Dedicated to the keepers of our future Yodi Georgianna Morris Cloud Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation NATIVE PRIDE Itâ€™s important to be proud of who and what you are and thatâ€™s exactly what I am, proud! It makes me feel good to see the elders dance even more so when I watch my brothers sing. I like to see young children learning how to dance and sing. In that way, our language and culture should never disappear. Remember, always be proud of who you are and never let anybody tell you differently! Karen Jourdain Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation BLUE BUTTERFLY I really like dancing because it's who I am as a person. It feels good to me. When I am dancing, it feels like I am a beautiful Native American and that my dancing is also very beautiful. When people see this I want them to see me as a blue butterfly. Jenna Lee Porter Nett Lake Village / Bois Forte Nation HONORING OUR FAMILY TRADITIONS I often think of the many generations that have honored my family. So much has been passed on over the years and now it is all coming to me. I will honor the dresses and the great lives they were attached to. I will remember the paddles that took me to the island of my ancestors. When I dance I will feel the grace of my ancestors. I will never forget the past. Marissa Mason Nett Lake Village / Bois Forte Nation MAHNOMEN Ricing is one of our favorite traditions here in Nett Lake Village. It is one of many ways that connect us to the history of our people. My ancestors riced. My grandparents still rice. My sisters and brothers are learning to rice. I will teach the next generation to rice. This is how we hold on to the traditions that make us Anishinabe. Jeanette Long Nett Lake Village / Bois Forte Nation IMPARTIAL THOUGHTS so sad that you don’t judge me by my love I’m not as Indian as I look nor am I white, nor black I’m simply me, no more Don’t be discouraged when you find I’m not as Indian as I look There are people just like I, not knowing there are prejudices Caring not of the world around I’m not as dumb as I look Tarah Jean Jackson Inger - Leech Lake Nation JINGLE DRESS The jingle dress dancers in the picture are Yodi Morris and me. My mother made my dress in 4 days, while Yodi had hers made by a lady from Nay-Tah-Waush, Minnesota. I recently learned how to make my own dresses just by watching my mother. One of these days I hope to make one of my nieces a dress, although I made one dress already. Jingle dress dancing makes me feel proud of who I am and where I come from, and hopefully everyone else does, too. Karen Jourdain Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation That was a beautiful day when the scales fell from my eyes and I first encountered photographic sovereignty. A beautiful day when I decided that I would take responsibility to reinterpret images of Native peoples. My mind was ready, primed with stories of resistance and resilience, stories of survival. My views of these images are aboriginally based, an indigenous perspective, not a scientific Godly order, but philosophically Native. Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie Ogichidaakweg Mentor RE-WRITING OUR HISTORIES BY THE LAKE As I stand by the lake I can see into the mountains I see a light shining so bright it reflects upon me I can feel myself getting stronger and stronger Itâ€™s my ancestors telling me to be strong because life gets harder as life goes on Nicole Auginash Minneapolis/Red Lake Nation DRINK FROM THE WATER David Sam Minneapolis / Bois Forte Nation WAITING Angela Sage Minneapolis / Leech Lake Nation RICING Ashley Sage Minneapolis / Leech Lake Nation LAKOTA HOME Thorne LaPointe Minneapolis / Rosebud Nation THEY SAY Kristina Graham Minneapolis / Leech Lake Nation CHIEF JOSEPH Kameko Graves Minneapolis / Leech Lake Nation BY THE LAKE They are waiting for their people. They are waiting for their families. They are the chiefs of the Native people. They are waiting the sun to rise and the moon to go down. They are telling this man about their reservation on their horses. Zenaida Soto Minneapolis/Leech Lake Nation WHAT IS A TERRORIST? Terrorism has been around forever. Native Americans first encountered terrorism with the meeting of Columbus. But who is the terrorist? It will almost always be seen differently by those whose ancestors have had to live in terror. For Native people, terrorism is not an act of an individual but instead an act of many â€“ of government, military, conflicts between those with different color of skins and different ways of thinking and believing. Never forget the past because it is our future. Martin Mendoza Minneapolis/Red Lake Nation A revolution in thought, where young Native Americans can become more than just what others expect them to be, where they can reach goals because of a support system that encourages them to attain more than just their own dreams, but to help the ones behind them as well. A thought, which includes those who are not afraid of mingling with the young Aborigines within the community. It has been a discussion amongst we Ogichidaakweg that we will become more independent, and more responsible for the younger ones in the program. Although we have very busy and very irregular lives, ones which involve poverty as well as what society calls â€œdysfunctional familiesâ€?, we have endured all, surviving on one thought alone, we can do anything we want. This main thought was created within the first year of the Ogichidaakweg Program. Here we were allowed to use our minds, nothing was right, nothing was wrong. Yet some created photos that were pleasant to look at, while others said what they thought our instructors wanted to hear. Some stood out by speaking out right away. This has been Sisters In Leadership, this has been Ogichidaakweg. Tarah Jean Jackson Ogichidaakweg Founding Mother OUR BROTHERS & SISTERS THE WORLD IS HERS Maylyna is having fun with her balloon on her second birthday because she likes birthdays! It looks like she owns the world! Ashley Anderson S Lake Village / Leech Lake Nation ME & MY REZ DOGS This is me and the family of animals that I am constantly around. I really have fun just playing with them. I know that they like to be around me too. Thatâ€™s why they never get bored following me around. Danielle White Kego Lake Village / Leech Lake Nation GROWING WINGS Everyone has experienced something in their lifetime that they have grown to regret. I have tried my best to make the wrong things I have done in life right. However, sometimes there is no repairing a bad decision. With every bad choice you lose something important, like trust. I lost my momâ€™s trust as the result of one really bad choice I made. It took more than two years for me to get just a little of that trust back. But now that I have it, I feel as if I can fly again like the butterfly I am. Cheyenne Whitefeather Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation HANGINâ€™ OUT I like hanginâ€™ out in the woods. My first photograph shows me sitting on a tree that had fallen down. It looked like something was behind me. My background is light red and on the ground it is dark purple. I like the photograph where I was upside down. My background was done in dark red. The woods are scary sometimes but they can also but fun. Derek Morrison Nett Lake Village / Bois Forte Nation LIKE A KID AGAIN When I swing I feel like a kid again. If I can swing high enough someday I might fly right back to my childhood. Marissa Mason Nett Lake Village / Bois Forte Nation GLAMOUR A young girl living the life in the enchanted forest Jessica White Kego Lake Village / Leech Lake Nation WHEN I LOOK AT THIS FEATHER I am in my own world safe from harm I glow like this feather we beat as one it is a part of me now and forever Nicole Auginash Columbia Heights / Red Lake Nation BLUE & GREEN Maylyna is sweet and happy almost all of the time, but sometimes she can get mad. Thatâ€™s when her world gets dark and blue and green! Ashley Anderson S Lake Village / Leech Lake Nation As you were growing up your mother always told you if you didn't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. With today's political issues it's hard to keep that saying in mind. My goal is to teach people to have a strong voice. In this day and age, we've come along way from where we started at, When I think about the way things were for my elders, one word comes to mind; HARDSHIPS. Our elders sacrificed and were put through a lot to pave the road for us today. For that I'm very thankful. . . . . I know it takes more than one person to change the world, but if enough people begin to speak to what they believe â€“ to what they know, we as a whole, can all make the world a better place. I now know my mission in life, I want to teach people how to voice their opinions, how to speak up for themselves. We can all do something to make this world a better place for our children and our children's children. Sommer Mitchell Ogichidaakweg Founding Mother OUR RESILIENCE IS THIS WHAT WE WANT THEM TO BE? When we are young, we look up to older people to teach us things. And the people that we look up to the most are our parents. But many kids have to watch their parents drink, and more than likely fight. As the kids grow up they learn that drinking is a way of life and is an exciting way to live. But its not! We need to realize that kids are smart. They watch and listen to things as well as people. So sometimes WE have to watch what we say and do. Kids donâ€™t need alcohol in their life, they need a role model! Tia Michaud Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation INVISIBLE I know a lot of people have felt invisible or unnoticed before. It is a horrible, painful, and depressing experience. You fill yourself up with anger, trying to get others to notice and appreciate who really are, only to realize that you will always be invisible to them. Airlea Defoe Nett Lake Village / Bois Forte Nation PREJUDICE There is prejudice everywhere. Even though you may think you are not prejudice, you can be in several ways. Many people are prejudice. They stare at you, point and even call you mean names. These actions make you want to fight back. It makes you angry. People who are prejudice can cause a neighbor to move away, to leave. To be prejudice is to be mean and those that are prejudice should learn how not to be. Some people think they can act like they’re prejudice, laughing around, making bad jokes and that it’s okay because after all "they’re only joking." But it’s not funny! These people need to learn that prejudice is no joke. Prejudice ruins lives. It hurts us all. It’s time for prejudice to stop! Regina Walker Boy RIver / Leech Lake Nation I AM STRONGER . . . . I have been through much in my life. I have been through many good things and just as many bad things. There are times when I am incredibly happy and times when I am incredibly sad. And yet, the worst and best of times I know are not behind me. They are yet to come. With what I have been through I have become strong enough to handle what will come next. Iâ€™ve taken some bad paths in my life but now Iâ€™m on the right path. During those bad times, I found the few things that could make me bigger, faster, smarter and stronger. I discovered with these skills that I could pull myself up and start over. For me, my light in the darkness was basketball and how I could apply this to other aspects of my life. Now Iâ€™m able to tell the difference between right and wrong and I am on the right path in my life. I am stronger . . . . Aaron Villebrun Nett Lake Village / Bois Forte Nation PLAIN HUMAN There are times I feel I am going to cry. The tears of anger are always there. There is no one to talk to. Maybe this is the only way I can get by. My anger to me seems unfair. Maybe one day I’ll get a clue. I’ve got to learn to control this rage within me. It is what I’ve got to accomplish. I’ve got more things that need my attention and I feel I’m going to flee. All I know is this is like trying to hold a slippery fish and now I’m feeling allot of tension. Why are the feelings always so confusing? Why do I feel them all the time? Is it because I’m weird? Or just plain human? Freda Littlewolf Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation TO TELL With these picturesâ€Śthe ones soon to come, I will be telling of my past, the past no one knows aboutâ€Śno one but the people who have done the harm, and myself. Having To deal with things by myself, for fear of people thinking ill of my family, which people think highly of, is a big scare to me. I know not what or how much to tell or even what or even if I should. But I know that because of what happened in my past, it has traumatized me so much, I have lost my memories of my childhood. Tarah Jean Jackson Inger / Leech Lake Nation LIFE Please take my hand and guide me through the dense foliage of condescensions, I have adopted on my own. These do not belong to me. Give them back so I may see myself shine like I once did. I want to keep the pain though because it reaches me that I am ALIVE. That I have ENDURED. That I have risen to new heights and that I can go higher. Kiss me and breath wisdom and knowledge into my soul so I may be whole and not insignificant to the BEHEMOTH that is LIFEâ€? fei.III. Phyllis Nicole Isham Cass Lake/ Leech Lake Nation WHERE AM I? Julie Isham Nett Lake Village / Bois Forte Nation HULK Phyllis Nicole Isham Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation DEAD Airlea Defoe FRYBREAD Julian Weyaus Minneapolis / Leech Lake Nation PHOTOGRAPHER Braenne Porter Nett Lake Village / Bois Forte Nation soaring above the spirits whispering it all means just one thing BEAUTY Marissa Mason Ogichidaakweg Artist THE NATURE OF OUR MINDS MAGIC WOODS She looked as if she would never be ruled by another or leave the home she had known forever Tiffany Skinaway Nett Lake Village / Bois Forte Nation ROAD HOME Marissa Mason Nett Lake Village / Bois Forte Nation BENCH Jonathan Connor Nett Lake Village / Bois Forte Nation SHADOW TREE Tiffany Skinaway Nett Lake Village / Bois Forte Nation FREE Kristen Bryan S Lake Village / Leech Lake Nation SUNSET Annette Lee Johnson Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation DEAD BUTTERFLY Jonathan Connor Nett Lake Village / Bois Forte Nation NATUREâ€™S BEAUTY Marissa Mason Nett Lake Village / Bois Forte Nation NEVER FORGET Tiffany Skinaway Nett Lake Village / Bois Forte Nation I've seen so much and what I have seen has taught me that there is beauty here in this place I call home. Some say that our community is lost, but I disagree. I just think that we need more people to care about what the youth do, then maybe our community will see hope and not a dead end road! Parents need to talk to their kids let them know someone loves them. While I was growing up I always wanted to get off the reservation but I now realize that you can't run from your home no matter what. Youâ€™ve got to face it with full force and never give up. If we can believe in each other, we can change our reservations for the better. Nicole Staples Ogichidaakweg Founding Mother THIS PLACE CALLED HOME FALLING TO PIECES Every day you see things that you donâ€™t notice. These things may be broken, rusted, old, etc. They are practically invisible to most people. I saw these things and took in their beauty. Breanna MiettInen S Lake Village / Leech Lake Nation FALLING TO PIECES Breanna Miettinen S Lake Village / Leech Lake Nation MIKEâ€™S HOUSE William Robinson Stately Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation OLD CASS LAKE Elaine Greenleaf Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation BOY RIVER Regina Walker Boy River / Leech Lake Nation DRIVING SCENES Nicole Staples Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation I always seemed to remember things as momentary flashes, or when I had seen things that maybe I would have preferred not to see at all- the image, the moment has been forever burned into the visionary recollection part of my brain. When I remember something, the scene plays in my head like a sequence. Some call it a photographic memory, or play-by-play-playback. Either way, this strange sort of thinking led me to grow into an image saver, a video artist, a bit of a manipulator, and as of now, a philosopher. I remember wanting to be able to accurately describe to someone something truly amazing, to advocate for a feeling or a belief. To SAY SOMETHING in a way that could make eyes open and ears listen. To inspire others to embrace the chance to do the same. Phyllis Nicole Isham Ogichidaakweg Artist WELCOME TO OUR POW-WOWS SCENES FROM OUR POW-WOWS The pow-wow represents for most Indigenous people a time to gather and join in dancing, visiting, sleeping-over, renewing old friendships and making new ones. This is a time to refresh thoughts of the old ways and to preserve a rich heritage. The following images were taken by Ogichidaakweg artists while attending local pow wows. Communities represented in this book are from Cass Lake Pow Wow S Lake Pow Wow Onigum Pow Wow Nicole Staples Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation DANCER Simone Greenleaf Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation NATE KING & LARRY STILLDAY Breanna Miettinen S Lake Village / Leech Lake Nation PRINCESSES Nicole Staples Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation SHAWL Elaine Greenleaf Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation GUY CLOUD Kristen Bryan S Lake Village / Leech Lake Nation MOTHER’S MOCCASINS Simone Greenleaf Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation BUSTLE Ivie Roberts Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation DRUMS Karen Jourdain Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation READY TO DANCE Elaine Greenleaf Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation MARGARET Breanna Miettinen S Lake Village / Leech Lake Nation TAKING PICTURES Tarah Jean Jackson Inger Village / Leech Lake Nation Through many years of lack of motivation, equipment problems, feuds between relatives, co-issues, schedule conflicts, (the list just keeps on going), Ogichidaakweg has tackled many of the issues that have "popped up" through out the years we have been a "family." We all have our moments and our stories, and I personally can say that I will remember them & pass them on to the next generation of artists and storytellers. When I first started Ogichidaakweg, I was a youth, learning & absorbing as I went along. All the hours is just now beginning to pay off & I can see the road I am destined for. I'm very eager to pass on what I've been taught & what I have learned to the next generation. Yodi Georgianna Morris Cloud Ogichidaakweg Founding Mother OUR MOMENTS OUR STORIES AUNTY FIXES CARS I watched my Aunty Kelly tear her Subaru apart from the inside out; then put it all back together after she was done. It took her three days and three nights, plus she got battery fluid all over her hands and they were numb for a month. Her hands are always dirty, little spots of black speckle her worn out workers hands…it doesn’t bother her, neither do her crusty bare feet. When I showed this photo to her, she laughed really hard and said “look at my feet! Ish, look at my toes, my one toe is longer than my big toe…” When men come to see what she’s doing in the garage, they laugh at her. They don’t think she’s any good at fixing cars. They offer to help. They give her advice on what she can do “better.” I remember one guy was making fun of her, like she was going to ruin her car. My Native Aunty never needs a man’s advice. My Aunty fixes cars. Phyllis Nicole Isham Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation ODDITY I believe that itâ€™s like this: what I was not able to see was there either way. There will be folks that do not approve of this picture, They might call me disrespectful. Who knows. My intentions were good. I like it, It gives me shivers down my spine. My intentions are good, even though I cannot explain exactly what has been captured-or why it was there. Phyllis Nicole Isham Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation EVENING GAME Gary Charwood Jr. S Lake Village / Leech Lake Nation WHAT ROAD TO TRAVEL? Shoshanna Beauchamp Nett Lake Village / Bois Forte Nation REZ SKATER Alexa Goodsky Nett Lake Village / Bois Forte Nation HER SADNESS Her sadness is seen in the beauty of her eyes. Marissa Mason Nett Lake Village / Bois Forte Nation CHOICES they see our choices and from those they learn to make their choices what will we show them? will they make the better choice? Nicole Staples Cass Lake / Leech Lake Nation FOR THE LOVE OF THE YOUNG ONES you give me strength you teach me love you show me hope you help me understand my purpose for this I will always fight for you protect you care for you love you Margaret Charwood S Lake Village / Leech Lake Nation WE SING OUR SONGS DIGITAL ARTISTS LEECH LAKE NATION Cass Lake Township Yodi Georgianna Morris Cloud Elaine Greenleaf Simone Greenleaf Phyllis Nicole Isham Annette Johnson Karen Jourdain Freda Littlewolf Tia Michaud Sommer Mitchell Ivie Roberts William Robinson Stately Nicole Staples Cheyenne Whitefeather Boy River Regina Walker Inger Village Tarah Jean Jackson Kego Lake Village Regina Walker Danielle White Jessica White S Lake Village Ashley Anderson Kristen Bryan Gary Charwood Jr. Margaret Charwood Breanna Miettinen Shania Redday BOIS FORTE NATION MINNEAPOLIS Nett Lake Village Shoshanna Beauchamp Jonathan Connor Airlea Defoe Alexa Goodsky Julie Isham Marissa Mason Derek Morrison Jenna Lee Porter Tiffany Skinaway Aaron Villebrun Four DIrections Charter School Nicole Auginash Thorne LaPointe Kristina Graham Kameko Graves Martin Mendoza Angela Sage Ashley Sage David Sam Zenaida Soto Julian Weyaus Acknowledgements The WE SING OUR SONGS exhibit would not have been possible without the extraordinary efforts and contributions of the local community. With that we would like to thank the following: Families - parents, spouses, siblings, children and friends that supported these artists while they took time to plan and prepare this exhibit, and that continue to support their artistic development with kind words and guidance. Curators & Organizers for giving many extra hours of your time and effort to this project. Mentors for seeing the extraordinary gifts that exist within the young artists they taught. Partners for giving In Progress a home during its workshops and bringing us new artists to work with each year. Special thanks to Gary Charwood Sr., Nadine Chase, Elaine Fleming, Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie, Gary Rosato, Paula Krueger, Roxanne Drumbeater, DeDe Drift, Wendy Drift, Theresa Strong, Toni Wakemup, Billie Mason, Juanita Espinosa, Carrie Estey Contributors for providing In Progress with a financial base that allowed for the expense of workshops, mentorships and exhibits. We would like to specifically thank: The Rockefeller Foundation The Minnesota State Arts Board - Arts In Education Program The National Endowment for the Arts - Arts In Education Program The Blandin Foundation, Ruth Taylor & Denise Mayotte Visitors who came and witnessed the work, spoke encouragingly to our artists and shared what they saw with others. To everyone that supported this exhibit, in Progress would like to say Migwetch, thank you!