University of Michigan students and Ann Arbor residents lined Liberty Street as they waited to fill the Michigan Theater for the final episode of the Penny Stamps Speaker Series with Andrea Carlsona Chicago-based visual artist who identifies as Ojibwe and showcases Indigenous cultures in her art to call on institutions to support Indigenous land rights.
The ground floor of the theater was almost completely full during Carlson’s presentation while others watched the event on line. the Carlson exhibition, “Cache of the future,” is currently on display at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA). It includes a 40-foot-tall memorial wall and will be at UMMA until the summer of 2024.
Jennifer Friess, Associate Curator at UMMA, opened the conference by introducing Carlson and highlighting his past accomplishments – his work has been Featured at a time national and international collections. Carlson also received the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Scholarshipa national award in 2017.
Carlson spoke about his background, career, works, and how his art at UMMA brings attention to the Burt Lake Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. She said Indigenous peoples were expelled from their homes in 1900 and the effect of generational trauma is still felt in Indigenous communities today.
“In the early morning hours of October 15, 1900, a number of men were expelled of at least 77 homes,” Carlson said. “It’s a really tough story. He belongs to the people of Burt Lake. Part of the experience of the Indigenous peoples is this feeling of separation and this feeling of being cut into pieces…Tripping us from our land, taking all of our children. It is a colonial tactic aimed at separating us from ourselves.
Carlson said she still hopes the Burt Lake Tribe and others who have experienced similar trauma can heal. She said that while most people think of healing as something that will happen in the future, she sees healing as something that can start here and now.
“When I thought about what I was going to put together, I thought about the idea of wholeness, the idea of belonging,” Carlson said. “People constantly think that in the future there will be healing and repair, but…we shouldn’t wait for the future.”
Carlson then introduced his friend, poet Marc Turcotte, a member of the Chippewa tribe. She invited him on stage to recite an original poem called “A Very Distant Drumming” based on a combination of stories from the people of Burt Lake and a dream Turcotte had of his father. Turcotte said listening to Carlson’s presentation inspired him to think about the impact of his work and everyone’s responsibility to support Indigenous rights.
“As Andrea spoke, I became more and more aware of what was going on, and it’s the incredible responsibility and care that goes into doing what she is doing on behalf of the people of Burt Lake,” said declared Turcotte. “People always say, ‘What can I do to help people?’ These are the kinds of things you can do to help. Don’t tell their story. Help them tell their story.
Law school student Tim Devine told the Michigan Daily that he thinks it’s important for the campus community to attend events like these and see Carlson’s artwork because it depicts how the Burt Lake Band was unjustly stripped of their lands.
“I think it’s important for…the University of Michigan community to understand that they are part of a community that is complicit in the continued illicit possession of land that has been violently taken, and people should go seeing the art to have a more emotional sense for what the band can be negated by this ongoing evil,” Devine said.
Ethriam Brammer, who identifies as Chicano and serves as Rackham’s assistant dean, attended the event. He told The Daily that it’s important for students and community members to participate in conversations about Indigenous tribes, the abuses they’ve suffered in the past, and how tribes are working to heal.
“I think public art is an incredible platform to talk about important social issues and the tragedy of Burt Lake and being able to increase the visibility of this tragic event in history is really important, so I am glad UMMA brought this exhibit to campus, so that we can engage in this important conversation and the trauma it has caused,” Brammer said.
Daily News contributor Sneha Dhandapani can be reached at [email protected]