Imagine, if you will, having lived in the lands which are now America for thousands upon thousands of years. Then aliens from across the sea spread over your land like blood from a wound, bringing smallpox and cholera, diseases for which you have no resistance; cheating you out of your land, using it for settled agriculture as a commodity, not for sustainable self- sufficiency; bringing noisy and pol- luting railroads, telegraphs, mining, industrialization; destroying your game animals; coming after you with armies which commit atrocities; distorting your sophisticated spiritual beliefs with an overlay of their monotheistic, judgmental God, forcing you into their coercive schools; giving you no option but to join an extractive economy which is so far from your non-monetary, cooperative sharing way. How would you feel? How could you express that rage, sorrow, displacement as you become a stranger in your own land?
The just-opened exhibition at Bates College, “Exploding Native Inevitable,” (the title is a riff on Warhol) tries to come to grips with this history through art by Indigenous people, some well- known, some not, from many different nations and parts of the country, Maine, Kansas, New Mexico, California; from Seattle, Washington; Muskogee, Oklahoma (where my parents got mar- ried); Manhattan, Omaha, Nebraska; and Providence, Rhode Island. Their arts are videos/cinema, painting, sculp- ture, music, multimedia and fiber. Most creations are rooted in their ancestral tribal traditions but worked in modern techniques to transition the past into the present and future. (Indeed, the concept of time for Native Americans is different than our linear one: it is cir- cular, spiraling, merging past, present and future into one.)