Mitakuye Owasin: In Dakota, this translates to All My Relations. This phrase, while short, exemplifies a whole way of being and existing with our relatives, both living and nonliving. Mitakuye Owasin encompasses many types of ways for caring for ourselves, our relatives, communities, and surrounding environmental ecosystems.
In 2020, we saw our focus narrow. Our connections to each other reduced to 6 ft apart and while we were challenged with the uncertainty of a global pandemic, civil unrest, and continued systemic racism, in addition to mass unemployment, struggles of distance learning, and unbearable losses of life caused by Covid-19, we also looked optimistically to the future. The biggest take-away from 2020 was to care for ourselves and each other. We did this by wearing masks, limiting our interactions, working hand in hand with our educators, uplifting our essential workers and especially those on the medical frontline.
Artists played a role in creating hope in 2020. Even as the arts sector shut down and artists experienced hard economic losses almost immediately, still they persevered. Persevered by continuing to create, by embracing the unknown, and worked to create a vision for a better future for our future generations.
All My Relations Arts was one of 10 BIPOC art organizations selected by the Walker Art Center to offer unrestricted artists grants amid their process of institutional reckoning and to better support and engage with artists and arts organizations in the Twin Cities.
In order to better serve our Indigenous community, AMRA opted to broaden the imposed number of awardees. This decision allowed our organization to extend the reach of generosity offered through this opportunity.
All My Relations was able to award a total 17 individuals. Their stories range from grandmothers embracing distance learning, medical treatments, shifting their creative resources to create masks for community, helping elders, etc, Here is the list of Mitakuye Owasin awardees:
“As a self taught painter, I try to encourage others to find their own creative outlet. I always push the motto that there are no mistakes in art. And I always tell people that having a creative outlet is great for stress relief.”
“Supporting one another is the best way to get through this difficult and surreal time.” Jonathan Thunder
“Chholing Taha exemplified the concept of Mitakuye Owasin by creating uplifting positive art that focused on relying on cultural wisdom to get us through these difficult times. She reached out to others with the message that the tool of fear should not be used to make people forget their ancestral teachings at the time when they are needed the most.” Leslie Taha
“Maggie Thompson is an Ojibwe artist based in the Twin Cities. She has committed her time, expertise, and funds to supporting the Twin Cities communities both through the protests and social upheaval following George Floyd’s murder as well as through the pandemic. She created masks to pass out for free during the protests that read “I Can’t Breathe”. She also has created her line of ribbon masks to sell on her Makwa Studio website but has also donated hundreds of masks, selflessly giving to protect the health and well being of the community. Beyond this, she has employed assistants, contributing to their economic livelihood during these precarious times as well.” Dyani White Hawk
“With the Covid pandemic, I realized that my paintings and stories could also be a way to preserve my family’s and the stories shared by my elders while also protecting my local community. I designed coloring pages showing the medicines and dancers for our children to color and learn the language while they were not in school. I reached out to my family, local elders on the reservation to help them, while also having online auctions of my paintings to raise funds for the local indigenous non-profits here in Duluth MN to help families struggling with food and financial security. These two auctions raised funds while also teaching stories of healing and Ojibwemowin language. I have also been able to step outside my studio by volunteering at the American Indian Community Housing Organization here in Duluth to distribute food to the local community and for those that are homebound, deliver food to their homes (social distancing).”
“As a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, artist and curator, I spend a lot of my time and energy nurturing and caring for others, something that brings me joy and fulfillment. In March, right as COVID impacted our lives, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer and underwent chemotherapy for four and a half months, followed by surgery, and am awaiting further treatment. This is one of the hardest challenges of my life, but it has also been full of many lessons and gifts. I have had to learn to prioritize self care and focus my time and energy on my own physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. From this, I understand that all my life experiences have prepared me for this moment. The fact that the entire world is experiencing a pandemic, compounded by the murder of George Floyd, it feels like this is a time of change, and in many ways this is the best time for me to go through this. Just knowing that I come from and belong to a community of exemplary strength, resilience, and perseverance makes me feel uplifted and supported, even from a distance. I look forward to exploring, processing, and sharing my experience through my art. Any support would be greatly appreciated.”
“She is most deserving of this honor because of her tremendous humility. She doesn’t seek attention or accolades but she is well known within the community as someone who will help you out in a crunch and someone who is happy to share. I think so highly of this wonderful winyan. Traditionally, we are taught not to brag about our work. It is up to others to elevate your good deeds so others know of your accomplishments. Raine is a good relative and lives into our highest teaching of Mitakuye Owas’in. She is just the kind of person.” Darlene St. Claire
“After watching my grandmother practice mitakuye owasin, it is only natural that my mother, Kelly Morgan, learned to express her love and dedication for her community through the art of sewing. My mother has worked for over 10 years as a tribal liaison for the Indian Child Welfare Act; keeping Native American children safe and connected to their culture and family. She treats each parent and child she works with with love, respect, and dignity, making sure to honor each person as an individual, community member, and tribal member. I have witnessed my mother honor her peers and the families she works with through her sewing; handmade blankets for newborn babies, ribbon skirts for youth and coworkers, potholders for those who are in need of kitchen items. In addition to her passion for sewing, I have seen my mother activate her community to gather donations for families in need, providing both food and clothing to families who need it (even on the weekend). After our grandmother started her journey on the last day of 2019, my mom made the difficult decision to actively grieve by not sewing for one year.Despite the fact that she has only left her home for doctors appointments since the start of March, my mother has remained resilient and connected to her community in the face of the pandemic. She is currently gathering donations for a Toys for Tots drive and raising meal funds for a friend who has been living in the hospital. Even though she has experienced the loss of her mother in the past year, she has also been a voice of comfort and ear for grief to countless relatives who have experienced loss throughout this year. Although doctors recommended that she take time off from work, my mom chose to continue to work from home every day on behalf of the children and families she serves through her work. My mother truly demonstrates mitakuye owasin in every aspect of her life. The anniversary of my grandmother’s journey will be December 31, 2020 and I would love for my mother to return to sewing after a year of grieving.” Laura Roberts
“Thomasina is a Dakota & Lakota artist who co-founded City Mischief Murals, an all BIPOC mural collective here in the Twin Cities. I have had the honor and opportunity to work alongside her on many mural projects for the Native and other BIPOC communities. Aside from painting murals with positive messaging and healing for our greater community she organized additional events to take place while we painted such as community food drives.” Holly Henning
“This pandemic has forced an introspection demanding clarity and prioritization. Family undoubtedly rises to the top. I find myself fierce in the desire to protect them against sickness when I can and frustrated when there are realms where I have no control. I am committed to enabling my 7th grade grandson to thrive during his long-distance learning. While this is not easy, it is a blessing to have this time together building a strong inter-generational relationship with our grandson that we may not have had otherwise. When school is done, time is given to our elder mothers. Their loneliness is palpable. They want more of us than we can give, asking us to come closer, take off our masks, stay longer. The fear of killing them through transmission of the virus is brutal.I have enough self-knowledge to know that I must feed my soul in order to be my best for those that need me. This means spending time with my husband/best friend out in the woods. Together we explore, discuss, examine, debate, and play. He hunts. I photograph what I see. I share it when I can. Hopefully, a glimpse of beauty will give all my relations and friends a brief respite from the pandemic pain we are all feeling right now. I know that our world has changed. It will never be the way that it was before COVID. I feel a responsibility for remaining optimistic and creating my new world.”
“Holly (Miskitoos) is enrolled with Marten Falls First Nation. She has a focus on working with the next generation; works with homeless and sexually exploited youth to provide art and culture as a means for healing. Wether it’s doing traditional art projects or hiring native youth as learning artists to help with large scale mural projects, her heart and spirit is dedicated to the community. She has utilized a number of grants to be able to do art projects with/ for native nonprofits locally who may not normally have the funds to support the arts. She is also a jingle dress dancer who volunteers time to teach youth how to dance, as well as used individual artist grants to make, teach and gift youth dance regalia when their families are unable to afford it.” Charles Garcia.
“My role in providing Indigenous marketing, communications, and design (film, graphic design, software, and website development) has become critical for Native organizations, community groups, and other actors. In combination with these services, I provide culturally centered facilitation, training, and programming to diverse communities. I work with elders and people who serve their communities, but lack access to technology and skills required to function and streamline their contributions, especially during COVID-19. I also trained elders from diverse communities to bring them online, and to help them with the digital aspects, many of whom serve important roles in their communities.”
“I am a water protector, a survivor leader and strong voice in the MMIWG2S movement. I am an advocate for all Indigenous people. I am an educator on historical and multigenerational trauma, a researcher who uses art to stay culturally grounded. I use my art to heal our people”
“My paintings represent a connectedness I want others to feel and understand. All things tie together in a way that time cannot even separate. I share the message when I present to be grateful for all things tangible and nontangible as they are all part of making us whole. It is important to pay attention and respect everything around us because we need it all; without it we are not complete. My message is sent with the intention that others will open themselves to assist in finding and understanding their true self and their role in this universe.”
“Storm is a musician and a visual artist who exemplifies the concept of Mitakuye Owasin through his caring demeanor, commitment to his community, and respect for environmental ecosystems.” James Autio
“Reyna Hernandez is an outstanding artist. Throughout the pandemic, she has focused on caring for her family, advocating for social justice in her community, beautifying the visual landscape and curating artwork around urgent issues facing Indigenous people. Throughout the pandemic, Reyna has remained a support for her family as a sister, daughter, aunt and friend. She is a strong role model to her niece and nephew and she inspires young people through her community-based murals and the Oscar Howe Summer Art Institute. I cannot think of another artist who works with as much tenacity, compassion and heart as Reyna Hernandez. Her artistic and communal contributions should be recognized.” Amber Hansen
Cole Redhorse Jacobson:
“I’ve made it my life goal to revitalize our woodland heritage in our Dakota communities. and I’ve felt I’ve made steps in that direction with the work I’ve done in Dakota communities of MN and SD, teaching people about the “hanyuski” pucker toe style moccasins.”