In 1906, artist Dylan Miner’s gichi-aanikoobijigan (grandfather’s grandfather) was arrested for poaching waawaashkeshiwi-wiiyaas (deer meat/venison) in Ontario’s Georgian Bay territory. Miner learned of this story when he uncovered records in the Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario several years ago. Subsequently, Miner had a conversation with his grandfather’s cousin who remembered stories of the arrest. In WAAWAASHKESHIWI-WIIYAAS Miner reclaims this story along with his gichi-aanikoobijigan’s right to subsistence hunting. The project will unfold in three phases over the next twelve months as Miner maps, reclaims, and re-asserts his gichi-aanikoobijigan’s traditional rights, while the larger project functions as an active subversion of Canada’s colonial history.
For the first – and current - phase of WAAWAASHKESHIWI-WIIYAAS, Miner has created conceptual entry point that links both the artist and viewer to the one hundred and ten years between his gichi-aanikoobijigan’s arrest and the present day. In Gallery 1, Miner has installed thirteen star maps based on traditional Anishinaabe oral traditions and navigational teachings. The tips of deer antlers demarcate stars and constellations, with each map charting the passage of time and the changing of seasons.
In Gallery 2, Miner directly confronts the legacy of colonization, state surveillance, and its impact Indigenous peoples. Shrouded dear heads act as sentinels, turning an ominous gaze over patrons as they pass through the exhibit Meanwhile, digital trail cameras document the movements of individuals within the gallery. Serigraph posters of a 1906 Return of Convictions ledger detailing the arrest of Narcisse Miner line the walls. Hand printed by Miner in animal blood, each print - made in edition of 110 to mark the years since the arrest - will gradually fade with time. Viewers are invited to take prints as an act of non-capital exchange between the artist and viewer, and acts as a direct opposition to Miner’s gichi-aanikoobijigan’s arrest. A simple picnic table wrapped in the iconic Hudson’s Bay Co. wool blanket centres the installation, inviting viewers to “visit” with each other, and to consider this as both a healing and political act.
Through the two installations, Miner invites members of the community to engage with his familial history and, in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling on the status of Metis and non-status Indians, also consider Indigenous sovereignty within an historical and contemporary context.
In October 2016 Miner will return to Georgian Bay the territory where his gichi-aanikoobijigan was arrested - with the intention of harvesting waawaashkeshiwi-wiiyaas. Following this excursion Miner will return to Peterborough for a series of workshops and discussions hosted by the First Peoples House of Learning at Trent University. In addition, if Miner is successful in his harvesting excursion the artist will share waawaashkeshiwi-wiiyaas at a feast held in Peterborough. The offering and sharing waawaashkeshiwi-wiiyaas is Miner’s approach to establishing and engaging decolonizing relationships between individuals and communities across borders.
The third phase and culmination of WAAWAASHKESHIWI-WIIYAAS will see Miner return to Artspace approximately one year after the commencement of the project. Miner will present documentation of his excursion to the Georgian Bay region that will include video, works on paper, as well as the launch of a risograph- print publication. Through this ongoing project, Miner engenders many complex questions about sport versus subsistence hunting, Indigenous sovereignties, systems of surveillance, and settler-colonial policing.
Dylan AT Miner is a Wiisaakodewinini (Métis) artist, activist, and scholar. He is currently Director of American Indian Studies and Associate Professor in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University. Miner is also adjunct curator of Indigenous art at the MSU Museum and a founding member of the Justseeds artists collective. He holds a PhD from The University of New Mexico and has published approximately sixty journal articles, book chapters, critical essays, and encyclopedia entries. In 2010, he was awarded an Artist Leadership Fellowship through the National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian Institution). Miner has been featured in more than twenty solo exhibitions and has been artist-in-residence or visiting artist at institutions such as the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, École supérieure des beaux-arts in Nantes, Klondike Institute of Art and Culture, Rabbit Island, Santa Fe Art Institute, and numerous universities, art schools, and low-residency MFA programs. His book Creating Aztlán: Chicano Art, Indigenous Sovereignty, and Lowriding Across Turtle Island was published in 2014 by the University of Arizona Press. Miner is currently completing a book on Indigenous Aesthetics: Art, Activism, Autonomy (Bloomsbury, expected 2016) and writing his first book of poetry, Ikidowinan Ninandagikendaanan (words I must learn).
Download the Essay: Miner_GalleryHandout