This painting is a commission of sorts. I was asked to participate in an exhibition that is happening in our small town of Highland Park, NJ. I am very excited about the idea of what this event represents. Indigenous artists Isaac Murdoch and Christi Belcourt have invited local artists to use their imagery and create works of art with the mission of bringing awareness to our endangered environment.
One cannot ignore that the "doodles" of Murdoch have become synonymous with the Indigenous resistance at Standing Rock and the fight to stop a crude oil pipeline. The basic human right to clean water is in jeopardy for us all, but the battle at Standing Rock is also a reminder of how little has changed for Native Nations. Many white folks have privileged a certain history and narrative that whitewashes their ancestors' actions. This has served to justify the ongoing unjust or racist actions that perpetuate this privilege.
So the question becomes, how do I, a white, non-Native artist confront this whitewashed history without it being, at best, a well-intentioned exploitation? The answer is I cannot. I can only confront my own truth.
Danielle Boissoneau is Anishinaabe kwe, water protector, and author. She writes, " The truth I speak is my own, written on my heart with colonial ink...The more I work at erasing the detrimental and divisive desires imprinted through blood memory and historical trauma, the more I realize my own power and the power of all Anishinaabe kwewok, of all two spirits."
Christi Belcourt and Isaac Murdoch have put out a call for environmental action, not only of protest, but also of hope. So to this end, I offer my painting, "Born on the Wings of Thunderbirds." It will be hanging somewhere on our main street in Highland Park, NJ.