Stateside Podcast: New memorial at UMMA takes on Indigenous Futurism
This year, a memorial has been put up at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art. It commemorates an event from 122 years ago, when the Cheboiganing Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians were forced to flee their land because a group of rioting white people were burning down their village.
At the very top of the memorial wall is a reminder in gold letters, reading “You are on Anishinaabe land.”
Grand Portage Ojibwe citizen Andrea Carlson is the artist behind this memorial entitled “Future Cache.” When coming up with a title for the piece, Carlson said she was thinking about the gospel song “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.” She wanted to communicate a story about indigenous futurism, a future where descendants of Indigenous people have a robust survival.
Carlson included images of an imagined future of Indigenous people in Michigan. “Caches” are places that Indigenous people would and do use to store food, tools, and other items. Carlson said that what remains of the former Burt Lake Band is some wooden caches that are dug into the ground. It is here that members of the Burt Lake Band could load up on supplies for a trip across the lake.
“It was a place where we would cache things for the future, we store things,” Carlson said. “I think the idea of ‘Future Cache’ is like this storage of information or belonging that could help with future survival. And that’s how caches worked historically.”
While the memorial will be on display until June 2024 at UMMA, Carlson noted her complicated relationship with museums. Carlson said that museums can often be places of injustice and exploitation because of the ways that they extract artifacts for their collections.
When Carlson is invited to work with a museum, she said that she will look into the collection practices of that institution. She said that many museums are not compliant with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990, which requires museums to return objects they stole in order to receive federal funds. She said that she uses her position as an artist to push back on the ways these museums are operated.
“I’ve had a few decades of doing this now,” Carlson said. “I’ve really seen this has gained a lot of popularity. A lot of museums are looking at their collections very critically.”
- Andrea Carlson, visual artist, Turtle Clan, Grand Portage Ojibwe
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Music in this episode by Blue Dot Sessions.