A patron looks at photos in "Native America: In Translation," located in the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery. Photo by Paola Nogueras.

“Native America: In Translation” Brings Indigenous Heritage to Haverford’s Galleries

The traveling exhibit, which was on display this fall in the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, explores complex histories of colonialism and identity.

Throughout the fall semester, the Cantor Fitzgerald has housed “Native America: In Translation,” a traveling exhibition organized by Aperture, a photography magazine and journal. Originally appearing in Aperture 240 in Fall 2020, the exhibit is now traveling for display in galleries across the country. It was featured at Princeton University this spring, and was hosted at Haverford by the Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities from October 21 to December 10. The exhibit will go on to the Milwaukee Art Museum and the University of South Florida in 2023.

The exhibit itself, curated by Portland, Oregon-based artist Wendy Red Star, is a collection of photographs and artwork depicting the struggles and journeys faced by Indigenous people in the modern day. It combines the work of nine Indigenous artists, each from different backgrounds, to offer a new perspective on living in North America as an Indigenous person.

The work of each artist varies widely. Some, such as Duane Linklater’s ghostsinthemachine, augments existing photos with traditional Indigenous art styles. Others, such as Koyoltzintli’s photo series, use traditional Native stories as inspiration for photography. Still others, such as the photography of Jacqueline Cleveland, demonstrate how the traditions of Native people have been passed down through time, into the present day. Each artist offers their own view on what it means to be an Indigenous person and how that is perceived in today’s culture. 

“I felt it was a relevant exhibition to bring to Haverford, particularly in response to a stated student desire for greater access to learning around Native American Indigenous culture,” said Matthew Callinan, associate director of the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery. “[The exhibit] showcases the work of an incredible group of artists so it seemed an ideal exhibition to share with Haverford and the surrounding community.”

Callinan also noted that with November being National Native American Heritage Month, the fall semester was an ideal time to bring such an exhibit to campus.

The exhibit kicked off with a conversation between Christopher Green, a professor of art history at Swarthmore, and artist Alan Michelson, a ​Mohawk member of the Six Nations of the Grand River known for his socially engaged, site-specific art informed by the retrieval of repressed histories. Engagement with the exhibit continued on November 4, when interdisciplinary artist, healer, and educator Koyoltzintli visited campus to meet with classes led by Professors of History Marlen Rosas (Haverford) and Ignacio Gallup-Díaz (Bryn Mawr) to discuss her work.

Students in Rosas’ class, “Indigenous Women: Gender, Ethnicity and Feminism in Latin America,” asked questions about how Koyoltzintli became involved in art, and how she worked with Indigenous people to document their stories through photography. Their discussion extended to the greater colonial roots of photography, and how Indigenous people are working to reclaim the representation of their traditions.

“As a Latina professor, I was delighted that this art exhibit was brought to Haverford College, a majority white institution,” Rosas said. “When I teach history, especially that of Indigenous women, I include as many Indigenous voices as I can as the sources with which my class can learn these histories. It was so powerful to have a Latina artist of Indigenous descent speak about her worldview and to have my students make connections between the historical narratives Indigenous women have created, and those that are being created all the time in the present.”

“Native America: In Translation” ran through December 10. To view some of the work in the show, visit the exhibit’s website.