Native Americans in the United States and First Nations people in Canada experienced some of the highest mortality rates in their nations during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Young people are required to help native families.
Many Native American and First Nation communities are known for having lousy internet, cell phone coverage, and data access.
Galanin and Miles are Indigenous artists who are part of a rising generation.
This generational shift is shown by the fact that more Native American and First Nation artists are being offered in important contemporary art galleries in New York and Los Angeles. Contemporary art is getting more attention at the Santa Fe Indian Market annually.
During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Native Americans in the United States and First Nations people in Canada had some of the highest death rates in their countries. Concepts like lockdowns and isolation ran contrary to how many artists worked, particularly those who had long relied on significant indoor fairs and outdoor marketplaces to exhibit and sell their work, especially in cultures built upon community. In the American Southwest and other areas, practically all exuberant and massive fairs were cancelled or held at significantly reduced capacity starting in the spring of 2020.
According to Douglas Miles, one of several Apachi artists living in a multi-generational home in the San Carlos Apache Nation in Arizona, the epidemic forced many artists to turn inward because they didn’t have the typical outlets to present their work. However, he continues, “It didn’t stop me at all; it merely changed the course of my creativity.” Miles had to stop working on concrete projects like murals and his skateboard company, Apache Skateboards, so he could focus on digital projects like photography, short films, and video collaborations with other Indigenous artists. Together with Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho artist Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, he even developed an online “isolation” workshop to respond to COVID-19 in the form of an online viewing space.
Native people have a natural sensitivity to their surroundings. “We don’t produce art in the same way that white artists do,” claims Miles. We cannot afford that luxury.
The summer 2020 issue of First American Art Magazine, a quarterly journal addressing Indigenous art, was devoted to pandemic reactions by artist, critic, and curator America Meredith, a Cherokee Nation member and editor-in-chief. “People jumped into action right away. “Okay, what can I do with my skills to benefit the community?” Meredith recalls. She decided to organize an online exhibition of masks with submissions accepted from all Indigenous artists due to the positive response to the problem. She had hoped for no more than 20 answers, but more than 120 artists sent in pieces for the exhibition.
Young people are required to help native families. However, difficulties continue. Meredith thinks of two of the most revered senior Indigenous jewelers she knows who don’t have a phone or a computer. Many Native American and First Nation communities are known for having lousy internet, cell phone coverage, and data access. This makes worries about connection and isolation even worse.
Thomas Denny, a Navajo artist from Bluff, Utah, made his living by selling his work in person. Despite the lifting of limitations, he stayed away from in-person sales because he was too concerned about the danger COVID-19 posed to individuals his age. In two years, “I sold one piece,” he claims. Many of the more experienced creators at the Indigenous artist collective Canyon Cow Trading Post, where he sells his work, have left.
According to Donald Ellis, a renowned dealer in ancient Indigenous art with headquarters in Vancouver, elders are knowledge keepers. And frequently, information follows people as they move on. He recalls the fear that engulfed Indigenous communities in British Columbia when one of the first victims of COVID-19 in the territory was a powerful local elder.
According to Nicholas Galanin, a well-known Tlingit and Unanga artist whose work examines American colonialism, COVID-19 brought systematic injustices to light with a new sense of urgency. He claims that the accessibility of our communities, including their access to clean water, food security, housing, healthcare, and the internet, affects how the pandemic would affect them.
Galanin and Miles are Indigenous artists who are part of a rising generation. Ellis says both artists’ work is deeply rooted in “modern, cutting-edge lenses” that shed light on their cultural backgrounds. This generational shift is shown by the fact that more Native American and First Nation artists are being shown in important contemporary art galleries in New York and Los Angeles. Contemporary art is getting more attention at the Santa Fe Indian Market annually.
At the height of the pandemic, “we realized how genuinely charitable Indigenous artists and collectors are,” claims Meredith.
Analysis by: Advocacy Unified Network