Indigenous Knowledge Visualization: Native arts, architecture, and other forms of expression. Explore the historical uses and layering of indigenous knowledges and the privileging of some stereotypical forms of native expression over others.
As part of CHID:480 I was tasked with choosing a piece within the Here and Now: Native Artists Inspired exhibit at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture and explain, in the form of a research paper and presentation, the various layers of encoded knowledge and meaning within our chosen piece. This class was one of the most memorable experiences for me as a student because it challenged me to combine culture, policy, history, and economics in terms of their real-world implications and create knowledge. I was able to see how each of these fields influenced and manifested themselves within a particular artist who in turn transferred his experience into a piece of art. While the production of an in-depth research paper tested my skills as a student and provided me with new ones, class discussion forced me outside of own comfort zone and caused me to challenge my own beliefs, assumptions, and point of view.
“I am requesting that you share your paper and the interview with the Burke folks and with Nelson-Moody. I think you displayed an extremely nuanced and thoughtful analysis throughout your entire paper” (Professor Belarde-Lewis).
Through this course, I was privileged to work with Aaron Nelson-Moody, a Coast Salish Native Artist, who produced the Copper Repousse Spindle Whorl that was the subject of my final research paper. Initially, I thought that I would want to investigate a monumental piece that made an obvious political or social commentary. But Mr. Nelson-Moody’s work, with it’s unassuming presentation and quiet confidence (it is displayed just inside the entrance of the exhibit - I passed by it at least twice before I really saw it) intrigued and confused me a  bit, so I decided to look into it. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to perform a phone interview with him in order to aid my research into his spindle whorl.
Prior to conducting the interview, I wasn’t sure which direction my research would to take and had reached a wall. However, speaking with Mr. Nelson-Moody and making connections to the material we had learned in class, opened up a number of ways that I could look at his piece and explain the different layers of meaning and knowledge encoded within it. I decided to look at the piece in three ways: as a functional tool, as an art piece, and as a contemporary commentary on a historical narrative. Most importantly, from working with Mr. Nelson-Moody and taking this course, I learned of the many valid and legitimate ways of understanding, despite how differences may make them appear.By that, I mean, that despite the fact that I can look at the piece one way and the artist can look at the piece another, neither viewpoint is valid or invalid - all that these various viewpoints do is create an opportunity for discussion and learning. This particular work is intensely personal to the artists and I am thankful that he shared his stories, his background, and his inspiration with me.
As a result of this course, I believe that I approach my coursework in a more humble yet confident way than I had before. I am a much more active participant in the academic part of my education, more aware of my own social and political location and how that affects how I see the world, and more open to ways of seeing the world that may be different from my own but also legitimate.
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