The joint exploration of cultural identity is prevalent in the exhibit as a whole, which is partly what makes it such an intimate and personal one. “My work is always focused very much on my history, my thoughts, and my worldview,” said Zamara. "Telling those stories that don’t often get told in our mainstream society.” She makes telling the stories of women a priority, as her art is full of themes of women’s empowerment. In response to an audience member who asked her reasoning for using such heavy lines and contrast in her work, she described a desire to depict the feminine as also bold and carrying weight as opposed to delicate and fragile. According to Zamara, she saw very few works focused on women in traditional Maya art growing up, and what she did find inspired her to create more.
Jonathan Thunder’s work is also deeply personal and exploratory. “I had been working in the theme of paths to identity, paths home, paths to decolonization, and paths to strength,” he said, referencing his work in relation to the Long Night that is a focus of both his art and Zamara’s. The artwork he exhibited was a mix of both lighthearted and more surreal imagery, ranging from a teddy bear with a crown to one of his larger works - the latter depicting a child floating amidst red ceremonial ribbons, between an Indigenous elder to one side and ominous figurative symbols of colonization to the other.
Jonathan Thunder and Zamara Cuyún are both incredibly talented artists and insightful individuals. Through this exhibit they have outlined similarities between Anishinaabe and Maya Indigenous experiences, explored their identities, and brought forward their own thought-provoking conceptions of what home means to them. We’re so grateful to have their exhibit in the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center and hope to host them both again in the future. The full video of their conversation can be found HERE.
Language Camp: On June 17 AICHO staff, housing families, an AICHO Board Member and our Ojibwe Language Table Instructor all attended and participated in the 11th Annual Kiwenz Ojibwe Language Camp in Sawyer, MN on the Fond du Lac Ojibwe Reservation.
Activities included moccasin making, beading, drum stick making, doll making, canoe races, horse shoes, lacrosse and other Indigenous games, a talent show, language sessions, meals, a walk/run, a nature walk, and much more.
It was a beautiful and cultural 3.5 days to be surrounded by Anishinaabeg culture and traditions.
Everyone is already looking forward to next summer's camp.
Photos by Ivy Vainio.
Creek Hike: A refreshing adventure and hike to Coffee Creek! On the way Katie Schmitz, Volunteer Laura, and Gimaajii Youth discovered wild strawberries, spittle bugs, snails, monarch caterpillars, yarrow and more. They offered asemaa before picking strawberries and yarrow leaves for tea.
Notah Begay III (NB3) Foundation
Trainings: AICHO recently held a Trafficking and Human Exploitation Training for AICHO staff. It was led by Dabinoo’igan Shelter Director Shannon Larson, Director of Planning Daryl Olson and Cultural Arts Coordinator/former shelter advocate Moira Villiard. We had Katie Eagle from Mending the Sacred Hoop and Mary Cowen from Safe Harbor/Life House present as well. It was very informative. There are other trainings/gatherings that will happen for staff and program participants.
Did you know that $150 Billion is profited from human trafficking in the United States, and $99 Billion is from Sexual Trafficking?
Photos by Ivy Vainio
Outdoor Rooftop Yoga: AICHO has hosted several “Yoga in the Garden” sessions at Gimaajii. Miigwech to Mitra Emad for facilitating these twice a week sessions for the AICHO residents and staff.
On June 27 the Niiwin Indigenous Foods Market hosted a community pop up event with guest speakers Francois Median and Maria Defoe as well as students Michael and Nick presenting their multi-year program, Journey Gardens. Based in the Fond du Lac reservation, Journey Gardens is focused on healthy living, sustainable horticulture, and youth leadership through gardening, foraging, and greenhouse work. The presentation was informative and intriguing, and many community members attended. As per usual for community pop ups, the event was free and open to the public.
After the presentation an audience participatory activity run by the Gimaaji Youth market sold Indigenous teas to guests and presenters alike. The event supplied various other refreshments and Jakob Wilson was present to perform songs on his hand drum. The night was sponsored by Statewide Health Improvement Partnership via Minnesota Department of Health.
Photos by Ivy Vaino and Katie Schmitz
Last Friday AICHO introduced its new exhibit, presented in the Robert Powless Cultural Center. The Long Night of the Floating Shell was named for the shell that manifested to guide the Anishinaabe in their journey to Minnesota as well as the significance of shells in Maya culture. This exhibit, open through July 19th, evokes a sense of journey, exploring the turbulent and triumphant experiences of contemporary Indigenous artists Zamara Cuyún and Jonathan Thunder. Thunder is from the Red Lake Nation in Minnesota and Cuyún is from the Twin Cities with roots in the Maya Highlands of Guatemala, but both were able to find common ground in their Indigenous perspectives.
Listen to an interview with Jonathan Thunder about the exhibit HERE.
Keep an eye out for the closing artist talk on June 22nd, 2019!
AICHO hosted the closing of the Exchange Exhibit on May 18th at the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center with an artist talk and reception. The exhibit ran from the 5th until its closing, with a focus on unifying 5 different communities from across Minnesota. The photos and videos of the exhibit span a two decade stretch and tell the stories of local communities in digital form. Forty pieces were presented, with featured artists from Red Lake, Leech Lake, Bois Forte, Saint Paul and Crookston, Minnesota. This multifaceted gallery was also a celebration of art itself, meant to encourage an appreciation for community-based arts, and the artists' stunning work represents this.
This exhibit was a part of the larger Exchange Tour, a series of exhibits and screenings dedicated to the sharing of stories and appreciation of the arts. Special thanks to In Progress, the nonprofit organization at the heart of the exhibition. More information can be found on In Progress and the Exchange Tour at http://in-progress.org.
The curators from each community are as follows:
Reyna Lussier- Red Lake Nation
Karen Norris-Barret- Red Lake Nation
Nicole Staples- Leech Lake Reservation
Christina Rodriguez- Crookston
Maria Arguelles- Crookston
Melissa Vang- Saint Paul
Katherina Vang- Saint Paul
Cecilia Martinez- Bois Forte Nation
We are grateful to all the participating artists and were glad to welcome their work to the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center.
At the start of May, AICHO was lucky enough to host several talented local musicians for the annual Duluth Homegrown celebration. The performances featured accomplished local bands Big Into and Big Science and talented solo artists Seyi Oyinloye and Teague Alexy, AICHO locals and guests flocked to the Robert Powless Center. A big thank you to the performers and audience members who came to the show!
Top left: Big Into. Top Right: Big Science. Middle: Seyi Oyinloye (We apologize for less than ideal photo quality). Bottom: Teague Alexy
See more about the bands at:
On Monday, in celebration of Earth Day, AICHO hosted a series of events for the downtown Gallery Hop. In the Robert Powless Cultural Center, Daniell LaPorte helped the kids and guests at AICHO turn their favorite T-Shirts into reusable and eco-friendly bags. These bags were then shipped out to be used by local institutions such as Super One Foods and the Whole Foods Co-Op. Guests also had the opportunity to experiment with screen printing, decorating their bags or other clothing and fabric. They were also introduced to our newest exhibit,Through Our Eyes, a combination of two previous exhibits that we have hosted. Through Our Eyes is a series of photographs taken by Gimaaji youth, outlining the world from their perspective in startling clarity.
Meanwhile, families were invited to participate in some art-making of their own. Working together, AICHO families created a beautiful sculpture of a bull (using only pom-poms!) which will be displayed in the building itself. Painting classes with Moira Villiard also produced a collectively painted banner. Overall, the Earth Day Gallery Hop was a huge success at AICHO.
On March fifth AICHO received 50,000 dollars in funding for the Niiwin Indigenous Foods Market from Essentia Health. Purchased in July of 2018, the building is now under renovations, with plans in the works for a grocery store supplying healthy and local Indigenous foods to the Duluth area. The store will also include a coffee shop that doubles as a meeting place and center for local education and is scheduled to open in early 2020.
In the mean time, the market will be hosting pop events for community education around Indigenous foods and their cultural and environmental significance. These events will be hosted on the last Thursday of every month at 5:30. On March 28, join us for Fight With Every Bite, a presentation focused on moving beyond colonialism through food and celebrating Indigenous sovereignty. The event is in partnership with Harvest Nation, an innovative aeroponic farming startup. See you there on the 28th for a presentation you can really sink your teeth into.
More Information on Niiwin at https://www.latest.facebook.com/NiiwinIndigenousFoodsMarket/
Keep tabs on some of the exciting things happening at AICHO! Blog posts managed by our current intern, Roshan Emad-Syring.