B.F.A. THESIS EXHIBITION
I value aesthetics, critical thought and concept in my work, but above all I seek connection. Connection to others, to the earth, connection to my own identity and the history of my ancestors. This series in particular speaks to my experiences navigating a break in connection. My brother and I are the first in my mom’s family to be denied enrollment in the Apsáalooke (Crow) tribe because of the blood quantum regulation. Like many other mixed race indigenous people, we have grown up faced with emotional confusion and identity questions raised by the current debate surrounding the qualifications for federal recognition. I have gravitated towards making artwork to sort through my personal thoughts regarding the matter, and hope to raise awareness of an issue that has shaped my identity, and continues to shape the future of indigenous communities across the United States and Canada.
I often incorporate imagery of elk teeth in my work. They are important to the Crow tribe, and have personal significance to me as a holder of childhood memories and a symbol of my family.
Baby Stella (me) + brother Tom at the Crow Fair
I am wearing my 1st elk-tooth dress, handmade by my Mum (Anita Moore-Nall)
Resin replica of Elk tooth
First Descendent: Sterile Hybridity is informed by my experience growing up as the first generation of my mother’s family to not enrolled in the Crow tribe due to blood quantum requirements. Apsáalooke means “children of the large beaked bird,” which was interpreted to mean Crow. The birds featured in this print articulate an emotional state I have encountered through navigating a liminal cultural identity. My biracial heritage means I don’t meet the federally recognized definition of a “Native American,” but I have participated in traditions and have been socially categorized as native since childhood. The mule in the bottom of the piece speaks to this issue as well: a mix of two animals, mules are genetically unable to produce offspring. While I am granted first descendant status by the Crow tribe, were I to have children with someone outside of the tribe, they would not be considered Crow at all. Additionally, I included the mule because some of my relatives have the last name Yellowmule (likely referencing a mule deer), but as a young child I pictured this type of mule in my mind and have grown to associate myself with the creature. The shapes in the background represent elk teeth, which are important to the Crow and feel nostalgic to me because my mother used them to make dresses for me to wear to powwows growing up.
First Descendant: Sterile Hybridity, Woodblock Print, 48 x 36 in, 2019.
Trying, Mixed media on wood panel, 12 x 12 in, 2019.
Are you Native if your parents are, your grandparents? Do you need to be enrolled in a federally recognized tribe? If you grew up on the reservation, in the culture, is that enough? What makes one person "more Native" than another, and is this concept genuine? What if you are full blooded indigenous but adopted by non-native people and raised without connection to the culture? And what about people like me, who are mixed race?
American Indians today are constantly confronted with questions regarding the concept of Native authenticity, and the answer is not as straightforward as one may think. Tribal enrollment is the most common and codified understanding of Native identity, but enrollment qualifications vary significantly from tribe to tribe, and some tribes are still fighting for federal recognition.
Split, Screen Print, 36 x 48 in, 2020.
1/8: I am Afraid, Cyanotype, Acrylic + Beadwork, 19 x 25 in, 2020.
To Where?, Beaded Screen Print, 11.5 x 15 in, 2020.
I believe that in consideration of globalism, and the knowledge that many people are moving away from the reservations, it is more important than ever to preserve tribal knowledge and traditions.
With the influences of globalism and the ever changing global dynamic, now is more important than ever before to take measures to preserve tribal knowledge. My - traditions
- oral history/language
- no more blood quantum; lead to diminished