Photo by Will Wilson, willwilson.photoshelter.com

Man Crush Monday, Pt. 3: Nick Galanin, Fearless Native Creating Decolonized Art

Gyasi Ross
5/19/14

(WARNING: Contains faux-Indigenous nudity. Seriously.)

This guy might be the crushiest of my Man Crush Mondays. Yeah, I think so. His name is Nick Galanin. He's Tlingit. Yes, another talented Alaska Native. More about him soon—first, let me indulge for a second.

Many people are scared to be exactly who they are nowadays; Native people are not exempt. In fact, we’ve been trained, through 500 years of genocide and white supremacy, to be extremely cautious of consequences for being TOO MUCH who we are (more on that later). Whether it’s the young Native man who feels apprehensive about wearing his beautiful braids to work because he thinks it might be just a little too Indian or being the talented Native high school student who won’t post exactly what she feels about higher education’s assimilative agenda on Facebook because it might affect her application to Stanford, it’s really hard to always be true to yourself.  

I censor myself on a regular basis, believe it or not—I admire those who do not.

I notice lots of folks are throwing around the word “decolonization” recently. I’m not exactly sure what that word means, to be honest. But I’ll tell you what I THINK it means, and what makes sense: a Native being unafraid of the consequences of an establishment, which invariably upholds white supremacist values, is the most decolonized thing a Native person could do. During the genesis of Native/European relations, Natives who showed themselves to be too strong-willed or uncompromising were routinely publicly killed or their children stolen to set an example. From Verrazano kidnapping Indian children in 1524 to the many, many Native children stolen in the 20th century, to Coronado burning 200 Pueblos at the stake, the lesson was etched deep into our psyches:

“Indians, don’t you dare rise up and try to assert yourself or speak for yourself or be too damn Native, by God! Don’t speak up against white supremacy or against how Christianity has affected Native communities or against commodification of Native culture. The consequences will be very, very severe.” 

'The Good Book,' carved from a Bible by Nicholas Galanin.

Now, back to Nick: how dare you carve a sculpture of a Raven out of an actual Bible? Don’t you know that Natives (and non-Natives) literally burned at the stake for lesser offenses?

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bullbear's picture
bullbear
Submitted by bullbear on
I was taught from childhood to respect everyone's religious belief. My mother was a strong Christian and my father placed his faith in the Navajo traditional beliefs including medicinal healing and all of life’s teachings therein. I love native art, whether it is old-style, contemporary, surreal, etc. just as much as anyone. I may step on some toes, but my feeling is that when an artist chooses to take something from another people's religion to express his or her artistic message without fully understanding its deep and personal significance, I think it is treading upon a lack of respect and religious knowledge. That is evident with the mask that was manufactured by a foreign country citizen. For what purpose? I think we all know the answer to that question. Furthermore, at times, I think artists see and feel that the freedom of expression is a ticket to take any and everything within their reach for use as art form – be it damned or not. In my mind’s eye, one of the greatest native artist was the late, Allen Houser (Apache) who captured moments in time through his absolutely remarkable art, told of his tribe’s rich history and brought beauty in more than just a third dimension for everyone to enjoy and be enriched through shared knowledge. By the way, before decolonization there was colonialism and if we look broadly enough we may still see hints of it today. But any signs of glory will be hard pressed to be found.
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