GU’s Urban Art Center Features Works by Indigenous Artists in “Land Acknowledgments”

Land acknowledgments have become almost superficial in recent years. It is the practice of beginning a public event by referencing and honoring the Native American tribes whose people lived on the lands where the event is being held, prior to colonization by white occupiers.

An acknowledgment of the land can be seen as a courtesy or, in the case of a new exhibit opening Friday at Gonzaga University’s Center for Urban Arts, a chance to amplify Indigenous culture and/or give a challenge.

A group of 17 contemporary Indigenous artists, primarily from the Pacific Northwest, including several from the Spokane Tribe, will showcase their artistic interpretations of land recognition in an exhibit aptly titled “Land Acknowledgment.” Charlene Teters, recently retired academic dean of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, curated the GU exhibit. An artist and Spokane tribesman, Teters is nationally known for her decades-long activism against Native American sports mascots and recently earned pride of place on a mural that hangs in the lobby of the Tilford Center on the campus of Gonzaga.

“The artwork (in this exhibit) may not bring comfort to those who occupy our land…and our very presence often represents a political statement,” Teters said. “But when we come together and share our art with the community, we speak as people of this land and make our dreams and struggles visible.”