Date of Submission

Spring 2014

Academic Programs and Concentrations

Film and Electronic Arts

Project Advisor 1

Peggy Ahwesh

Abstract/Artist's Statement


it shines in a certain way. to a certain place./it flies. falls./

"Throughout time, a dibaajimowin (a ‘true story’ based on historical, often personal experience) would sometimes lose its dimension of time and place and - depending on the context - turn into an aawechigan or even an aadizookaan; respectively a parable with a moral undertone and a sacred story with a supernatural theme. This way, narratives became midewaajimowinan (traditional teachings) that stressed essence rather than historical detail; wrapped in metaphors and symbolism they served to educate the young about their culture and the history of their People."

-Zhaawano Giizhik

INAATE/SE/ is a multimedia video installation that documents not only the history of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, but also the means to accessing that history, whether it be local or federal archives and museums, or my tribes own oral traditions and historical archival practice. The formal structure of the installation draws a distinction between a colonial history rooted in the salvage paradigm that is first and foremost concerned with the fetishistic worship of objects which supposedly connect the researcher to a mysterious and unknowable past, and our own history which does not exist statically in objects, but moves dynamically though people, through an oral tradition, and more recently though my tribes attempts to document our history through books, video, and new media.

The fundamental dilemma facing Native American communities is how do we move our worldview into the future in a way that honors and perpetuates our traditional ways of thought, but also reflects our contemporary realities. INNATE/SE/ is my attempt to do just that. It is a contemporary reimagining of an ancient Anishinaabe story using a new medium.

The Seven Fires Prophecy is what guides the structure of the installation. It is a prophecy from my tribe which is over 600 years old and has been passed down through the generations though pictographs etched into birch bark scrolls, as well as through a vibrant oral tradition. The prophecy begins with the foretelling of first contact with the “light skinned race”, and goes on to frame Anishinaabe archival practice (the birch bark scrolls) as occurring in response to the threat of cultural degradation posed by the “light skinned race”. The prophecy serves as both a record of the past, and a foretelling of the future. It is not a fatalistic prophecy but one which presents multiple forks in the path of the Anishinaabe people and seeks to guide us along productive lines.

My intention in using the 7 Fires Prophecy as the anchor of the installation is to draw attention to the fundamental differences between Anishinaabe history and the colonial version of the history of our people, not only in factual detail, but also in utility and function. Colonial history seeks to encapsulate our past into tidy sterile archives so that it may be safely forgotten about, whereas the Anishinaabe version of the history of our people seeks to use the past as a story which unites the entire tribe under a common purpose to be pursued into the future, in this case the revitalization of our traditional worldview after a prolonged period of systematic cultural annihilation.

Open Access Agreement

On-Campus only

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

This work is protected by a Creative Commons license. Any use not permitted under that license is prohibited.

Bard Off-campus Download

Bard College faculty, staff, and students can login from off-campus by clicking on the Off-campus Download button and entering their Bard username and password.