Starting on Tuesday, April 26, and going through May 9, a series of events and discussion panels will be hosted on the Oregon State University Corvallis campus for the 2022 “This IS Kalapuyan Land” exhibit. Originally opened in 2019, “This IS Kalapuyan Land” started as a physical exhibition at the Five Oaks Museum in Portland and was curated by Kalapuyan writer and artist-curator Steph Littlebird Fogel, for which she received national recognition.
History of the Exhibit
Fogel, an enrolled member of The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, worked with OSU professor and Tribal historian David G. Lewis (Chinook, Santiam, Takelma) to add accurate historical content, in addition to curating contemporary artwork by Indigenous artists and annotating panels from the museum’s prior exhibit on Kalapuyan peoples, which, Fogel noted in an ArtNews feature, presented a distorted narrative intended for a white audience “obsessed with pioneer culture” that “sugar-coated settler-colonialism” and treated “Native life as past.”
In her own article on the experience, titled Decentering Whiteness in the Museum, Fogel wrote, “As a lifelong Oregon resident and descendant of the Kalapuyan people, I grew up in a state that exalted pioneer and Oregon Trail mythology… The preexisting exhibition, created over 15 years ago, was riddled with errors, erasures, stereotypes, and scientific misinformation… I was incredibly lucky to collaborate with Tribal scholar and Grand Ronde Confederation member, Dr. David Lewis. With his generous assistance and online collection of academic articles, I eliminated inaccuracies, and reframed biased narratives.”
One of the first changes Fogel made was to the exhibit’s title, originally named “This Kalapuyan Land.”
“By removing this word [‘is’], the creators of the original panels were actively dehumanizing their subjects, a subtle but powerful shift in language — ‘this isn’t Kalapuyan land anymore’ is how it reads,” wrote Fogel. “This IS Kalapuyan Land acts as both a museum exhibition title and land acknowledgment. It is also a declaration of perpetual stewardship by the Kalapuyan people. ‘We have always been here, we will always be here.’”
In 2020, Five Oaks Museum founded the Museum at (Our Place) program, which created an opportunity for people to bring outdoor mini-exhibitions in their communities through sets of 10 waterproof yard signs featuring art and texts from the thus far three past physical exhibits. Later that year, OSU Art and Art History associate professor Julia Bradshaw reached out to Lewis about potentially bringing the exhibit to the university.
A coordinating committee was formed with Dr. Luhui Whitebear, Director of the Kaku-Ixt Mana Ina Haws cultural center, and a committee-hired student artist, Chanti Mañon-Ferguson, to create three additional signs for the exhibit that highlighted Champinefu Kalapuyan people who originally resided in Corvallis.
In 2021, these signs were displayed at various locations across the OSU campus and in nearby forestlands as part of a campus-wide exhibit. In November, they were installed in an exhibit at the OSU Valley Library by Robin Weiss, the library’s outreach coordinator and a local experimental installation artist, as both a land acknowledgement and celebration of Native American Heritage Month.
This IS Kalapuyan Land signs are currently being displayed across campus again this year, and will remain up until May 20.
Each of the exhibit’s discussion panels are hybrid events that will be held in person at Kaku-Ixt Mana Ina Haws – people also have the option of joining remotely via webinar links, which can be found here.
The first discussion panel in the series – Local Tribal Histories – will be held on April 26 from 4:00 – 5:30 p.m. and will be presented by David Harrelson, Cultural Resources Department manager for The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and Joe Scott, an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians.
Harrelson currently serves on the Oregon State Advisory Committee for Historic Preservation (SACHP) as well as the Oregon Arts Commission, and has long championed “the protection of archaeology sites, maintenance of ancestral lifeways, and proliferation of Indigenous art forms throughout the Tribes’ homelands in Western Oregon.” Scott is a Siletz Tribal knowledge keeper, cultural fire practitioner, and Curriculum Director for the Traditional Ecological Inquiry Program, a role through which he partners with Tribal families and the Eugene-based Long Tom Watershed Council “to support environmental stewardship, promote food sovereignty, and explore traditional ways of knowing.”
The second panel – Museum Curation – will take place on May 3 from 4:00 – 5:30 p.m. and discuss how museum curation can become more inclusive of Tribal nations and Indigenous peoples. Panelists will include Travis Stewart, (Chinook, Kalapuya, Rogue River), a contemporary artist and Curator Grand Ronde’s Chachalu Museum and Cultural Center; Dr. Deana Dartt (Coastal Chumash, Mestiza), former Curator of Native American Art at the Portland Art Museum; and Mariah Berlanga-Shevchuk, Cultural Resources Manager of Five Oaks Museum.
Dartt founded and currently serves as principal of the Eugene-based Live Oak Consulting organization, which assists museums, galleries, art institutions, and businesses with being more accountable and responsive to Indigenous communities whose art, cultures, and histories they seek to display or research. Berlanga-Shevchuk co-organizes Five Oaks Museum’s guest curator program – in which Fogel participated – which “decentralizes the museum’s authority in favor of community members to ensure the stories of the region are told authentically and equitably.”
The third and final panel in the series will take place on May 9 from 4:00 – 5:30 p.m. and will discuss Indigenous art. Panelists include Fogel, artist and educator Shirod Younker (Coos, Umpqua, Filipino), and interdisciplinary artist Natalie Ball (Klamath, Modoc).
Younker, who earned his BFA at OSU, is one of the cultural knowledge keepers of the Coquille Indian Tribe and managed the Native American Art program at the (now-closed) Oregon College of Art and Craft, the only pre-college summer camp for Indigenous teens. Ball’s work has been featured nationally and internationally, and she has been the recipient of several awards, grants, and fellowships, including the 2021 Native Arts and Cultures Foundation’s Oregon Native Arts Fellowship. Last August, Ball was one of nine Indigenous women leaders from around the world who participated in the THRIVING PEOPLE. THRIVING PLACES. media campaign that was launched on World Indigenous Peoples Day.
Accommodations for those with disabilities may be made by contacting Whitebear at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-737-9036. For more information about the exhibit and its importance, you can read her piece, “This is – and will always be – KALAPUYAN LAND.”
By Emilie Ratcliff
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