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Video transcript

[Music] I'm at the Portland Art Museum with Wendy red star an artist who produced an extraordinary series of annotated photographs I was doing research on two images of Medicine krob and what I found was that they were delegation portraits taken in 1880 and medicine crow and five other chiefs traveled to Washington DC to meet with the president discussing land and territory and the Pacific Railroad was going to be placed through our territory these peace delegations different Native Americans would travel to Washington for negotiations I had been seeing images of Medicine Crow being used for giant murals and for honesty and it made me wonder do they know who medicine crow is do they even know that is his name and do they know why he sat down to take this photograph and I could say that probably not so these are images that were appropriated for commercial use for their meeting was transformed for other purposes and there's a kind of devaluing of these people and of the culture that they represent that results as the crow woman who grew up on the crow Indian Reservation I am viewing these men as something totally different than a non-native person or a non crow so these were images that were constructed by Anglo Americans these were not constructed by the Native Americans no but the beauty of looking at these portraits is you can see their personality and their style creating this tension between the white photographers perspective and that government perspective in their own individuality and their own pride too of showing who they are and who their nation is and four photographs from 1880 they're really sharp they convey a lot of visual information but you haven't left the photographs alone the figures are enlivened by these annotations with arrows and outlines accentuating who they are and what they're wearing with a level of detail that invites the viewer to spend time looking if we look at this full-length portrait of Medicine Crow looking at this thing that looks like a bow it's called a hair bow in order for him to wear that he had to do a certain war deed in this case it was to overcome an enemy and to slice their throat so this was a vehicle for you personally to investigate Crow history but more specifically the history of these individuals I wanted to show the viewer that these are real people these aren't just a symbol of the native spirit or achieve I wanted to show that this is much more complicated than just aesthetically pleasing image and I think that was especially important because cm belle the photographer who was responsible for these images is sometimes criticized for not having even identified the sitter sometimes failing to identify the nation that the man came from and so your reasserting their individuality their place within their own society in a way that restores them to our common history they didn't really care about them as individuals they were more specimens and their material culture was collected and put in Natural History Museum's because native people were viewed as part of the natural world kind of gets you into the thinking of the time that these native indigenous people were put in that position so that it was easier to then dehumanize them so you're taking something that was intentionally at the graphic and making it fine art I actually know their descendants and I participate in crow culture so they're familiar to me they are real people to me so some of your annotations are very specific iconographic references this means this but some of them are commentary some of them are humorous and all of it becomes therefore very personal it is very personal so yeah there are some funny things with this too belly image I can kick your ass with these eyes it looks like you can but also in the same sense I know his descendants who have written on the image eloise plenty hoops and John Adams so just as their clothing writes their history on them the history that you've recovered you've written back into these images this is why I love art for me I look at art as a way for me to learn in this body of work took me on this incredible educate adventure I didn't realize that they had to do these four specific things in order to become a chief the feather that you'll see an chief plenty food on the back of his head that meant that he was the first to touch an enemy within battle a kind of counting coup and his name is chief plenty cool if they have the white ermine on their leggings that meant that they stole a horse within an enemy camp so they did these deeds which weren't easy and that is what they're trying to tell you chief and Crow is the Jade Chow which means good man so these are really accomplished men they're men that have reason to be really proud of their positions and the kind of a claim that they would have had within their own society but here in Washington more than a thousand miles away from their home they're representing those accomplishments they're representing their identity within this alien environment from Montana they had to take a wagon train with horses through the snow to Utah so from Utah they went to Chicago and they actually became very ill because this is the first time they've been around so many people and then from Chicago they were able to connect to Washington DC and this trip they actually spent several months in Washington which is a tactic that the government like to use for getting native people to sign documents make them homesick or just show them all your military and they'll become afraid and realize they have no chance but the fact that they brought all of their regalia shows that they knew that they needed to show their best to the president in many of the images you actually have the sitter speaking their name in the crow language and so they are themselves reasserting their identity for me the damage done to indigenous people the erasing of who they are was very important to bring that back so it was really important for me to have them assert themselves like this is who I am this is my name and I'm here to ensure the future generation of crow people [Music]