Stiched in Sovereignty: Contemporary Beadwork from Indigenous North America
Stiched in Sovereignty: Contemporary Beadwork from Indigenous North America features a round dozen beaded objects created by some of the most outstanding emerging and established beadwork artists in Native America.
The exhibition is curated by Chelsea Herr (Choctaw), formerly an intern at the Couse-Sharp Historic Site, who is a PhD candidate in the Native American Art History program at the University of Oklahoma. Featured artists include Molly Murphy Adams (Lakota descent), Katherine Boyer (Métis), Brit Ellis (Onondaga), Samantha Jacobs (Seneca), Shelby Rowe (Chicaksaw), and Kellen Trenal (Nez Perce).
Stitched in Sovereignty highlights how Indigenous peoples maintain control of their own cultures, social and governing systems, belief and knowledge systems, and relationships with other sovereign groups. These concepts are expressed in the materials and processes of beadwork, a medium that has a long tradition in Indigenous North America and continues to evolve today.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the US government’s return of Taos Blue Lake and its surrounding lands to the Pueblo, which is the only time that the government has ceded land to a recognized tribe without requiring anything in return. While the exhibition is not solely dedicated to Taos Pueblo’s assertion of sovereignty over its land and the relationships they maintain with it, the goal is to illustrate Indigenous self-governance and determination.
The artists challenge the viewer to consider how sovereignty extends beyond the strictly political definition—to include cultural, intellectual, spiritual, and individual components. Some pieces reference different communities’ fights to retain their land and resource relationships; others address the relationships between Native nations and settler governments. Several artists highlight the adaptability of Indigenous cultures as an expression of cultural and social sovereignty.