In Our November, 2017 Issue:

Culture and cloth: ‘We are Anishinaabe’ at Gordon Parks Gallery


The Gor­don Parks Gallery opened “We are Anishi­naabe: Hon­or­ing Tex­tile Tra­di­tions” on Oct. 26. The exhibit fea­tures cloth­ing designed by Delina White and her two daugh­ters, Laven­der Hunt and Sage Davis.

White lives on the Leech Lake Reser­va­tion in north­ern Min­nesota, and is an enrolled mem­ber of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Draw­ing on cen­turies of tra­di­tion, she uses beads, bones, shells, and other types of mate­ri­als to cre­ate her cloth­ing. “I want to con­tinue Anishi­naabe tra­di­tions by build­ing a legacy and shar­ing my knowl­edge. I can honor [my ances­tors] by shar­ing what is old and mak­ing it new again,” White said.


1. an Ojibwe

2. an Indian (in con­trast to a non-​Indian), a Native (in con­trast to a non-​Native)

3. a per­son, a human (in con­trast to a non-​human being)

Source: The Ojibwe People’s Dic­tio­nary, ojibwe​.lib​.umn​.edu

White and her daugh­ters designed all the dif­fer­ent skirts, bags, ear­rings, and neck­laces that are dis­played on man­nequins and in pho­tographs in the Gor­don Parks Gallery. “I describe my work as tra­di­tional Anishi­naabe — mean­ing that the core design has a strong con­nec­tive­ness to the cul­ture and peo­ple of the Great Lakes and wood­lands.” White said.

The col­or­ful dresses that White cre­ates are not just for art and fash­ion. The cloth­ing is also used in cer­e­mo­nial dances and pow wows. And the cloth­ing can have pur­poses that go beyond the pow wow. For exam­ple, in the exhi­bi­tion is a blue beaded ban­dolier bag that has mir­rors sewn into the fab­ric. “Mir­rors are impor­tant because they attract spir­its,” White said.

Guest cura­tor for the exhi­bi­tion is Mar­garet Miller, founder and for­mer exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Tex­tile Cen­ter in Min­neapo­lis. She sought to high­light how, in Anishi­naabe cul­ture, “tra­di­tion comes through tex­tile work, which is a prac­tice they con­tinue to do even today. To show their tra­di­tion and their rev­er­ence for the nature that they respect so much.”

This envi­ron­ment ethic is seen in the dif­fer­ent types of mate­ri­als that White uses and the pat­terns dis­played upon the cloth­ing. Some of the skirts in the gallery are adorned with pat­terns of deer and corn stalks.

The Anishi­naabe peo­ple have always been con­cerned about the envi­ron­ment and the impor­tance of tak­ing care of the envi­ron­ment,” said Miller. “The teach­ings of these peo­ple and their elders is some­thing that we should pay atten­tion to, which ties to our inter­na­tional issues that we are fac­ing. [For any stu­dent] who is study­ing global issues, I think this [exhibit] would per­tain to them.”

We are Anishi­naabe” is open through Nov. 22. The Gor­don Parks Gallery is located on the third floor of the Library and Learn­ing Cen­ter; hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tues­day to Thurs­day. Admis­sion is free.