Indigenous Peoples Day Fest will sew together the past and present through art

Take a moment this weekend to celebrate cultures that were here before all others.

Samir Ferdowsi

A festival celebrating Native American culture is taking Minneapolis on Oct. 6-7. 

Adopted in 2014 by Minneapolis City Council, what was traditionally observed as Columbus Day now honors the original inhabitants of our state — indigenous people. Adopted statewide in 2016, Indigenous Peoples’ Day will paint the Native American traditions and culture for all to see.

Hosted by the Native American Community Development Institute, the Indigenous Peoples Day Festival will take place this weekend. The weekend-long jubilee will take place in the American Indian Cultural Corridor on Franklin Avenue, where fest-goers can learn, listen and celebrate. 

“There’s definitely a sense of community and energy here,” arts and cultural engagement manager at NACDI Alexandra Buffalohead said. “It’s a welcoming and engaging type of place.”

With rich native roots within the neighborhood, the American Indian Cultural Corridor hosts a beautiful array of art, food and culture year round.

The festival is simply there to put all of this in the spotlight.

“This is Dakota homelands,” Buffalohead said. “And in the American Indian Corridor it is a place for Dakota, Anishinaabe-Ojibwe and the many other Indigenous nations. All are welcome!”

With all of this cultural-eclecticism, Indigenous Peoples’ Day fest is an opportunity to discover and get lost in art of all forms. From community quilt weaving to lyric writing, to dance workshops to painting to stand-up comedy, the corridor will be flowing with erudite creativity. 

“There’s a duality of contemporary and traditionalism in all of the artists’ works,” Buffalohead said. “It’s just who they are and how they express themselves.”

One such artist is Keith Braveheart. Braveheart is a contemporary artist and Lakota tribal person from South Dakota. He has recently spent time in the Twin Cities using art to bridge cultures.

“[Through] art making we are creating a welcoming environment for people to come together,” Braveheart said. “It’s already breaking down barriers and boundaries, but having this doorway allows for the opportunity of dialogue — not confrontational, just different perspectives.”

Hosted by All My Relations Gallery — one of many studios in the cultural corridor — Braveheart primarily uses a buffalo skull motif to convey his messages. One part his personal story, the other part his peoples’.

Participants in Braveheart’s activity will learn how to make a buffalo skull out of paper. Then, they can share their own story with the group. They will then contribute their work to a pile of growing stationary-based skulls, representing a historic photograph of the past when buffalo were near extinction.

“It had an impact on native people, but also it showed the changing face of our country,” Braveheart said. “It had a lot of positives … but probably a lot more negatives.”

Guided by this passion for community, many artists will mold past and present to create a meaningful, relevant message to everyone who walks the vibrant streets this weekend. Some with a mission for immediate action.

Maria Asp, member of the Million Artist Movement based in Minneapolis, will be taking care of those who choose to help build community quilts. No sewing experience is necessary. 

“We really believe that art making is a central way of bringing people together,” Asp said. “People have ideas, and this is a space to make those ideas happen together.”

Continuing the festival’s beautifully blatant “community-first” initiative, all quilts will be donated to inhabitants of the Franklin-Hiawatha encampment. All the while enticing inhabitants to learn a little more about their neighbors. 

“We live in these spaces where we say, ‘Oh I can’t do something because blah blah blah.’ Let go of all that,” Asp said. “What you have is perfect. You can help.”

What: Indigenous Peoples’ Day Festival

When: Oct. 6, 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 7., noon to 5 p.m.

Where: American Indian Cultural Corridor, East Franklin Ave., Minneapolis

Cost: Free