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Friday, November 09, 2018

Dylan Miner -- artist, activist, scholar -- connects art, indigenous peoples' issues, environmental concerns, more ...

Poster for "This Land is Always," a presentation given by Dylan Miner -- Métis artist, activist and scholar -- on Oct. 29, 2018, at Michigan Tech. In addition to discussing his art, some of which is part of the exhibit "Never Empty" at the Rozsa Center, Miner spoke about indigenous peoples' history, language, ecological concerns and socio-political issues. (Photos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated.)

By Michele Bourdieu
With videos and photos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now

HOUGHTON -- Dylan Miner identifies strongly with his  Wiisaakodewinini, or Métis, ancestors -- a people of mixed indigenous and European ancestry who have lived in both Canada and the United States. Since his own family ancestors lived on Drummond Island in Lake Huron, water, land and settler colonialism are important elements of his art, his activism and his scholarship and teaching.

Miner is Director of American Indian and Indigenous Studies, and Associate Professor in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University. He sits on the Michigan Indian Education Council and is a founding member of the Justseeds artists collective. Miner holds a PhD from The University of New Mexico and has published more than sixty journal articles, book chapters, critical essays, and encyclopedia entries.

Presenting himself humbly as a learner of indigenous languages, Miner introduced himself to the audience at Michigan Tech in two of them.

At the beginning of his Oct. 29, 2018, presentation in the Great Lakes Center at Michigan Tech, Dylan Miner introduces himself in two indigenous languages and presents an example of his "agi-prop" art, or agitational propaganda, calling attention to the threat of the Line 5 Pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. Click on YouTube icon for larger screen. (Videos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

In addition to expressing his environmental concerns, Miner demonstrated how he uses art on social media to call attention to socio-political injustices against indigenous people. He also displayed artwork created by one of his own Métis ancestors:

Miner points out an example of colonial injustice against indigenous murder victims. He explains how he identifies with one of his own ancestors through art.

Bonnie Peterson, a local artist who attended Miner's talk, was impressed by his use of art to communicate messages on social media.

"His work turns the patriarchial power establishment on its head," Peterson said. "He reacts to current events by creating thoughtful, compelling images immediately, and freely distributing them on social media. His image 'no pipelines in/under the great lakes' is especially salient because of the threats to Great Lakes from oil spills, and also robbing the Great Lakes of water."*

Miner also mentioned how he altered some of his images after talking with people directly impacted by extractive industries. He noted as an example his discussions with Menominee tribal activists fighting Aquila's Back 40 mining project, which could destroy indigenous sacred sites and impact the Menominee River. He changed his original design to include the Menominee ancestral bear and the sturgeon.

Dylan Miner altered his original image on this issue after talking with Menominee activists and learning about the mining threat to their sacred sites. (Photo courtesy

Collaboration is important in Miner's work. He spoke about working with others to create projects that combine creative activities with environmental consciousness or stewardship, such as a traditional building of a birch bark canoe, an urban sugar bush, Native kids riding bikes and his recent Drummond Island reclamation project.

Here he explains a project of placing old growth white pine from the bottom of Lake Huron in the vacinity of an industrial site near Toronto on Lake Ontario:

Dylan Miner explains the purpose of his recent project called "On the Lakeshore."

The Rozsa Gallery has been featuring Miner's cyanotype art as part of their recent exhibit, "Never Empty," which continues through Saturday, Nov. 10.

Dylan Miner's awasagaam // on the other side of the water. This cyanotype work is part of the exhibit "Never Empty" in the Rozsa's A-Space Gallery through Nov. 10. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

According to Lisa Gordillo, curator of the exhibit, "Miner’s work reimagines the landscape through digitally adjusted images that counterbalance cyanotype and contemporary processes. Cyanotype is an antiquated photographic method developed in 1842, the same year that the Treaty of La Pointe ceded Anishinaabeg Lands in the western Upper Peninsula and northeastern Wisconsin. The artist’s use of cyanotype builds a physical and conceptual connection to colonial Land expropriation, capitalist expansion, and the development of new image-making technologies. Our viewpoint is stirred as Miner distorts his original images, applying pigments, minerals, and smoke, shifting their size and scale."

During his presentation Miner described some of the cyanotype works in the Rozsa exhibit:

Dylan Miner describes some of the materials he uses to create his cyanotype images of water, sky, and forest.

In answer to a question from the audience during his presentation, Miner explained his cyanotype process:

Miner explains how he creates the cyanotype images, including the length of exposure to the sun and the addition of materials to add other colors to the cyanotype blue.

Local artist Joyce Koskenmaki, who attended Miner's talk and visited the exhibit, commented on the cyanotype images.

"Dylan’s cyanotype images at the Rosza are beautiful," Koskenmaki said. "His work and his talk speak to me about art for poor people: art that can be done with simple materials, and art with a message. I felt inspired."

Miner also spoke about his work with the Justseeds artists collective, making images with environmental and political messages that he distributes freely through social media.**

Miner displays some historic IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, or "Wobblies") union images he printed and discusses their relationship with his own work and their timeliness today.

Miguel Levy, artist and Michigan Tech professor of physics, who is active in the local Indigenous Peoples' Day Campaign group, said he was especially impressed by Miner's connections between art and indigenous resistance.

Levy noted, "Regarding Dylan Miner's talk, I found the connections he made during his talk quite illuminating: [between] the social and political dimensions of his art, between indigenous culture and resistance to environmental devastation, and between the revolutionary potential of the indigenous tradition and its points of coincidence with the anti-hierarchical and anti-capitalist traditions of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) labor union." 

Miner commented on the shocking timeliness today of this historic IWW image from the early 20th century.

Emily Shaw, Michigan Tech PhD student in environmental engineering, who introduced Miner, told Keweenaw Now Miner's stories and connections inspired her to ask herself questions.

"So often we view art and science as unrelated but making art and doing science are processes that require us to ask ourselves what do we know and what skills do I have that can contribute to our learning?" Shaw said. "Dylan opened with those questions and shared the story of his art, weaving connections between land abuses, indigenous rights, and labor unions. I left inspired to make such connections in my work as a scientist."

Dylan Miner has also authored and edited several limited-edition books // booklets. His book Creating Aztlán: Chicano Art, Indigenous Sovereignty, and Lowriding Across Turtle Island was published in 2014 by the University of Arizona Press. In 2010, he was awarded an Artist Leadership Fellowship through the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian. He has been an artist-in-residence at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, École supérieure des beaux-arts in Nantes, Klondike Institute of Art and Culture, Rabbit Island, and The Santa Fe Art Institute.

* Click here to see more of Dylan Miner's work and learn about his projects. Thanks to Bonnie Peterson for this link.

** Click here to learn more about Dylan Miner and the art he shares on

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Carnegie Museum of the Keweenaw to host KLT meeting, panel discussion on Father's Day Flood Nov. 8; Mind Trekkers Nov. 10

(Poster courtesy Carnegie Museum of the Keweenaw)

HOUGHTON -- The Carnegie Museum of the Keweenaw will host two events open to the public on Thursday, Nov. 8. The Keweenaw Land Trust (KLT) will hold its Annual Meeting from 6 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. Following the meeting, a panel discussion, "An Overview of Green Infrastructure Opportunities and Preparedness for Future Flooding" will be the first in the Carnegie's 2018-19 Keweenaw Natural History Seminar Series: "The Father's Day Flood: Causes, Effects, and Responses." Both events, to be held in the Carnegie's Community Room, are free and open to the public.

The panel will include speakers David Watkins and Alex Mayer, both Michigan Tech professors, who will discuss the role of green infrastructure and land management in flooding mitigation. The speakers will address the causes of flooding, the impact of land use on flooding, and potential practices and technologies we could adopt in our area to lessen the impact of future floods.

The Carnegie Museum of the Keweenaw is on the corner of Huron and Montezuma streets in Houghton.

Mind Trekkers at Carnegie Museum Saturday, Nov. 10
(Poster courtesy Carnegie Museum of the Keweenaw)

The Carnegie Museum's Science Saturday will present the Mind Trekkers -- science and fun for the whole family -- from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10.

Michigan Tech University’s Mind Trekkers bring the WOW! of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to the hands and minds of K-12 students (and their parents) under the inspirational guidance of the Mind Trekkers team consisting of undergraduate and graduate students. Visit their Web site to learn about their activities and demonstrations.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve to hold 23rd Annual Meeting and Celebration Nov.7

Poster announcing the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve Nov. 7 in Marquette. (Poster courtesy Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve)

MARQUETTE -- Join the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at the Ore Dock Brewing Company in Marquette for an evening of celebration, education, and fundraising. This year marks the group’s 23rd anniversary, and each year they host a meeting of the membership to let supporters know of their activities and organizational changes and to elect individuals to the Board of Directors.

Also this year the group is helping the National Park Service celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. During the evening, there will be a short presentation of this historic piece of legislation that has helped save rivers across the country. In addition, the unveiling of the Yellow Dog River Story Map will occur. A Story Map is an innovative multimedia tool that can be used to raise awareness for topics like the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

While you are at the event, check out the silent auction -- which is focusing on providing outdoor experiences as well as offering artwork, gift certificates, and gear as fundraising items. Help yourself to light refreshments and great Ore Dock beer as you jam out to the music of Everything Under the Sun. This local band prides themselves on performing a different show every time and focusing on stage presence, flawless sound, and genuine care for the crowd's desire with a wide variety of music.

There is a suggested $5 donation at the door to help cover expenses. The door donation gets you an entry into a drawing for door prizes like a brand new Patagonia backpack and other sweet goodies. Questions contact 906-345-9223 or

For more information on the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve and their work, visit their Web site.