On the third floor of the historic Turnblad Mansion, a part of the American Swedish Institute, screenprinted archival photos of Sámi people, who are indigenous to the northernmost parts of Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia, hang from the ceiling and drawings of a herd of reindeer grace the walls.

“Mygration” portrays the eight seasons of the Sápmi, including the Sámi concept of time and the life of the reindeer, and photos of Sámi immigrants to Alaska around 1900 during a government-sponsored emigration of Sámi and reindeer from Nordic countries to Canada and Alaska. Sámi were offered a chance to teach reindeer husbandry to Inuit people. This installation, which also exists at All My Relations Gallery, emphasizes the ways that migration is an individual and group experience with an emphasis on the “my” aspect.

“When you walk around the installation, you move and the exhibition moves with you, so you are part of a movement that creates time, but also creates the history — the past, present and future,” said Swedish artist Stina Folkebrant, who worked on this with Sámi artist Tomas Colbengtson. “How can we handle these three stages? Because we’re here now, but we’re going to be carrying the history with us.”

“Mygration” is a part of the joint exhibitions “Arctic Highways: Unbounded Indigenous People,” with work by 12 Indigenous artists from Sámi territories, and the group exhibition “Okizi (To Heal)” at All My Relations Gallery, where artists collectively explore the healing impacts of cultural revitalization.

At the University of Minnesota’s Nash Gallery, the opening of “Dreaming Our Futures: Ojibwe and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ Artists and Knowledge Keepers”features 29 midcentury and contemporary Native painters, primarily Dakota and Ojibwe, and others who have ties to the region. Simultaneously, that show marks the opening of the George Morrison Center for Indigenous Arts, an interdepartmental study center named after the Grand Portage Ojibwe artist and U faculty member, who was a pivotal player in the abstract expressionism movement.

The sharing and collaboration of the shows at ASI and All My Relations is meant to show the similarities that Indigenous people from different parts of the world share and the ways that colonialism has affected culture.

“It is a true partnership across institutions, which is a very Indigenous way of being in relationship with one another, which is a different way of doing things for museums, and it’s the way museums should operate,” Minnesota Museum of American Art Executive Director Kate Beane said.


Colbengtson, who is Sámi, noted how much Indigenous visibility has increased during the past 10 years, yet the impacts of colonialism loom.

“Although you have your traditional practice, even the reindeer are colonized,” he said. “That’s the central part of the culture that’s colonized.”

In “Arctic Highways,” visual splendor abounds throughout the American Swedish Institute. Finnish Sámi photographer Marja Helander’sotherworldly pictures capture the effects of mining in Canada. Dan Jåma’s documentary videos explore the ways that the installation of green energy wind turbines on Sámi land disrupts the migration path of reindeer, central to the Sámi way of life. Canadian Inuvialuk artist Maureen Gruben‘s haunting photographs of three old and deteriorating polar bear rugs — gifted to her from another museum — propped up on tripods in frozen areas abandoned by oil companies tell the story of the melting polar ice caps. (She tried to bring the actual piece to the exhibition, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not allow it.)

In “Okizi (To Heal)” at All My Relations Gallery, a wide range of Indigenous artists explore cultural revitalization. Adrienne J. Keene uses traditional Cherokee art forms like basketry, mixed with contemporary and found materials like LED lights and wire to form a purse and a basket. Athabascan artist Gidinatiy Hartman‘s two prints show a drawing of a model dolled up in Athabascan fashion, like a parka with snowflake patterns.

Ojibwe and Ochethi Sakowin artists

“Dreaming Our Futures” at the U’s Nash Gallery, curated by Prof. Brenda J. Child (Red Lake Ojibwe) and gallery director Howard Oransky with Christopher Pexa (Bdewákaŋtuŋwaŋ Dakota, Spirit Lake Nation), associate professor of English, Harvard University, includes artists such as MacArthur “genius” grant award winner Dyani White Hawk (Sičáŋǧu Lakota), beloved Ojibwe artist Jim Denomie, Cole Redhorse Taylor (Dakota), who recently designed the Minnesota Wild goalie mask acquired by the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS), as well as artists like David Bradley (Minnesota Chippewa Tribe), who went to art school in Santa Fe, N.M., and stayed there.


With these exhibitions happening, as well as Artspace Projects’ second year of Pathways: A Native Space Initiative and the MNHS Native American Artists-in-Residence program, now in its 10th year, is visibility for Indigenous artists in the region having a moment?

“When you look at the ways in which artists like Dyani White Hawk are at the Whitney Biennial [in 2022], and the impact of Minnesota across the nation, Native artists in Minnesota are being seen more broadly across the nation,” Beane said. “Historically, we’ve kind of had to go elsewhere to be seen, and what’s really interesting for me, as a Dakota person, is that Minnesota is the center, it’s the heart of the world.”

“Arctic Highways: Unbounded Indigenous People” at American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Av. S., Mpls., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue., Wed., Fri.-Sun., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thu. Ends May 26.

“Okizi (To Heal)” at All My Relations Gallery, 1414 E Franklin Av., Mpls.,10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Fri., noon-3 p.m. Sat. Ends April 13.