Alexandra Buffalohead: Shifting the Perspective

Alexandra Buffalohead: Shifting the Perspective

Gallery 261
November 24, 2021–November 27, 2022

How do museum narratives obscure some histories in preference of telling others? In her installation, guest curator Alexandra Buffalohead (Bdewakantowan Dakhóta, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate) examines this dynamic through the prism of Indigenous history and knowledge. Placing the James J. Hill presentation tray (Tiffany and Co., 1884) in dialogue with Native artworks, Buffalohead offers a more complex and accurate framing of the history of St. Anthony Falls and Wita Wanagi (Spirit Island), a spiritual site for Dakhóta people; the island, which remained even as the Falls became a hub for logging, milling, and transportation, was removed in 1960 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ creation of the lock and dam. In doing so, she provides a corrective lens that transcends and enriches Mia’s presentation of the past.

A Beaded Dakhóta Hymnal

Mia recently added a Dakhóta-language hymnal (book of Christian hymns) with a beaded front and back cover to the collection. Hymnals written in Dakhóta were not word-for-word translations—their translators retained core features of Dakhóta spirituality while mapping them onto Christian beliefs.

Listen to “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” sung in Dakhóta

For the hymnal’s presentation at Mia, Šišóka Dúta (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate) translated parts of the hymnal from Dakhóta to English, while Dr. Clifford Canku (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate) sung “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” in Dakhóta.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

A! Waŋkáŋd dowáŋpi čhe! Thúŋpi kiŋ idówaŋpi; Wódakhota
K’a nakúŋ wówauŋšida ahí. Iyákiš’a po, owás
Wóohiye tháŋka čhe; K’a okníkde ob deháŋd Thúŋpi kiŋ o-
Yáka po, K’a okníkde ob deháŋd Thúŋpi kiŋ oyáka po

Shout! Above the Angels sing, it is so, Glory to the newborn King, Peace
And also salvation he brings. Shout all
He has won a big victory, it is so, and now the newborn is with the angels,
Tell it is so, and now the newborn is with the angels, tell it is so

He wičháčheȟpi ičú,
K’a wičháša ob uŋ čhe,
Jesus Christ Emmanuel

And he is the true Wakháŋthaŋka
He takes our flesh/soul
And he is born with mankind
Jesus Christ Emmanuel

Wóokizi kiŋ yuhá,
Áŋpa k’a wičhóni kho,
He deháŋd uŋkáhipi,
Itkókhipha po, owás

He has healing
And light and life
He brought those to us
Great him, all

Invitation to reflect, respond, remember:

This curatorial project, “Shifting Perspectives” highlights the unique and essential input that can be offered by Native Americans in the museum space, particularly related to objects made by our own Native relatives. This process is both rewarding and necessary to move toward a future of collaboration, honesty, and reconciliation between predominantly white institutions and Native communities.
If you would also like to share your perspectives and reflections on this exhibition, please complete the form below. Please note: the request for responses aims to center Native voices in the Minnesota community.

Survey for “Shifting Perspectives”