Tuscarora, b. 1956
With Anita Ferguson (top left, b. 1975)
Janice Smith (top right, b. 1961)
Mary Annette Clause (middle, b. 1958)
Judy Judware (bottom left, b. 1944)
Anita Greene (bottom right, b. 1961)
… the sky is darkening …, 2019
infused the dye on aluminum and fabric and beaded birds
Artwork courtesy of the artist, with special thanks to the Cornell University Museum of vertebrates for permission to document the passenger pigeon(Ectopistes migratorius), Cornell lab of Ornithology, 2018
The exhibition organizers do not yet have a Native-language translation of this text.
Listen to Jolene Rickard on her work
[Speaking Tuscarora] My name is Jolene Rickard. My Tuscarora name is . I am from the Tuscarora Nation which is located in the settler state of the United States, in western New York. The Tuscarora are part of the Haudenosaunee, the sixth nation. I’m a turtle clan and for the Haudenosaunee the clan system is the key system.
At present I’ve been teaching at Cornell University. And Cornell is located within the homelands of the Cayuga Nation, and it’s had a profound impact on my being. It’s an extraordinary moment, because the Cayuga are resettling that territory after 200 years of forced removal. Remember that the United States was able to establish itself based on the dispossession of many indigenous peoples. But this particular land was specifically designated as a burnt-earth campaign, which would be recognized today as a genocidal strategy. And so they came through our territories in 1779, not only burnt all of the crops, but they also forcibly displaced large communities of Cayuga people. So, their return to the land right now is actually quite profound.
The piece is about deep reclamation of land by the Cayuga in conjunction with the complexity of the beaded bird. And I’m working it through both an abstract and then physical representations of the beaded bird. And so in the historic record, there’s this moment where they talk about what the land was like at that period of time. And I was inspired by this image of thousands of birds darkening the sky. I’ve taken that as an opportunity to think through this relationship to place and using that in dialog with a ubiquitous symbol of Tuscarora beadwork which is this beaded bird. The beaded bird for Tuscarora is probably, you know, one of the most fanciful, yet at the same time meaningful pieces of beadwork. Tuscarora beadwork, and beadwork of all of the Haudenosaunee actually has a direct relationship to our cosmological narratives. But you have to understand the cosmological narrative in order to see it in the beadwork. And so in my piece, I’ve collected older pieces, I’ve also been working with a new generation of bead-workers, and pulling together all of these different birds that will be a part of this piece. So the piece is a collaboration on that level. And so conceptually, I provide the frame, but they provide the artistic excellence in the birds they’re making for my piece.
Mia does not yet have a Native-language translation of this text.
This artwork includes beaded birds made by Haudenosaunee women, which Jolene Rickard has collected for 50 years. Rickard says she “juxtaposed them against a stark taxidermy image of the extinct passenger pigeon that was hunted to extinction at contact [with Euro-Americans]. . . . at early contact the sky would go dark from the vast flocks of pigeon overhead. The etched photograph of the taxidermy pigeon in combination with the Tuscarora beaded bird bridges the ecological and cultural space we live in now. We can’t bring the pigeon back, but we are continuing to celebrate their song, and subsequently our being, through beadwork.”