December 13 - March 13, 2020
“The Only Certain Way is a collection of works that speak to the forced assimilation of Indigenous Peoples to Christianity. The 16th century, Spanish explorer and conqueror Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca kept a journal of his experiences as the first European to step foot in the Southwest. Therein he is quoted saying, in reference to religious conversion and assimilation, Indians “must be won by kindness, the only certain way.” Kindness was thus weaponized as a tool against Natives in order to shift their beliefs.
The Only Certain Way uncovers the lack of visibility of Native American culture, identity and lived experience, due to both the absence of proper representation in mainstream culture and the undermining of Native belief systems by way of mistrust and deceit veiled in sympathy and salvation. The complex and undeniable relationship between Native history and United States history exposes the ways tribal identity has been dismantled, grouped and homogenized to conceal diverse collections of individuals and communities. The works in the exhibition question the religious belief systems still so intricately woven into past generations—the results of being stripped of spiritual practice and tradition. Forced colonization and assimilation to Christian-based religions led to a century of whitewashing culture and customs and removing access to ancestors and their omnipresent spirits.
I am interested in identifying the line between the ideas and religious notions that have been forced upon Natives and the resulting adaptations of non-Native customs. Assimilation creates a crisis of identity and strips bare inherent beliefs, creating a base upon with to build a new system of faith. This disruption of self, brought on by conversion, is then only remedied by the promises of “truth” made by Christianity. The sculptures, photographs, prints and videos in the exhibition visualize the historical divide between acceptance and resistance, speaking to what is forced upon as opposed to what is created as a response.”
Joe Harjo, 2019
Opening: December 13, 2019 | 7–10 pm
Closing: March 13, 2020 | 7–10 pm
San Antonio, 78210 TX
(972) 900-0047Get directions