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Lard Pails


One Drop of Indian Blood - Pure White Lard (2000) 7" H x 6" W

Since moving to Regina to attend the MFA program in ceramics at the University of Regina, I have become interested in advertising on tin products from the 19th and 20th centuries. What intrigues me most about them is the way the images reveal the dominant culture’s sentiments towards racially identified groups. The use and co modification of the stereotyped Indian image, as “noble savage” and “Indian Maiden” were used in the advertisement of everyday products such as foodstuffs, medicines, and tobacco. Other common household items—ashtrays, salt and pepper shakers, toys, matches, planters, and games often featured grotesque one-dimensional and demeaning caricatures. These images were widely acceptable because they posed no obvious threat to white society. In fact, they soothed white consciences by making reference to a nostalgic past while also promoting white supremacy through asserting control over naming and depicting First Nations peoples. In resistance to these stereotypical identifications, I have re-invented some of these labels in accordance with my way of knowing and understanding the world. Beginning in the Fall Semester of 2000 I created new and improved labels on slip-cast and hand-built ceramic tins that conveyed some of my thoughts and experiences. One Drop of Indian Blood - Pure White Lard focuses on the issue of white people claiming to be Indian.

Ojibwa Brand - Different from all "others" Lard (2001) 7" H x 6" W

The slip cast ceramic objects have multi-layered meanings. Although dated, the lard pail holds many memories (positive and negative) for those who used them as lunch boxes during their childhood. The use of the lard pail is important to my work because lard addresses the desirability of being “Pure White.” The incorporation of the romanticized images is designed to act like a disguise to entice the viewer. At first glance, they appear innocent and light-hearted. But, as you read the text and examine the images more closely, you are slapped with realities that may begin to make white people feel a bit uncomfortable. They are everyday objects that have become a vehicle for illustrating double-edged encounters with ignorance. A number of the pails, for example, have images of a traditionally dressed native man giving the finger. It is not a gesture one would expect to find associated with advertising images of First Nations peoples. Ojibwa Brand is the first pail depicting "giving the finger".

North West Coast Brand - Pure White Lard (2002) 7" H x 6" W

“North West Coast Brand” (2002) is another ceramic lard pail that has an image of a First Nation’s man dressed in a traditional North West Coast button blanket and frontlet. He is looking directly at the viewer, giving the finger, while also holding a copy of the BC Referendum. There is a common misconception that “Indians” are a conquered people. What white people don’t seem to realize is that First Nations peoples in BC have been involved in protests for recognition of their title to the land as well as self-government since the 1880s. In addition, in British Columbia, the treaty negotiations have been on and off the table for over one hundred years. At issue are traditional Indian lands that are currently owned by the Crown, as well as a fair share in the resources, and the inherent right to self-government. Furthermore, compensation is also being sought in order to begin the healing process with regards to the loss of language, the loss of culture and the loss of economic opportunity. The recent approval of the BC Referendum jeopardizes the treaty negotiation process and is one more attempt by a provincial government to squirm out of striking a more positive relationship with the First Nations peoples.

Mi' K Maq Brand - Different From All "Others" - Pure Lard

The labels operate to challenge and deconstruct many of the stereotypical assumptions we are blanketed with by revealing a deeper truth. In order to understand the work, the viewers must partially step outside of their own situation in order to recognize the irony in the condition of the other. Many of the labels convey realities experienced by First Nations peoples. They also show ongoing defiance with regards to contemporary issues while also revealing the experience of being native.

Colonizer Brand - White Lard (2001) 7" H x 6" W

“Colonizer Brand,” holds the image of a native being clubbed over the head by a bat-wielding conquistador. It relates to the historical positioning of the native peoples of this continent as well as to the position that the Europeans took through domination and colonization. The lard pail indicates that the campaign for white supremacy has, on the whole, been successful in that the native has been forced and kept in a subordinate status for a very long time.

Enlightenment Brand - Pure White Lard (2002) 7" H x 6" W

“Enlightenment Brand” (2002), I have placed three images of myself in a circular vortex that is surrounded by the text, “I am a colonized other, I am a colonized other…. It relates directly to my experiences with western theory, which places me in a marginalized position due to my ethnicity as a First Nations person. At first, I had great difficulty accepting this label as I thought that it was a no win situation. It was as if white people (instructors) had placed me in a situation where I was so beaten down that there was really no hope in overthrowing the constraints that this term relegates me to. Instead, over time, I have decided to embrace the term as this stance makes it much easier to accept and twist around so that the viewers can see the absurdity in this positioning. It also enables me to ask the question, “If I am a colonized other, does that not still make you the colonizer?” This question makes for an interesting discussion; one that I have yet to experience or been offered an answer to. 

Indian Expert Brand - Rendered Lard (2002) 7" H x 6" W

“Indian Expert Brand” (2002) relates to experiences I have had with white people. The image is a portrait of a white man I had encountered while I was a student attempting to organize the inaugural First Nations Awareness Day event at the Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design. I have used his image to address the issue of white people thinking that they know more about us than we do. In reality, they have most likely received their (mis)information from misinformed texts that were prevalent in institutional curriculum, beginning with grade school and continuing on at higher levels of education.

I am an Injun Brand - Pure White Lard (2002) 7" H x 6" W

“I Am An Injun” (2002) consists of an image of a young white male child wearing a store-bought “Indian Headdress” made of multi-colored feathers. The “Indian costume” promotes ignorance and racism that stems from the image of the Hollywood Indian. In addition, it seems to fulfill the comfortable fantasy of being ferocious and warrior-like as Indians were stereotypically depicted in textbooks, comics and western movies. Furthermore, the text, “I Am an Injun” is a form of bastardized English that has been highly promoted as a stereotypical Indian accent. I remember being seventeen and having a dream where I was speaking “Indian”, except that it was in this version...with a lot of ughms placed at the end of every other word. When I told my then-roommate about the dream, she got really upset and disgusted with me. Her response was not all that unusual, as I am sure that many First Nations peoples take offense to the ignorance and disrespect that is promoted towards First Nations/Native American Plains cultures. The “Indian Headdress” is available in both in children’s and adult sizes and seems to be a much sought after item that continues to be sold in many costume stores throughout North America.

 

Missing is the image of "Indian on a Horse" Brand (2003)