Anpa O Wicahnpi, Morningstar - Dakota Pride Banner

5’ x 35’ dyed and pieced ripstop nylon

Anpa O Wicahnpi, Dakota Pride Banner is my first public work. Commissioned by the City of Seattle, it is a temporary work, installed in a covered walkway just to the east of the International Fountain. It was installed between August 2017 and June 2018.

The piece came about through my participation in the City of Seattle Office of Arts and Culture’s Public Art Boot Camp. Over two weekends, artists learned about the many facets of the realm of public art. We also had the opportunity to work with a public art professional to develop a proposal for a public art opportunity. I was interested in the possibility of having my artwork in the Seattle Center Sculpture Walk. As a resident of Olympia, I often come to Seattle Center for festivals, holidays and WNBA Storm games at Key Arena, and the kids love playing on the epic Artists at Play playground.
Frolicking in the International Fountain

Using a rainbow palette to signify the celebration of diversity that is at the “Heart of the City” – the theme of this year’s Seattle Center Sculpture Walk, I sewed a hand-pieced Morningstar banner that hangs along the ceiling in the International Pavilion Covered Walkway, creating a festive ambiance below as people make their way to and from the activity at Seattle Center. 

Seattle Office of Arts and Culture Program Project Manager, Elisheba Johnson and I during installation

As an urban Dakota person, whose traditional home is far away, it’s rare to see images from my culture reflected in local art. I know there are many people like me, living in a diaspora, who are here as a result of the federal Relocation program during the 1960s. This piece is an homage to our journey and a shout out to fellow Oceti Sakowin, Great Sioux Nation, people who reside in the Pacific Northwest – there are many of us!

Anpa O Wicahnpi

In my work as a student and practitioner of Dakota art, I have seen a traditional Morningstar design in Dakota quillwork and in beadwork, and painted on old buffalo robes. Robes are placed around the shoulder of a person who is transitioning into another state in their life, or for honoring. The Morningstar design has been translated to cloth by women of the Oceti Sakowin, and the blankets are gifted in the same way.

The banner begins at the entrance by the Armory building with a red Morningstar, and ends with a violet-hued Morningstar, a color that references Schwendinger’s “Dreaming in Color,” a permanent public art piece located in the walkway next to McCaw Hall. Like Chihuly’s Bridge of Glass at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, the piece relies on light filtering down to the viewer below to illuminate the imagery.
Sewing a thirty-five foot banner

Using the seven colors that make up the spectrum of light, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet, or ROYGBIV, the rainbow Morningstar banner draws comparisons to the pride flag which is meant to celebrates diversity and solidarity with the LGBTQ community and was created in the Castro District of San Francisco.

This year, the City of Philadelphia updated the pride flag to include new brown and black and black stripes. The additional colors symbolize the City’s Office of LGBT Affairs’ commitment to inclusion of people of color. I was inspired by this and also included brown and black in Anpa O Wicahnpi. Each Morningstar has four colors in addition to white. 

In my search for ripstop nylon in all colors of the rainbow, I sourced the fabric from sail and kite-making companies as well as specialty fabric stores. I used fluorescent colors where I could, since they remind me of the bright colors of powwow regalia. Still, I was still not able to find all the colors I needed. For those colors, I decided to use the dyeing process. Sourcing one color in particular, indigo, caused me to learn more about the far-reaching legacy of slavery on colonial indigo plantations.

Dyeing nylon with synthetic indigo dye

I always bring my kids along through the process of creating work so they learn what goes into the creative process. We come from a family of artists, and they are artists in their own right. They helped me piece the fabric, make design decisions, and, as an extra set of hands.

Anpa O Wicahnpi is a celebration of the diversity in Seattle, within our tribal communities and in all communities. Many different kinds of people, many ways of thinking and being make us stronger if we embrace our differences as well as our similarities. This piece activates the space in a lighthearted way while also carrying a message that diversity is beautiful and pays homage to urban Native people’s resilience through vibrant cultural expression.
The dog watches over the process
For its last month of installation at Seattle Center, the banner is located in front of the Children's Museum:
pic by Elisheba Johnson

pic by Elisheba Johnson

pic by Elisheba Johnson

Read more about the piece here and here.

Wopida Tanka, many thanks, to the First Peoples Fund for their support of this project!