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Dennis Fox, Jr. on Art

North Dakota Native American Essential Understanding number six is about Native contributions. It states: "Native people continue to contribute to all levels of society, from local to global, in diverse fields, including medicine, science, government, education, economics, art, music, and many more."

In this episode of Dakota Datebook, we'll listen to Dennis Fox, Jr., enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation, talk about contributions in the world of art.

Dennis Fox, Jr.:

I have a degree in art and I have a degree in anthropology. Art is a reflection of man, so might as well study man. Why do they create art? You know that today's Indian artists, and I've always believed that, that they've got to compete in today's movements, genres of movements, whatever it be. Cubism, Pointillism, whatever it is, and Avant-gardism, whatever it is to be successful and be deemed a creditable intellectual artist, so to speak. The person that is carrying that art to the next level and we always want to progress with that art. But the Native artist has to also maintain the tribal mores and traditions of wherever they came from. They have to do traditional work, help the tribe, help the community, help your people, and still make a living and compete in these national movements that are going on.

When somebody comes to me and says, "Can you do this for me?" and that person may be pitiful. They don't have much, but they need this. They want to dance, they want to do this, they want to be in a ceremony, and I need this. Okay, I'll do that for you. Then they come and they say, "Oh, I came for that and is it finished?" Yeah, it's finished. I got it. All you have to do is pay me and that gift or that payment just may be a little bit of tobacco or a cigarette, and that will pay for that piece of artwork.

If you'd like to learn more about the North Dakota Native American essential understandings, and to listen to more Indigenous elder interviews, visit teachingsofourelders.org.

Dakota Datebook: Teachings of Our Elders is produced with support from and in collaboration with the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.

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