I learned of the current Native American Art Exhibit at the Department Labor and Industries, in honor of Native American Heritage Month, from a local television news story.
A representative of the Retired FBI Agents Association called Leonard Peltier names and condemned the use of tax payer resources for display of the imprisoned artist’s work. It was then announced that L&I agreed to remove the paintings from the exhibition.
I am puzzled by the implication that if someone is convicted of a crime and imprisoned, then citizens shouldn’t be allowed to see that person’s creative work. The coverage I’ve seen could have mentioned the Prison Arts Initiative or Prison Creative Arts Project, events which feature art by prisoners.
What about the published anthologies of writings by prisoners? What about the fact that Leonard Peltier’s case was listed in Amnesty International’s 2010 report as an unfair trial?
The message I am getting is that you may display your art work publicly if you are in prison, unless you are Native American. I respect the families and memory of all killed in Pine Ridge during the horrific conflict of the 1970s. However, removal of these paintings by L&I, and the vindictiveness of outside groups, tells me we are still struggling to move forward on issues around respect for Native people.
It’s not 1975 anymore; it is 2015. Leonard Peltier’s story has become internationally known. Fortunately, his paintings can still be seen by anyone with the quick click of a keyboard.