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Our Living Commitment to Native Nations

Bear Clan members dancing and singing as people watch in the background.
Photo Credit: Museum of Wisconsin Art

Native Nations and Indigenous people are still here and will be here beyond the boundaries of time and politics. Native people, Native land, Native history, and Native futures are essential and intrinsic to the region that is now called the Midwest.

Leaders of Native communities across this region negotiated in good faith, and government to government, through treaties. In doing so, these treaties reserved sovereignty, inherent fishing and gathering rights, and self-determination. When land wasn’t ceded through good faith efforts, it was relentlessly stolen from Indigenous communities. Treaties are the laws of the land; lands across the United States were ceded through treaty processes that have been broken over and over.

Through the Urban Relocation Program in the 1950s, major Midwestern cities such as Minneapolis and Chicago were central to assimilation efforts by the U.S. government in efforts to further reduce reservation lands. These urban centers have become central to arts, justice, and social movements for Indigenous people and allies.

Today, there are 42 federally-recognized Native Nations that share the geography of the nine-state region served by Arts Midwest. Our main office is located on the shores of Bde Maka Ska, a site that has been central to the Očhéti Šakówiŋ (People of the Seven Council Fires, or Dakhóta/Lakȟóta/Nakhóta) for generations; our staff are located across the Midwest region.

Arts Midwest believes creativity has the power to inspire and unite humanity. Arts Midwest amplifies creativity by supporting, informing, and celebrating arts organizations and creative communities. The arts can connect people through space and time and across cultural boundaries, build understanding between peoples, and give rise to healing opportunities.

At Arts Midwest, we believe that statements are only the first part of an engaged process towards building relations with Native communities. As our organization develops, we have more work to do to uplift Native communities and artists. We need to recognize and stand in solidarity with the active histories and The People who call and have called the Midwest home for countless generations. We invite you to join us in acknowledging all of this, as well as our collective responsibility towards decolonization and solidarity with Native Nations and Indigenous communities. 

What’s Next?

Arts Midwest understands this work requires a constant state of learning and growth. It is a journey we are on both collectively and individually across the organization.

Stepping beyond words, Arts Midwest is continually striving towards actions. We are currently working on an Equity Action Plan that will encompass our commitments to Native Nations, our commitments to accessibility, and our commitments to equity, diversity, and inclusion. We will update our community with this action plan in the summer of 2024.