Photo by Dylan Miner
Native Kids Ride Bikes
March 2, 2013-July 28, 2013
125 North Madison St., Iowa City
“My people will sleep for one-hundred years, but when they awaken it will be the artists who give them back their spirit.”
– Métis leader Louis Riel,
hanged by Canadian government in 1885
The “Anishnaabensag Biimskowebshkigewag (Native Kids Ride Bikes)” project, which began in 2010, is a powerful collaboration between art and community. Indigenous youth in middle and high school, non-Native Michigan State University students, and Native artists came together to construct a series of seven lowrider bicycles, guided by the sacred Anishinaabeg teachings known as Niizhwaaswi G’mishomisinaani, or Our Seven Grandfathers.
Shown in the pennants exhibited in the gallery, these teachings include the concepts of Nbwaakaawin (wisdom), Zaagi’idiwin (love), Minaadendamowin (respect), Aakwa’ode’ewin (bravery), Debwewin (truth), Dibaadendiziwin (humility), and Gw ekwaadiziwin (honesty).
The exhibition features the series of seven lowrider bicycles that signify the grandfathers’ teachings, propose alternative Indigenous histories and subjectivities, and provoke us to think about sustainable modes of transportation. Drawing on the importance of hip hop within the urban Native community, the lowrider bicycle serves as an ideal site of investigation as it allows young collaborators to bring their knowledge to a cross-generational project.
The lowrider bicycles have become the impetus to explore issues of migration, mobility, labor, economics, and community history for urban American Indians in Michigan. Of specific importance is the fusion of Native youth culture with traditional stories, knowledge, and art-making. The bicycle is construed as a (post)modern evocation of the Red River cart, a common and important marker of Métis identity and symbol of migration.
By envisioning the bicycle from an Indigenous perspective, this project redirects the discourse on sustainable transportation and has a positive influence on Native health when more youth ride bicycles. Using concepts established by the Maori scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith, this project and its exhibition asks what role the bicycle may play in revitalizing Indigenous culture and how it may intervene in the destruction of the earth.
-Dylan AT Miner, PhD