Emerson Collective Fellowship

Wendy Red Star

Using visual art to expose flawed narratives about Native people.

2 min read

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As a member of the Crow Nation, Wendy Red Star was raised on the Crow reservation in Montana that encompassed two million acres, six towns, and three mountain ranges. Growing up on the reservation, Red Star felt “an intimate sense of belonging,” and loved being immersed in Crow culture—yet, Crow history wasn’t taught in her public school. In fact, Red Star didn’t start to learn about Native American history until college, and it inspired a from-ground-up reeducation. Today, Red Star aims to share that knowledge, visually, with a broader audience.

Red Star’s work spans photography, collage, sculpture, video, fiber art, and performance. An avid researcher, she reexamines cultural artifacts and historical imagery, using them as foundations for beautifully annotated photographs and installations. With works that are at once inquisitive, witty, and unsettling, she aims to make space for Native women’s voices in contemporary art and to create a strong foundation of knowledge for future generations.

Throughout the 1800s, many delegations traveled to Washington, D.C. to negotiate for their territories, languages, and cultures. In 1873, the first Crow Indian Delegation—a group of nine chiefs and three of their wives—traveled from Montana to meet with President Ulysses S. Grant. Many delegations repeated this journey—sometimes finding favor, but more often, being strong-armed into concessions. Portraits from these Native American delegations are true visual records of Native leaders fighting for their people.

With the Emerson Collective Fellowship, Red Star will bring these narratives to life in ongoing excavation of the images, documents, and material culture from the Crow Delegations to Washington, D.C., between 1873 and 1920. Mining archives, she’ll look at the historical events that prompted those trips, understand the negotiations taking place, and unearth the delegations’ experiences in their travels. The result will be an immersive installation, shedding new light on this overlooked chapter of U.S. history.