Assistant Professor Adam Spry began his March 15 talk on the future of Native American cultural expression with an introduction in his native tongue that translates to, “Who I am, where I come from, and to whom I have obligations.”
Spry, who was speaking in a Walker Building classroom as part of the WLP Scholar Series, also acknowledged that he was very aware of the fact that he does not look like your typical Native American.
“I have this existential dread as a middle-class Indian talking about middle-class Indians,” said Spry, who is White Earth Anishinaabe.
After walking the audience through a brief history of Native American art and culture, Spry discussed how it is being appropriated by pop culture. He mentioned a 2012 case in which the Navajo Nation sued the clothing company Urban Outfitters for appropriation of the Navajo name and tribal patterns.
Spry transitioned from pop culture to the Native American poets of today, who are changing the landscape and conceptions of their culture.
“In their subject matter they are addressing what it means to be a Native artist,” Spry said.
Adam Spry is the author of Our War Paint Is Writers' Ink: Anishinaabe Literary Transnationalism (SUNY Press, 2018), released this month.