Delina White, 2023 McKnight Fiber Artist Fellow
Delina White is a Native apparel designer, beadwork artist, and Indigenous materials jewelry maker and has been making heirloom beadwork, apparel, and accessories for as long as she can remember. She is an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and lives in her hereditary homeland on the lake shore of Agency Bay in the village of Old Agency (Onigum) on the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota.
White’s work combines functionality with decoration and global influences to honor time, place, and culture. Using materials rich in texture, natural and handmade, and designs that incorporate meaningful symbols that define the diversification of landscape, she combines contemporary with traditional style to make wearable art founded in the traditional designs of the Great Lakes Woodland Anishinaabeg.
My artwork is built on the traditional philosophy of living a good life: traditional values rooted in the belief of love for oneself, human kind, and our mother Earth. Art is a way to wear the pride, dignity, and distinction of the original Great Lakes and Woodlands people”, says White. This life work is a way to communicate the values and beliefs of the original people of the Great Lakes Woodlands as an intergenerational cultural knowledge keeper, passing tradition to me from my grandmother and her grandmother before her.
Artists are the history keepers, having documented societal events since the beginning of time. We provide inspiration to motivate change, bringing awareness to thrive for a better world. In my work, apparel design and fashion accessories become a narrative to assert equity rights, the need to protect sacred sites, build a sustainable environment, and to show cultural pride as sovereign nations.
Using natural objects for personal adornment is part of the indigenous culture and tradition. Through the designs and materials used in making art, songs and dances, clothing and jewelry, we show respect for the environment and beliefs instilled by our ancestors. Making beautiful jewelry and clothing is one way we honor the gifts given to us by the Creator; it is an expression of creativity of who we are as people. It is the way we say, “I am Anishinaabe.”
The world of the Great Lakes, the largest body of freshwater in the world, has a unique lifeway specific to the people who live within its shores. For White, this world is a source of endless inspiration in its variations of extremes–freezing cold, snow and northern lights in the winter, rain and thunder storms in the spring, strong winds and bold autumn colors in the fall, with the brief summer months filled with heat and splendid sunrises and sunsets. “The Anishinaabeg possess tremendous respect and appreciation for all of nature’s forces and Spirit elements”, says White.
Beyond the inspiration and significance of place, working with community has been essential to her practice. Of her accountability to this, she states, “My goal is to advocate the importance of arts programming throughout Minnesota and beyond, to tap into the talents and grow business skills of Native artists and work with youth in creative placemaking to build self-confidence in identity for healthy communities. It is my responsibility to preserve the ancestral knowledge and share to advance what artists envision for themselves and our communities.
For more on Delina White’s work, visit iamanishinaabe.com
Red Winter Jacket Skirt
Woodland Basket Weave Dress