Canadian/First Nations/Hunkpapa Lakota (Sioux) (born in Canada), b. 1959
Buffalo Bone China, 1997
DVD, bone china, stanchion, rope, ribbon, 2/2
Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Acquired with funds from the Winnipeg Rh Foundation Inc. and with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts Acquisition Assistance program/Oeuvre achetée avec l'aide du programme d'aide aux acquisitions du Conseil des Arts du Canada
Buffalo Bone China is a video and mixed-media installation that investigates the history of the slaughter and near extermination of the prairie buffalo by white European settlers. At the same time, the piece honours the prairie buffalo’s integral role in Lakota First Nations culture. In the late nineteenth century, as white settlement expanded into the west, hundreds of thousands of buffalo were killed to make way for the railway, leaving haunting heaps of carcasses covering the plains. Entrepreneurial “bone brokers” took advantage of this slaughter and sold buffalo bones for various products, and sent smaller bones to England to make fine bone china. As Dana Claxton’s powerful work points out, while some nations had the privilege of eating on fine china made from buffalo bones, other nations suffered and starved.