Royal Portrait: The Equality of Indigenous Women

At the Metal Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, a new exhibit has just opened which features an exhibition of Indigenous artists, Portrait Royalhighlighting the importance of Indigenous matriarchs by reinventing regalia and portraits.

1. Morgan AssoyufPortrait of Morgan Asotyuf (Photo/Courtesy of George Lawson Photography)The artist, Morgan Asoyuf, is an artist from the Ts’msyen Eagle Clan of Ksyeen River (Prince Rupert area), British Columbia, Canada. Asoyuf, 38, has quite a list of experience. She first earned a fashion design certificate from the Blanche Macdonald Center (Vancouver, BC) before apprenticed with woodcarvers Henry Green (Tsm’syen) and Phil Gray. She also apprenticed with woodcarver Richard Adkins (Haida).

She also studied bronze casting and even earned diplomas in jewelry design and stone carving from the Vancouver Metal Art School. Asoyuf even completed an intensive gem setting program at Revere Academy.

His work has previously been featured in places such as Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, Museum of Vancouver, Steinbrueck Native Gallery

In Asoyuf’s exhibition, she revisits the crowns, scepter, cloaks and jewels that identify leaders to confront the traditional societal structures that exist. She uses jewelry and photography to shift the view of the balance of power towards that of the matriarch.

Asoyuf features indigenous matriarchs and activists in full dress.

In Ts’msyen culture, matriarchs hold a special position of high rank that can be both compared and contrasted to the Western concept of kingship. It is the job of the matriarchs to ensure that their community and their lands are taken care of.

“Today there is a lot of confusion and struggle in our communities to make these important decisions, especially regarding land,” Asoyuf writes. “Colonial governments and modern tribal councils often fail to respect these inherent rights.”

Issues such as Return to the Land, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Two-Spirit People, and Environmental Sovereignty, are important movements that Asoyuf strives to bring attention to through his work.

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“This is a critical time for our people to create conversations around traditional societal structures, power and leadership,” Asoyuf said. “We need to properly recognize our matriarchs.”

His exhibition will be presented at the Metal Museum Keeler Gallery by September 25.

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About the Author

Neely Bardwell
Author: Neely BardwellE-mail: This email address is protected from spam. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Neely Bardwell (descendant of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indian), who started as an intern at Native News Online in the summer of 2021, is a freelance writer. Bardwell is a student at Michigan State University where she majored in politics and minored in Native American studies.

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