All Words Have Roots Here

All Words Have Roots Here
March 11—April 30, 2020 

All Words Have Roots Here is part of the 2021 National Endowment for the Arts Big Read Project, hosted by Fresno City College in partnership with the Fresno County Public Library. 

All Words Have Roots Here was developed collaboratively by Elena Harvey Collins and Leece Lee-Oliver, and with the artists. The title, a line from Joy Harjo’s poem “Break My Heart,” is both a conceptual seed and thread connecting her poetry with themes of memory, time, loss, land, and return, to our region and local context of California, the San Joaquin Valley, and foothills. It points to the idea that the meanings of our words come to us directly from the world, cosmos, and universe around us; reminding us that we can’t understand ourselves, or talk about the world, without recognizing our part in it. The works, techniques, foundations and purposes of the artists and cultural practitioners in the exhibition are deeply and vitally rooted here.

The exhibition draws connections between art, landscape, oral traditions, and the written word from language teachers and learners who work locally to reclaim Native American languages. Works on paper, in song, installation, poetry, basketry, painting, and film are included. Collectively, they speak into the gap of what is present, what has been lost, and what can and must be reclaimed. They offer ways of being in this complicated and beautiful place that honor and put into practice the cultural, intellectual, and scientific traditions of California Native peoples.

In a region often framed solely in terms of its poverty and economic distress, it is a profound joy to draw upon the artistic and intellectual resources of our local community and offer this rebuttal, or complication, instead.

“...Chaos is primordial. 
All words have roots here. 

You will never sleep again though you will
never stop dreaming. 

The end can only follow the beginning. 
And it will zigzag through time, governments, and lovers.”

Be who you are. Even if it kills you. 

It will. Over and over again. 
Even as you live.

Break my heart, why don’t you?”

(Excerpt from Break My Heart) — Joy Harjo

All Words Have Roots Here is organized by Elena Harvey Collins, Curator, Fresno City College,  and Dr. Leece Lee-Oliver (Blackfeet and Choctaw), Director of American Indian Studies and an Assistant Professor of American Indian Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at CSU-Fresno.

The exhibition will be installed at Art Space Gallery, and presented online. Several virtual programs are planned: please check back for further information, and follow the gallery on instagram for updates: @art_space_gallery 

Participants include:

  • Rachelle Areyan (Pascua Yaqui, lives and works in Fresno);
  • Jamie Boley (Choctaw, lives and works in Visalia);
  • Mercedes Dorame (Tongva, lives and works in Los Angeles);
  • Erik Damien Escovedo (Tarahumara & Mescalero Apache, lives and works in Fresno);
  • Cristina Gonzales (Chumash, lives and works in Visalia);
  • James Martin (Choctaw, lives and works in Fresno);
  • Bobby Von Martin (Choctaw, Lives and works in Fresno);
  • Melinda Micco (Seminole, Creek, and Choctaw, lives and works in Richmond);
  • Delaney R. Whitebird Olmo (Kashia Pomo, Yurok and Karuk, lives and works in Fresno);
  • Carly Tex (Western Mono, lives and works in Fresno);
  • Laura Wass (Mountain Maidu, lives and works in Fresno).

Carly Tex: On Weaving 

Western Mono traditional basketweaver and language bearer Carly Tex discusses the process of weaving her new tsamaya (winnowing basket), and how the practice of learning and teaching her language connects her to place and culture. 


Interview with Dr. Melinda Micco: Why are we walking — What are we doing this for?

In this interview, Seminole activist Melinda Micco talks about filming "Every Step a Prayer," the practice of spiritual walking and the intergenerational influence of her Seminole family and peoples’ resistance. She shares the meaning and history behind the “Refinery healing walks” that began as a peaceful act of resistance in response to the ongoing environmental degradation in the “refinery corridor” of California’s bay area. Prayerful, or spiritual, walks bring together Native American leaders and community members, and non-Native Americans, to walk in protection of the land, waters, and all communities.


Cristina Gonzales: Kišalasulǐs — Our Prayer

Cristina Gonzales is a a Chumash cultural practitioner, master weaver, educator, and Šmuwič language learner. Here, she sings, with relatives Isabel Ayala and Patricia Gonzales, a song written by her language teacher, the songwriter and superior court Judge Deborah Sanchez, to the tune of a Chumash lullaby. The songs expresses a deep connection to ancestors and affirms their continued presence.

Installation Views

Click to view larger imageWorks by Mercedes Dorame (Tongva), floor and wall pieces at back; Cristina Gonzales (Chumash), video projection, carrying net, and regalia at right; and Laura L. Wass (Mountain Maidu) with Rachelle Areyan (Yaqui) — floor projection. Installation view, All Words Have Roots Here, Art Space Gallery, 2021.

Click to view larger imageRear: Jamie Nakagawa Boley (Choctaw) with Corky Mills and Millie Vela (Lakota), Winyan Omnicha,  The Gathering of the Women, 2017; Front: Laura L. Wass (Mountain Maidu) with Rachelle Areyan (Yaqui): This is River Bottom, 2021. Installation view, All Words Have Roots Here, Art Space Gallery, 2021.

Click to view larger imageLeft: Delaney R. Whitebird Olmo (Kashia Pomo); Trapped Between Colonial Legacies and Small Hummingbird Dance (two new poems written on the occasion of All Words Have Roots Here); Center: Mercedes Dorame (Tongva); To Cross the River — Paxaayta Naamkomok, 2021; Right: James Martin (Choctaw), Missing, 2020; Rear: Bobby Von Martin, (Choctaw), Butterfly’s Flight, 2018. Installation view, All Words Have Roots Here, Art Space Gallery, 2021.

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Jamie Nakagawa Boley (Choctaw) with Corky Mills and Millie Vela (Lakota), Winyan Omnicha,  The Gathering of the Women, 2017. Installation view, All Words Have Roots Here, Art Space Gallery, 2021.

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Left: Cristina Gonzales (Chumash); Carrying Net, 2021; Right: Carly Tex (Western Mono), Tsamaya — winnowing basket, 2021. Installation view, All Words Have Roots Here, Art Space Gallery, 2021.

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Carly Tex, Tsamaya — winnowing basket, whole and split redbud shoots, cleaned chaparral. Installation view, All Words Have Roots Here, Art Space Gallery, 2021.

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Left: Dr. Melinda Micco (Seminole), Why are we walking — What are we doing this for?” projected interview, video with sound. Right: Erik Damien Escovedo (Taramuhara and Mescalero Apache), Untitled, 2021, ink and charcoal on paper. Installation view, All Words Have Roots Here, Art Space Gallery, 2021.

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Erik Damien Escovedo (Taramuhara and Mescalero Apache), Untitled, 2021, ink and charcoal on paper. Installation view, All Words Have Roots Here, Art Space Gallery, 2021.

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Left: Dr. Melinda Micco (Seminole), Why are we walking — What are we doing this for?” interview, projected video with sound. Right: Cristina Gonzales, Isabel Ayala, Patricia Gonzales, Kišalasulǐs — Our Prayer, projected video with sound. Installation view, All Words Have Roots Here, Art Space Gallery, 2021.

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Cristina Gonzales, Isabel Ayala, Patricia Gonzales, Kišalasulǐs — Our Prayer, projected video with sound. Installation view, All Words Have Roots Here, Art Space Gallery, 2021.  Installation view, All Words Have Roots Here, Art Space Gallery, 2021.

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Left: Mercedes Dorame (Tongva); Breath, Spirit, Wind — Hikaayey; The Sea Being Born — Moomat Peyook; To the Land of the Dead — Shiishonga, 2018, archival pigment prints;

Also center: To Cross the River — Paxaayta Naamkomok, 2021, acrylic on canvas, thread, cast concrete, sea salt crystals, cinnamon, feathers, found stone, quartz. Right: Delaney R. Whitebird Olmo (Kashia Pomo); Trapped Between Colonial Legacies and Small Hummingbird Dance, 2021 (two new poems written on the occasion of All Words Have Roots Here). Installation view, All Words Have Roots Here, Art Space Gallery, 2021.

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Left: Mercedes Dorame (Tongva); Breath, Spirit, Wind — Hikaayey; The Sea Being Born — Moomat Peyook; To the Land of the Dead — Shiishonga, 2018, archival pigment prints. Right: Delaney R. Whitebird Olmo (Kashia Pomo); Trapped Between Colonial Legacies, 2021, poem. Installation view, All Words Have Roots Here, Art Space Gallery, 2021.

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Delaney R. Whitebird Olmo (Kashia Pomo); Trapped Between Colonial Legacies (left) and Small Hummingbird Dance (right), 2021, two new poems written on the occasion of the exhibition. Installation view, All Words Have Roots Here, Art Space Gallery, 2021.

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James Martin (Choctaw), Ishtaboli, 2020, oil on canvas. Seen here with excerpts from Break My Heart (Joy Harjo). Installation view, All Words Have Roots Here, Art Space Gallery, 2021.

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James Martin (Choctaw), Healing, 2018, oil on canvas.  Installation view, All Words Have Roots Here, Art Space Gallery, 2021.

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Left: Bobby Von Martin (Choctaw), Never Forget, 2019, acrylic on canvas; Right: Bobby Von Martin, (Choctaw), Butterfly’s Flight, 2018. Center: Carly Tex (Western Mono), Tsamaya — winnowing basket, whole and split redbud shoots, cleaned chaparral. Installation view, All Words Have Roots Here, Art Space Gallery, 2021.

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Delaney R. Whitebird Olmo (Kashia Pomo); Small Hummingbird Dance, 2021.  Installation view, All Words Have Roots Here, Art Space Gallery, 2021.

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Right: Bobby Von Martin (Choctaw) Life Carrier, 2019, acrylic on canvas. Center: Carly Tex (Western Mono), Tsamaya — Winnowing  Basket, 2021. Works by Mercedes Dorame in background. Seen with excerpts from Joy Harjo’s poem “Break My Heart.” Installation view, All Words Have Roots Here, Art Space Gallery, 2021.