Eagle Dance and Nation as a River 2009


The Muhheakantuck in Focus, Glyndor Gallery, Wavehill.

“Muhheakantuck, a Lenape word meaning “the river that flows both ways,” was the original name for the estuary that now commemorates Henry Hudson.

Maria Hupfield circled back to the original name of the river, Muhheakantuck, to create these ink drawings. She researched maps and other abstractions of history to delve into the assumptions made about a place. She notes that the fact that the river flowing both ways shares similarities with aboriginal ideas of governance. Her multi-layered use of powerful Anishnaabe origin figures that double as symbols of power in Western governments, invites different interpretations. In the Nation as a River, on the left, the parallel movement suggests the river flowing both ways, with the canoes in one direction and the imperial lion (or underwater panther) in the other. The image is open to interpretation of the flow of the river and the Two Row Treaty between the Dutch and the Haudenosaunee in 1613. The Eagle Dance bears a relation to emblematic representations of the United States, yet is also a powerful Anishnaabe sky world figure. By drawing a red line across each frame, the artist asserts her hand, and reminds us of the symbolic nature of the drawing.