Dylan A.T. Miner is an artist, activist, and scholar.
Dylan AT Miner (b. 1976) is an artist, activist, and scholar. He is Director of American Indian and Indigenous Studies, as well as Associate Professor in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University. Miner sits on the board of the Michigan Indian Education Council and is a founding member of the Justseeds artist collective. He holds a PhD in Arts of the Américas from The University of New Mexico and has published extensively. In 2010, he was awarded an Artist Leadership Fellowship from the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution. Miner has been featured in more than two dozen solo exhibitions. He has been artist-in-residence or visiting artist at institutions such as the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, École supérieure des beaux-arts in Nantes, Klondike Institute of Art and Culture, Rabbit Island, Santa Fe Art Institute, and numerous universities, art schools, and low-residency MFA programs. His book Creating Aztlán: Chicano Art, Indigenous Sovereignty, and Lowriding Across Turtle Island was published in 2014 by the University of Arizona Press. In the past two years, he has published four risograph books: an artist’s book titled Aanikoobijigan // Waawaashkeshi, a booklet on Métis and Anishinaabe beadwork, a chapbook on quillwork, and another titled Bakobiigwaashkwani // She Jumps into the Water. In 2017, he commenced the Bootaagaani-minis ∞ Drummond Island Land Reclamation Project and in 2018 began collaborating to print little-known graphics from the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). He is committed to supporting Indigenous sovereignty, migrant and immigrant rights, labor rights, and ecological justice. Miner is of Métis and settler descent.
MÉTIS // HALFBREED FAMILY HISTORY
Born and raised in Michigan, Dylan Miner descends from the historic Georgian Bay Métis community in Ontario, with an older, ancestral relation to Slave Lake, Alberta. In particular, he descends from the Brissette-L’Hirondelle family, one of 21 “Verified Métis Family Lines” for the historic Georgian Bay Métis community. Miner’s root ancestor is Josette Miner (née Brissette), a midwife and herbalist whose beaded octopus bag is still in the family’s possession. Grandma Miner, as she was known, walked into the spirit world in 1932. Her obituary and other records indicate that she was born in Red River. She was baptized in Sault Ste. Marie by Rev. Jean Baptiste Proulx, who was the missionary priest in Binidaangising // Penetanguishene and later Wiikwemkoong.
A 1826 journal for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) post in Lesser Slave Lake names Josette’s father in relation to HBC employees marrying “Half Breed woemen as wifes” [sic]. In 1901, Papers and Records of the Ontario Historical Society describes her father as a “half-breed” who was “tattooed from head to foot with all sorts of curious figures.” In this text, Lewis Solomon also refers to her mother as “an Indian woman of the Cree tribe” who was “rather clever, and superior to the ordinary Indian women.” Three of Josette’s male siblings are documented in the 1901 Census of Canada as F.B. (French Breed).
Dylan Miner’s ancestors were part of the Métis // Halfbreed community on Bootaagani-minis // Drummond Island - in what is now Michigan - and later in Binidaangising // Penetanguishene - in what is now Ontario. This historic Métis community fought against the Americans during the War of 1812 and, after a border dispute, was forced to relocate across the US-Canada border in 1828 and 1829. While some Métis // Halfbreeds migrated to Sault Ste. Marie, where Gimaa Zhingwaak // Chief Shingwauk welcomed them, the majority relocated to Binidaangising // Penetanguishene. Miner’s family went to Penetang. Rosette Boucher (née Adam dit Laramee), a Root Ancestor Descendent for the Laramee-Cloutier “Verified Métis Family Line”, remembered being “in the sugar camp when some of the others started" the migration across Lake Huron in 1828.
In 1840, twenty-two “half breeds residing in the Town of Penetanguishene” petitioned to receive annuities, like those that Indians and some Métis // Halfbreeds were receiving. This is archived in Indian Affairs as a "petition of certain Half Breed Indians praying for presents.” While this petition did not include Miner’s ancestors, it did include many other “Verified Métis Family Lines” for the historic Georgian Bay Métis community. One of the signatories of the Petition, Michel Labatte recalled that “Nothing but French and Indian was spoken at Drummond Island. I learned English at Penetanguishene, where I first heard it spoken.” Labatte also signed the 1850 Halfbreed petition in Sault Ste. Marie and, according to baptism records, his daughter Celeste was baptized in Sault Ste. Marie by Father Proulx on the same day as Josette Miner (née Brissette).
As a Language learner and with Labatte’s quote in mind, Dylan Miner frequently employs Michif to honor his extended L’Hirondelle relatives from the West, as well as Anishinaabemowin // Nishnaabmemwin for its historic and ongoing importance for upper Great Lakes Métis. Recently, Miner has begun research on Brayet, the now dormant mixed-language (Anishinaabemowin and French) once used in the upper Great Lakes. Miner uses the term Wiisaakodewinini (Wiisaakodewininiwag, plural; meaning Bois Brûlé or burnt wood people) to refer to himself and descendants of the historic Métis communities of the upper Great Lakes. Others use the term Aabitaawizinini (Aabitaawizininiwag, plural; meaning half people), as well. Fluent Nishnaabemwin-speaker and language teacher Alphonse Pitawanakwat has shared with Dylan Miner the term Aagonetaageninwag - “the people whose request was ignored” - in reference to the Halfbreed // Métis communities whose petitions were never addressed. Alphonse has also shared two other terms for Métis // Halfbreeds, including Gaaboozibiigesigog – “the people who didn’t sign treaty” – and Gaaginjagaazigog – “those not counted due to not signing treaty.”
In 1879, Miner’s ancestors moved north from Binidaangising // Penetanguishene to a location where the Chi-bizhiigong-zibi // Shebeshekong River empties into the Georgian Bay. This was an important site, because it was the immediately adjacent to the LaRonde Trading Post, which was run by another “Verified Métis Family Line.” Historical documents also note that there was a significant manoomin // wild rice bed at the mouth of the river, which would have provided a food source, as well as attracted waterfowl. It was in this area where Miner’s great-great-grandfather, Narcisse Miner, was charged with poaching a deer in 1906. Interestingly enough, the east bank of the Shebeshekong River is now known as Poacher’s Point. In 1953, the year Dylan Miner’s father was born in Michigan, his family sold their Land in their Traditional Territory.
Since he is neither a Canadian citizen nor an Ontario resident, Miner is not at this time a member of the Métis Nation of Ontario or any Metis organization.