Water is the most intimate of all natural resources. We depend on and share our lives with water in its many forms—the soothing trickle of freshwater springs, meandering rivers, the rhythmic waves of a northern Great Lake, the thunderous roar of the ocean, and even debilitating droughts. Water reflects our emotions, awakens the senses, and excites imagination. Across the world, water conservation is a timely and urgent subject.
This exhibition explores water’s significance to Indigenous peoples and Nations in the United States through historical, modern, and contemporary artworks. In four thematic sections—Ancestral Connections, Water and Sky, Forests and Streams, and Oceanic Imaginations—diverse aquatic expressions feature both representational and abstract approaches.
The variety of items on view—protest fashion, hand-carved children’s toys, glass lamps, oil paintings, photographs, and video—create a current of memories belonging to Native American and non-Native artists. Throughout the exhibition, contemporary Indigenous community members provide individual interpretations and share their personal associations with water. The works collectively reveal how—across time and place—water provides nourishment, sanctuary, and healing while also activating protest, conflict, and complex dialogue.