Nokoomis Nibii Equay
Location: Campus Mall South Side
Installed: Summer 2018, dedicated September 22, 2018
Artist: Duane "Dewey" Goodwin
Commissioned by Puncky '73 and Mary Soehren Heppner '76, this statue, an older woman with two yound children at her sides, was created by Duane "Dewey" Goodwin, Anishinaabe, on the campus mall site during the summer of 2018. The Heppner's intention for the statue is to honor the past, present, and future of the Native American people whose ancestors attended the boarding school that once stood on the land of the University of Minnesota Morris campus. In an artist statement, Goodin writes, "The sculpture symbolizes the [journey] of the Native American, from a traditional people to an assimilated, but still proud, people. We have endured colonization, retaining our most valued traditions—our identity, language, ceremonies, and arts."
At the dedication ceremony for the sculpture, Goodwin revealed the name of the sculpture to be Nokoomis Nibii Equay, which ranslates in English as "Grandmother Water Woman." Goodwin drew the name of the piece from the significance of women as "givers of life," much like water is the giver of life in nature, and that grandmothers in particular are caretakers and play a significant role in Native American cultures.
At approximately 95 inches tall, the grandmother stands large and resolute between the two small children. There is a small boy, who is dressed in the uniform of the American Indian Boarding School, and the small girl wearing a dress. Both children clutch the grandmother, but the boy faces forward while the girl has her back turned. This shows the girl's reluctance to join the boy at the boarding school. Goodwin's grandmother attended the American Indian Boarding Shool that was previously located on the Morris campus, and Goodwin cited this as an inspiration for the project.
The sculpture is made from a 18,000-pound aquifer (a water-permeable rock), into which Goodwin embedded red pipestone. A spiritually important stone used by many Native American cultures to be carved into pipes for prayer, the pipestone can be found in the necklace, feet, and braid of the grandmother, the buttons on the boy’s shirt, on the lone visible foot of the girl, and on the back of the girl’s head. While speaking to students in the “Native Americans Represented in Pop and Academic Culture” course, taught by Professor Becca Gercken Ph.D., Goodwin said the inclusion of pipestone is important as “it is the blood that runs through our veins, the sacred stone of our people.”
Duane “Dewey” Goodwin is a sculptor who primarily works in stone. Goodwin has worked for over 30 years as an artist, in communities such as Bemidji and Leech Lake, Minnesota. He is also a 2012 Community Spirit Award Honoree with the First Peoples Fund, which chooses its Community Spirit Award honorees for their commitment to sustaining the cultural values of Native people. In 2006, Goodwin was selected as one of fourteen carvers to represent at the Minnesota Rocks! International Stone Carving Symposium, an international symposium for carvers.
Stevens County Times article
Meet the artist
Meet the artist, Duane Goodwin, and hear the story about the sculpture's creation and significance.