The Forge Project pays homage to Native American culture in the Hudson Valley

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Photo by Alon Koppel Photography, courtesy of The Forge Project

From its Hudson Valley headquarters, Project Forge supports members of the state’s scheduled tribes and honors native stories.

Founded in 2021 by Zach Feuer and Becky Gochman, the Forge project is an Indigenous-led initiative located on the unceded homelands of the Muh-he-con-ne-ok in upstate New York. The Forge Project strives to provide scholarship opportunities for members of state-scheduled tribes.

Through its scholarship program and events, the Ancram-based organization works to overturn the social and political systems that have been established through generations of colonialism.

“Forge’s mission is multi-faceted and includes collecting and building Indigenous art platforms, promoting decolonial education, and supporting leaders in culture, food security, and land justice” , said general manager Candice Hopkins.

On Muh-he-con-ne-ok land, designer Ai Weiwei worked in collaboration with HHF Architects to create structures that connect people to their natural surroundings. Creating two spaces with modern features, natural light, and an open concept of living, the Forge project allows Fellows to accomplish their art and research within the buildings.

Photo by Thatcher Keats, courtesy of The Forge Project

The Tsai Residence is the larger of the two buildings and features a sleek modern aesthetic. Inside, the space consists of four equally sized boxes in which the Forge Project organizes its public programming, including special topic discussions with Fellows.

Sitting parallel to the Tsai Residence on the grounds is a Y-shaped building. The upper floor features a circular skylight that shines down on the art gallery below. The house has a free-flowing living and studio space where Forge Fellows live and work during their stay.

Fellows rotate through the spaces during the year as it suits their schedule. Some Fellows have ties to the Hudson Valley through advocacy work or Native American populations in the area.

“The Hudson Valley is in many ways a microcosm of the larger issues facing the country, including displacement and land rights, and therefore feels like a fitting site for a grounded social justice enterprise. “said Hopkins.

To forge

Photo by Thatcher Keats, courtesy of The Forge Project

In 2021, the Forge Project Committee selected four recipients for its scholarship program. Each selected Fellow had different skills and specialties that honor Indigenous communities.

Chris Cornelius of the Oneida Nation was selected as a 2021 Fellow for his work as an architect and teacher. Cornelius designs spaces for Indigenous clients by translating Indigenous culture into architecture.

Sky Hopinka, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, was selected as a 2021 Fellow for his work that examines the relationships between place history, indigenity and colonialism. His latest works address the complexity of language and geography. Hopinka is a visual artist and filmmaker whose culture is expressed through personal, documentary and non-fictional forms of media.

The third scholarship recipient in 2021 was Brock Schreiber. Schreiber was born and raiseded as a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohicans and continues to live there with his wife and children today. He is a student and teacher of Mã’eekuneeweexthowãakun and head of the tribal council. Additionally, Schreiber also writes children’s books.

Outside

Photo taken at Forge Project in 2021 in Ancram, NY. Photo by Thatcher Keats, courtesy of The Forge Project

The final recipient selected as the 2021 Fellow was Jasmine Neosh of the Menominee Native American Tribe in Wisconsin. Neosh is a writer, student researcher, and environmental justice advocate. Her work focuses on Indigenous sovereignty, climate change education, and culturally informed, place-based sustainability. Neosh is working on a field guide to restore lost knowledge surrounding food systems and native plants.

This year, six recipients have been selected and each will receive $25,000 for their practice. In addition to the grant, fellows also receive full access to libraries, the Forge Project site, and the lending collection of living Indigenous artists during their fellowship.

In addition, another initiative of the Forge project is its educational farm at sky farm in Ancramdale. The farm is currently still in development, but once it is ready, future fellows may have the opportunity to do work that overlaps with the farm. The Forge Project also supports other local organizations such as the Bard Prison Initiative, Kite’s Nest, Wise Bodies, Stockbridge Munsee Community, etc.

“We wanted to invest in the local community here and we’re partnering with a wide range of organizations to do that,” says Hopkins.

In order to qualify for the scholarship program, applicants must be registered citizens of a federally recognized Tribal Nation or Canadian First Nations. Additionally, applicants must be registered members or citizens of a federally recognized Native American tribe, Alaska Native society, or of Hawaiian ancestry. Each year at least one Fellow is selected from the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians.

Photo by Alon Koppel Photography

Once applicants have submitted the required documents, The Forge Project scholarship panel reviews the applications and selects the scholarship recipients for that year. Entries are judged and reviewed by a panel of six distinguished scholars, artists, writers and alumni: Misty Cook, Dr. Anton Treuer, Dr. Meranda Roberts, Rose Miron, Sky Hopinka and Dr. Jolene Rickard.

Those selected for the fellowship represent a wide diversity of participatory research, cultural practices, art, and geographic contexts that honor the past and future of Indigenous peoples.

After working on their selected projects for three weeks, the 2022 Fellows present their work to the local Project Forge audience on site. Additionally, the work of fellows will be showcased to a wider audience on social media.

Overall, the Forge Project hopes to offer Native American populations the opportunity to embrace their past and future. Working in the Hudson Valley allows Fellows to be present in their surroundings and embrace the history of the unceded Muh-he-con-ne-ok lands above the Catskill Mountains.

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