road to williston

The Bakken Boom:
Artists Respond to the North Dakota Oil Rush

Plains Art Museum

January 29, 2015 - August 15, 2015

see: exhibit website

The road to williston project addresses trafficking and environmental devastation in our region. Throughout the project we have used the word "resistance" to anchor our work. The material exhibited at the Plains Art Museum reflects women's resistance, strength, and resilience.

The conversation around trafficking has increased in volume in recent years as has the strength of resistance to the tangled whole - that intersection of planetary devastation, colonialism, and the rights of women and girls to live free from violence and enslavement. This conversation - this resistance - is in many ways being led by First Nations women. These resistance movements work to protect the bodies of women and girls and they further extend into land policy, tribal sovereignty and so many other issues that have broad implications for everyone. The connections between extractive industries, colonial histories and the ravaging of Indigenous communities (particularly impacting the lives of women and girls) is a global problem. It is at the same time very local and very specific ...

media resources

film samples can be found at the on vimeo
listen to the soundtrack here
other related project audio can be found on soundcloud
read the text / learn more films

facets of the project

Survivors Song

Composed by: Lyz Jaakola and Sara Curtiss

Performed by: Oshkii Giizhik Singers

Sarah and Lyz wrote and performed this song with the Oshkii Giizhik Singers. The song comes as the culmination of the 20-minute sound loop. The version used here is from their 2010 album, "It Is a New Day for Love".

Traffick: sound / moving pictures

by: Kathy McTavish

Footage and sound recordings taken on an Amtrak train from St. Paul to Malta, MT. This train passes through Fargo, Williston and Fort Berthold sharing / yielding the tracks to the endless cargo shipping to and from the fracking zones.

Metamorphosis: poems and voice

by: Sheila Packa

The poems evoke the environmental artist Ana Mendieta, the perpetual movement of trains, the exploitation of resources and metamorphosis of minerals into steel, and the Persephone myth of loss and transformation.

Loom: 3D

by: Erika Mock

Torn sheets, fiber, taut lines ...


(in alphabetical order)

Sarah Curtiss

Sarah Curtiss has been working for Mending the Sacred Hoop since 2009. In her work with the coalition, Sarah trains tribal and urban programs on the unique issues Native women face around domestic violence and trains programs on how to work with survivors from a holistic cultural perspective. Sarah is on the Circle Keepers/ Board of Directors for the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition, and sits on varies committees across the state of Minnesota addressing violence against women. As a member of the Oshkii Giizhik Singers, a women’s traditional hand drum group, Sarah incorporates Ojibwe traditions and encourages Native women to use their voices in their communities in an effort to organize to end violence against Native women and children. But Sarah feels that her most fulfilling role is that of being a mother to her beautifully energetic three year old son Allan.

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Lyz Jaakola

Elizabeth "Lyz" Jaakola is a musician and educator, and an enrolled member of the Fond du Lac band of Lake Superior Ojibwe in Cloquet, MN. She teaches music education and American Indian studies at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.

She performs and composes in many styles and genres including traditional Anishinaabe music, jazz, blues and opera.

She has performed as close to home as Duluth, MN and as far as Rome, Italy for the Rome Opera Festival, while her Native-based compositions have also been heard on radio and television. She has arranged many Native pieces for solo and choral performance.

She is directs the Oshkii Giizhik Singers.

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Kathy McTavish

Kathy is a cellist, composer, and multimedia artist. In live performance, installation and online environments, she blends improvisational cello, data, text, abstract, layered moving images, bowed metal, wire, the after-ring of bells, reed, voice, machinery, ghost-like harmonics. Her recent work has focused on creating generative methods for building multichannel video and sound environments.

Kathy has a background in cello performance, mathematics, ecology and software development. The confluence of these disciplines informs her work as a composer and multimedia artist. She creates orchestrations of sound, light, and color. As both a musician and a mathematician, she is fascinated by multi-threaded, dynamical systems and chance-infused, emergent patterns. As a queer artist she is interested in the ways we construct personal stories / myths and the infinite, bendable between.

Erika Mock

Erika Mock is a Swiss-born award winning textile artist, boundary seeker, maker, owner of Textiles for Body and Soul. Her installation weavings express interconnectedness. They use filaments, cords, yarns, and torn discarded clothing to explore identity, boundaries, embodiment (absence and presence), and the invisible stories still present in the cloth. ​They are suspended offerings to place and person.​​

“I see fiber as the basic element that connects us organically and symbolically to each other and our precious planet. The patterns, cycles, emotional patina are a vital plexus of threads that tatter, fray, knit, weave a community. From plant and animal fibers to our very bodies of hair, skin, sinew, bone and heart; we are all raw material immersed in the mystery of life.”

​Erika's studio is housed in Superior's Artspace, the Trade and Commerce Marketplace​​ and she lives in a renovated caboose in the Woodlands of NW WI.​

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Tina Olson (On Owa Zitgdna Wiya)

Tina has worked on issues surrounding domestic violence for over 25 years. As Director for Mending the Sacred Hoop Inc. she has organized such domestic violence trainings as Law Enforcement, Building A Coordinated Response and Creating a Process of Change for Men Who Batter. She has taken various roles in the work to end violence in the Duluth community, working as a women’s advocate and men’s group facilitator, group facilitator for women who are arrested, as well as one of the original founding mothers of Mending the Sacred Hoop’s coordinated response in Carlton and St. Louis Counties. Tina is the proud mother of four daughters who are all working in helping field careers, law, social work, nursing and a college student studying to become a teacher. She is also grandmother of nine grandchildren and lives with her partner in Duluth.

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Sheila Packa

Sheila Packa’s recent book Night Train Red Dust: Poems of the Iron Range was described by the Minneapolis Star Tribune as "part poetry and part documentary."" Her books explore migration, immigration, change and metamorphosis in northern wilderness and industrial landscapes. She grew up south of Biwabik, once the location of eleven underground iron mines, and has worked in a taconite plant. She spent several years as a mental health social worker specializing in women’s issues. She was Duluth’s Poet Laureate 2010-2012.

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Jessica Tillman

Jessica Tillman grew up in the small rural town of Barnum, MN. She moved to Duluth right after high school, attending Lake Superior College and the University of Wisconsin Superior. Jessica worked in the hospitality industry and college radio at KUWS before becoming Duluth Mayor Don Ness's administrative assistant in 2010. She currently serves as a board member of the Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA) and facilitates the Duluth Public Arts Commission.

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thank you

The Road to Williston was conceived as part of the Creative Community Leadership Institute (CCLI) run by Intermedia Arts and funded by the Bush Foundation. Karis Thompson, Community Engagement Liaison at the Plains Art Museum was a CCLI mentor for this early phase of the project. Tina Olson, Jessica Tillman, Kathy McTavish, Sheila Packa, Erika Mock and Sarah Curtiss were all part of the CCLI cohort in the Twin Ports.

Gimaajii Mino-Bimaadiziyaan (Together we are beginning a good life) is run by the American Indian Community Housing Organization. It is only a few years old. Situated in a historic building in downtown Duluth, Gimaajii provides 29 housing units for individuals and families who are homeless or who are precariously housed. The Gimaajii Gathering Place includes 13 office and community meeting spaces, an art gallery, a gymnasium, and the HOPE clinic staffed by the students from the University of Minnesota, Duluth School of Medicine. Tina moved the offices of Mending the Sacred Hoop there last year. Gimaajii has been very important for our project in that they generously house our meetings, Tina's offices are located there and the rest of us are involved often in creative projects that happen in the community space. They warmly supported our work.

Travel support was generously provided by Luke Chiropractic of Superior Wisconsin.

Equipment funding was provided in part by the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council through the arts and cultural heritage fund as appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature with money from the Legacy Amendment vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008. Thank you Minnesota!