Pahgedenaun is a work by Robert Houle, an internationally-acclaimed Saulteaux artist and grew up in the community of Sandy Bay First Nation, on the western shore of Lake Manitoba. His real name, his Saulteaux name, is Blue Thunder, not used when he entered residential school at age seven. Pahgedenuan is a Saulteaux word expressing the self-defining and self-determining act of “letting it go from your mind” embodied in this 9 x 10.5 hardcover publication, which brings together drawings and installations of his childhood suffering.
Robert Houle's visual arts practice applies formalist demands to activist initiatives to review the history of the interactions of the North American Indian and the colonizers. The eight large vertical canvases that make up Palisade represent the eight forts captured by Pontiac's Confederacy in 1763. Through the addition of digital graphic collages and historical documentation, Houle powerfully relates the colonial army's retaliation to these defeats: the systematic introduction of plagues, especially smallpox. Dyck's essay provides an interpretation of the work and its historical context.