Extirpate this Execrable Race
September 14 – October 20, 2018
“You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race.”
– Field Marshal Jeffery Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst, 1763
Ruth Cuthand’s latest installation, Extirpate this Execrable Race, continues her work to bring attention to the health impacts of colonization on Indigenous people, both past and present day. The title of the exhibition is taken directly from correspondence that Lord Jeffery Amherst, commanding general of British forces in North America, sent to Colonel Henry Bouquet, on July 13, 1763, advocating the use of smallpox infected blankets as biological warfare. The blankets, along with a handkerchief, were given to those who came to warn the British forces of an impending attack.
Here, Cuthand has remade this gift, creating 50 packages of blankets affixed with beaded smallpox viruses, tying them up in a large red bows.
The smallpox epidemic was one of the first major health impacts of contact and the first use of germ warfare British North America. In this body of work, Cuthand continues to confront the most difficult truths about the impacts of colonization.
An artist of Plains Cree and Scottish ancestry, Cuthand’s practice, spanning over 30 years, explores the frictions between cultures, the failures of representation, and the political uses of anger. Cuthand’s beaded portraits of infectious agents significant to indigenous people, past and present, were featured in the survey show of contemporary Canadian art, Oh, Canada, at MASS MoCA in 2012, which subsequently travelled across Canada. Her large-scale installation Don’t Breathe, Don’t Drink is part of the permanent collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario and she is currently artist in residence at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, SK.
In 2013, Cuthand was awarded the Saskatchewan Lieutenant Governor’s Arts Award and in 2015 was named an Alumni of Influence by the College of Arts and Science at the University of Saskatchewan. Cuthand holds an MFA from the University of Saskatchewan, and lives and works in Saskatoon, SK.