3 October 2012 Patti Durr @ People of the Eye
“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” ~ Malcolm X
Yep – i’m revisiting the Bear Hunt – controversial statue at Ca. School for the Deaf by Douglas Tilden
why u ask – well cuz its important and cuz me friend delivered me a book while i was mending me broken foot.
It’s a good book – Engaged Resistance: American Indian Art, Literature, and Film From Alcatraz to the NMAI by Dean Rader and chapter 9 Roofs, Roads, and Rotundas: American Indian Public Art deals with how folks represent American Indians in art for their own purposes. Ill feed ya a few quotes and then back to me thoughts.
“Context and backdrop, ideology and identity, all inform how we see public art.” p. 184
“Almost all Indian public art trades on the same stereotypical ideas of what an Indian means.” … invented iconography of the romanticized past” p. 184
“One of the great ironies of the twentieth century was the degree to which Indian semiotics came to symbolize the region of the country most notoriously colonized by white settlement, federal land policies, and missionary aggression.” p. 186
“One of the great mysteries surrounding contemporary American discourse about western culture is the absence of Indian issues, despite the overwhelming presence of Indian semiotics.” p. 186
In discussing ‘Indian action sculptures’ the author states “They depict a nineteenth-century Plains Indian either poetically communing with some aspect of nature, fiercely grappling with a wild animal, or craftily preparing to lunge into battle.” p. 191
While the author is describing Lincoln Fox’s Heaven Bound statue – the characterization of American Indian men is similarly portrayed in other statues by non-Indians – including Tilden’s Bear Hunt. “Fox freezes a shirtless Indian warrior in time as he pulls back a large bow, magically, without a drawstring. Six-packed and loinclothed, this hunter-marksman evokes the wild romanticism of poised tension just before an arrow discharges into the air – at what, we are left to imagine. Oddly sexual, with ripped abs and thigh astraddle, the sculpture feels like a study in the kind of mythological behavior an Anglo imagines nineteenth-century Indians might have engaged in when not lurking behind prairie grasses.” p. 191
“In the case of these sculptures, one locates … the sexualized images, the overly romantic depictions, and, most saliently in the unspoken but clearly encoded lamentation for the glory days of fabricated yesteryear. We fantasize about what we have destroyed, we embellish what we have broken, we replace what we have removed.” p. 192-3
(italic text added by me) “We know what to feel because we have been taught how to see. We have been taught to see Indians on top of buildings (or in front of schools) not as symbols of Indians but as symbols of all that is not Indian.” p. 196
And if all of that is a bit too academic-speak for ya i’ll share with you what a teenaged Hearing person happened to say when i was browsing pix of the Bear Hunt on the web when the controversy first broke out.
He asked “why are you looking at that?”
Me said: “Cuz some folks are saying its offensive and others are saying its not. And im trying to SEE.”
He said: “Well where is that statue.”
Me: “In front of a school for kids 3 years old up to high school”
He: “Really. Hmmmm”
Me: “Hmmm – why?”
He: ” Well it is pretty scary for kids cuz of the way the bear is biting the man’s arm.”
My turn: “hmmm”
He: “Why is it in front of a school? I’ve never seen a statue like that in front of a school before”
Me: “It’s a Deaf school and a Deaf man made the statue.”
He: “Ah. But still.”
and as im clicking more images – he says
He: “Oh that kinda looks bad.”
Me: “What does?” then i look at the image he is looking at and wait to see if he will elaborate. I don’t want to give leading questions and i dont want what folks have told me in the past to bias our chat.
He: “Well from that angle it kinda looks like the bear is gonna rape the Native American guy.”
He: “this is in front of a kids school?”
Me: “yep. yep it is”
So there you have it.
This is what greets folks at the curb of CSD.
So here you have it –
NOT COOL Supt Sean Virnig
Not cool, Supt Virnig, for not providing any (as in nada) explanation as to why he has decided that the Bear Hunt statue will remain as the main greeter and signifier of CSD despite being informed that the statue is offensive and misrepresents Native Americans. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwU4jEU2mYA&list=UUt6toBn-9Tx5NrLejcmKByQ&index=4&feature=plpp_video
While Supt Virnig’s ASL is clear and graceful to watch – his declaration that the statue is to remain AS IS WHERE IT IS without any explanation as to why & how he reached this decision is unfortunate and unjust.
Our community at large and in the bay area, which is made up of many DPOC, deserves much better than this autocratic non-response. The issue of representation, respect, and racial justice deserve better than this. Problems like these don’t “just go away” because a declaration has been issued. Don’t believe me – just remember that the Bell Dorm name and plaque at NTID was a long standing continual issue in which even Deaf leaders said it was to remain but good folks on the ground said “not cool” and eventually truth and love won. So the bear battle will be back simply because justice has not been served and will roll down like a mighty stream sure enuf – as it did in getting the Bell plaque and name down.
Some folks have been pretty nasty and mean when DYUSA set up a petition about the statue. The petition was a fair and just one http://www.change.org/petitions/california-school-for-the-deaf-fremont-remove-douglas-tilden-s-the-bear-hunt-statue-from-campus-grounds
It really is unacceptable and uncool to be trying to repress and/or misrepresent DYUSA’s outcry about misrepresentation of POC people, their cultures and their languages. Folks REaction and INaction in response to mutlicultural DYUSA & DPOC calling our attention to these injustices is very important. Deaf folks are often lamenting about how the Hearing world does not listen to the plight for Deaf rights. To see Deaf folks in power or with privilege ignore the concerns of DPOC & allies or to side with perpetuating a wrong is upsetting and should make us all wanna shout – Ya Basta.
Dont even get me started on the the Deaf Nation white savior imagery 1 and 2 and NAD and the Daugaard invite 1 and 2 when they never uninvited him in the first place (WOW what a waste of delegates time).
CSD keeping the Bear Hunt statue where it is without any explanation is just another signifier of how the oppressed at times become the oppressors. It is disheartening and WRONG.
Now you can shower the comment boxes with remarks about – ‘why aren’t you out there fighting audism ‘
and ill be like – ‘whoa projection is not pretty’ (meaning why are you not out there fighting for justice – whether it be against audism and against racism instead of here in People of the Eye boxes fighting against the truth)
and ill be like -‘ what makes you think we cant multitask, what makes you think that some of this dismissing of DPOC & and multicultural Deaf Youth people’s concern is not a byproduct of the Deaf White male folks in power thinking they do NOT have to respect the concerns of DPOC’ – it may not be AUDISM per se but it is an oppressive “ISM” that has plagued our community, our culture, and our country for a bloody long time.
it really is a good thing – this discussion, this examination, and this RESPECTING of folks who have been horribly mistreated and misrepresented in this country. In fact it is imperative that we undertake this task most especially for the wee things who will be arriving at CSD for the very first time. What first meets their eyes and greets them should be just, right and good. And that is how folks should identify HOME.
So in standing against racism and racist based representation and making progress by having folks remove such imagery from their organization and the doorstep of their school or the podium of their organizaiton’s platform, we are galvanizing an opportunity to work together to get there together. Where you ask? Equality – Social Justice – True Peace.
so whatcha gonna do do?
stand for equality for ALL or keep being nasty to the truth seekers?
its your option
to Deaf Youth USA – i admire ya. Keep standing. I know im slow some times but i will catch up with good folks like u lighting the path.
to Supt Virnig – many administrators were not brave enuf to remove the Bell dorm name and plaque and they just “there, there” to the student discontent over the hall of shame in the past until the community rallied around the truth and said Ya Basta and then it finally came down. Some folks came forward saying they were sorry that they didnt know enuf about Bell’s history in the past to have stood for having it come down and they were grateful for the folks who did. I’m hoping you will not make folks wait 20-30 years to do the right thing. I know the statue holds nostalgia for folks and i know change is hard but change away from imperialist nostalgia to social justice will put CSD further on the map as a super cool school.
THOUSANDS of Native Americans were relocated – where was the outcry for that. Refusing to relocate an offensive and unjust statue without providing ANY reason for it to remain is a shame.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King, Jr
forgot to add this gem from Leala’s wall by bell hooks:
“Native Americans have been deeply affected by the degrading representations of red people that continue to be the dominant images projected by the media. When most people see daily images of red people portrayed as cannibalistic, uncivilized, and savage, they do not think about the ways these images cause pain and grief.While there is current interest in the way children of Jewish survivors are affected by the torture of their ancestors, there have been few attempts to understand how the horrors of genocidal assaults on Native Americans has affected the children of survivors. It is rare for anyone to publicly acknowledge that Native Americans are the survivors of holocaust, of genocidal warfare waged against red people by white imperialist racism.
Native American imagery is used as an entertaining spectacle for the colonizing white imagination. In any of its versions, imperialist nostalgia uses a pose of “innocent yearning” both to capture people’s imaginations and to conceal its complicity with brutal white domination.” -bell hooks
NOTE: other older vlogs on this topic (feel free to add links in the comment section)
Leala Holcomb’s vlog thanking Lavar and the Intertribal Friendship House Gathering for sharing their truths re: the statue and its impact and message and meaning to them http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaWp4k1YlmQ
bear hunt & Deaf Youth USA & invest in justice http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObFkbsUTr-E&list=UUuZp0ZP3wIJfHbUDq6rrm_Q&index=8&feature=plcp