I arrived at Pitzer College for the very first time on August 28th in the morning. I was excited to start my semester as an exchange student and took myself on a small tour walking around the unique but beautiful campus after the new student orientation. Walking around the campus, I found a white sign says “CALIFORNIA” backwards and “TODAY YOUR HOST IS JAMIWU” in blue. It did not make any sense to me. I wondered why only California was written backwards and what JAMIWU was. I was confused by what this sign meant. Many questions struck me, but I did not attempt to search for the answers. Then I discovered a couple more of the same signs but with different endings as I explored around the campus.

After having this assignment, I went to look at some of the signs and found “HOCK E AYE VI EDGAR HEAP OF BIRDS 2013” on the bottom of every one of them. I had no idea that it was a name of artist who worked on this signs and these signs on campus were much more meaningful than I ever expected. I was surprised to learn that the last words of the message on the signs to be Native American language, and that they were names of the villages of indigenous tribe which no longer exist.

Last year I did research on Native American indigenous languages and their future. Their tribal languages and cultures were abandoned and many of the existing languages are facing danger of extinction as a result of lack of speakers. Some researchers warn that most of the Native American languages will likely disappear from the the United States within a next decade. I think these signs are reminders for students to respect and to remember people and culture which existed before the US possessed this land. I also believe this art work honors those who lived here before us.



2 responses »

  1. hannahmwebster says:

    I really enjoyed reading this response to the ‘Native Hosts’ project signs installed on Pitzer College campus. My experience learning about what the signs represent was similar to yours, and upon researching the artist and the places in nature that are our hosts, I realized just how special these signs are, for they’re more than contemporary art pieces, they share with us the reality of being a native person in America.

  2. anzuokada says:

    I had the same feeling when I first saw the signs and I so agree with you. But since I am not that familiar with the American history, I had a little struggle with understanding the meaning so I wish I had had opportunity to know about this a bit more like you.

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