Sometimes I find myself unfathomably mad. I get infuriated at the lack of understanding or even longing to understand that our culture seems to so carelessly exude. Modern American culture is increasingly materialistic – this includes myself – relying on what is coming rather than what has been and could still be.
A year and a half ago I had the privilege of spending a few nights with a Navajo family in Tsaile, Arizona. I slept in a hogan surrounded by tall canyon walls while listening to and filming the stories traditionally told to young navajo children. I heard stories of growing up, of joy, of corn pollen, of innocence, of safety. I heard stories of assimilation, of murder, of pain, of fright, of survival. And I heard stories of exhaustion, of wonder, of awe, of success, of hard work. But most of all I heard stories of love. Stories of pure, unmasked love confronted with an unbearable weight of unsolicited hatred.
From what I can tell, the white signs with blue lettering around Pitzer’s campus are there to call our attention to the fact that this is not our land. It was stolen by European explorers who massacred the indigenous tribes that had been cultivating this land for their entire existence. “California” is spelled backwards because it is an arbitrary name for a place with invisible borders. A name that settlers gave a place that was not their own. A place that needed no borders because one is supposed to work with the land – not exploit it.
Sometimes I find myself unfathomably mad at our society, and at the cultural normativity of living in a place we have no right to be in. I find myself disgusted by living in a country that is founded on genocide and conflicted by the fact that I am supposed to love it. If nothing else, this art installation triggers the mind to question, which is the best place to start when thinking about change.