Smoke Screen

Shan Goshorn
approx 4.75” X 4.75” X 5.5”
Arches watercolor paper splints printed with archival inks, acrylic paint

While exploring museum archives during my Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship in Washington DC, I visited the research library at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I was actively pursuing the topic of genocide which I feel is “under recognized” when applied to the First People of this country. I was guided to the work of Raphael Lemkin, a brilliant Polish attorney of Jewish descent who escaped the Nazi regime to the United States as a young man. A speaker of eight languages, in 1943 he coined the term “Genocide” from the Greek word genos (Family, tribe, race) and –cide (Latin for killing); his definition was outlined by eight key techniques to achieve genocide which included attacks on the political, social, cultural, economic, biological, physical (subpoints here include endangering health and mass killing), religious and moral. US government actions against the American Indian painfully fulfilled each of these points, thus constituting genocide in this country. This definition is reproduced in this basket on the smoky blue splints.

I combined this definition with the brown splints listing a variety of commercial products that use Indian names and images to promote something, including team mascots. I see this commercial appropriation (often of the sacred) as perpetuating the dehumanization of native people. When an entire race of people can be reduced daily to cartoon characters, when our religious and social beliefs are open for ridicule, when the names of our nations are more commonly recognized as products rather than living people, the message is clear. It’s a continuation of the original American battle to tell Indian people that we do not matter.

The title refers to the literal definition of something intended to disguise, conceal, or deceive; camouflage, such as in military warfare. This Cherokee style single-weave basket features a traditional pattern called Arrowhead Point; the casual acceptance of native culture as advertising gimmicks is wielded like an insidious weapon.