Song of Sorrow
9” X 8.5” X 8.5”
Arches watercolor paper splints printed with archival inks, acrylic paint
The devastating impact boarding schools has had on Native culture cannot be overlooked. Native children were removed from their families, homes and communities and sent to live in these military-like facilities in an effort to be whitewashed into the dominant culture.
The goal of these institutions was to acculturate and “civilize” Indian children, thus stripping them of their Native identity and resulting in the loss of language and tribal customs. Years spent in these schools created behaviors formerly unheard of among tribes, including domestic abuse. This new violence in Indian Country has been directly linked to the lessons these children learned about authority and discipline as part of their boarding school education.
Mainstream American attitudes also perpetuate this historical trauma. At first printing, the popular children’s song “10 Little Indians” presented a malevolent outlook and summed up popular national sentiments regarding “The Indian Problem.” In this basket, the center white splints combine lyrics of three versions of this song, including the original words written by Septimus Winner in 1868. Sample phrases from all three versions of these hostile lyrics include: one got executed and then there were nine, one got syphilis and then there were eight, one shot the other and then there was one, one broke his neck and then there were six, one chopped himself in half and then there were six, one dead drunk and then there were three, one passed out drunk and then there were two, one shot himself and then there was one, he went and hanged himself and then there were none.
Woven into this basket are Navajo, Lakota and Kaw tribal prayers of healing and well being, collected for the healing and well being of generations of boarding school victims. Also included are the words to a Cherokee Memorial Song, “We remember your sacrifices. You will not be forgotten.” In order for race relations in this country to truly be repaired, America has to accept responsibility for this travesty and make amends.