Genocide and Mini-golf??
Have we grown so little as a nation that we would put this art in a community still trying to come to grips with a history concerning whites treatment of indigenous people? I read an article named Genocide and Mini-golf in the Walker Sculpture Garden. The article tackles the grief, disbelief, and anger surrounding a new sculpture that went up at the famed Walker Art Sculpture Garden. It was a replica of the hanging gallows from the famous Dakota 38+2 tragedy. I read in a post in the Star and Trib, that explained for we, mere peasants in need of education, the artist had a lengthy history in the art engaging in social and cultural statements. If that post wasn’t a clueless white person post I don’t know what is. And may I add to clarify? I am a white person so I know white people pretty well.
The point is, the sculpture looked very, very much like the gallows in the Mankato after the Dakota War, constructed to hold 38 Dakota warriors who were hanged. The Walker addressed the issue immediately. Not realizing the distress it would cause, they’ve decided to take it down. I am a little taken aback by the lack of judgement concerning the sculpture. Were they so blind by their own artistic sense that they didn’t see beyond the concept? Did they not feel the slightest bit of empathy for the indigenous people of the area? Or was it the idea of controversy that could bring ‘conversation’ and spotlight the Walker?
I understand art. I understand the desire to create thought provoking pieces, pieces that offend, that are obscene. I understand it. I like that museums are in society to bring conversation. That they can, better than anyone, pop the comfort bubble. But this is different. I’ve studied the history this piece represents. I know this history. My Irish immigrant ancestors lived in Kandiyohi Country during the Dakota War. They survived because they had a relationship with the Indians in the area and were left alone. My great-great uncle Mike was traumatized by what he saw during that time. It was a trauma that remained tight inside until my mother asked him what happened. By that time he was an old man and my mother was so traumatized (she claimed boredom), by the words he spoke that she walked away.
My ancestors lived because my great-great grandmother understood what starvation was and shared food with the starving Indians. The Indians worked in the field with my great great grandfather. They helped him farm and he shared what he knew and maybe they shared what they knew. He got help and he shared the food that was produced.
I have that history in my blood. I feel it. I know, for certain, the Dakota people feel that history too. They heard the same kinds of traumatic stories my mother heard and felt the fear in the words, the anguish, the hopelessness and unlike my mother, they felt the white man’s betrayal. They have internal memories of the starvation, the thievery of goods and money, the takeover of land by people who spoke no English, certainly no Dakota, and who feared the ‘uncivilized Indians’. Immigration was purposeful. It was meant to move and to exterminate the native indigenous people. It was meant to give the government a reason to push the Indians out. Give them a reason to feel distain for a civilized culture so different than their own. Everything about the Indian was beneath contempt. And the Indian felt that contempt. They still feel it, I’m sure, because the complete lack of understanding by whites still exists today. I can never know the depth of sorrow, the feeling of betrayal that still exists.
A vast majority of people have no desire for war. War is hardship. It’s death. It tips the world all a kilter. It’s never a change for the better. It wasn’t something that the indigenous people wanted. The Dakota War was a festering wound that finally became war. To have the Dakota 38+2 die at the hands of the very government that found them so worthless, that held them in such contempt, that stole from them, was just another way to spit on the Dakota civilization. The US government hanged warriors, the very men who protected the village. Some were spared execution but were sent to Davenport Iowa and died there. There was also the forced march. Women and children were killed, starved, died of cold, exhaustion, disease.
How, in God’s name, could the scaffolding of the hanging become a place for children’s play, even on a conceptual level? Never would they, ever put scaffolding up to represent white man’s hanging and call it a playground. So what made it okay?
I added a line from the ‘Forced March and Imprisonment’ web site dealing with the Dakota War. It’s all there. Anybody can read it. The Walker could have read it.
“Brown called the settler mob “as bad as Savages,” and wrote that he witnessed “an enraged white woman . . . snatch a nursing babe from its mother’s breast and dash it violently to the ground.” The baby was returned to its mother, but it later died and its body was “quietly laid away in the crotch of a tree,” according to Dakota custom.”