EC0501 – Listen to the Land: Art at Bosque Redondo with Dakota Mace, Daisy Trudell-Mills, and Kéyah Keenan Henry
[Opening strum of theme music]
[00:00:00] Dakota Mace: One of the most important things with building this exhibition was seeing the way that they both translated the history of the site, but also the stories that they heard growing up about the site itself. So, I think for all three of us we had a big interest in natural materials and going back to understanding how much the land and its materials itself are so giving, and that goes back to our way of thinking of ourselves connecting back to the land, kind of seeing this place of, you know, where is home and how do we return home.
[00:00:38] Emily Withnall: Bienvenidos! This is Encounter Culture from the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. I’m your host, Emily Withnall.
[00:00:49] It was hot and still the day I drove out to Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner Historic Site.
[Reflective, calming music]
[00:00:56] I drove from Santa Fe through Clines Corners, aware of the mountains disappearing behind me, as I drove further out into the dry scrubland of Eastern New Mexico. I thought about the Diné and the Ndé, how they were forced to walk four hundred miles from their homelands, a forced separation from the land that sustained them.
[00:01:19] There is a quiet at Bosque Redondo, like the quiet that is called for in any crowd to honor and reflect on the life that has passed. For a memorial site, this is appropriate. Thousands of Diné and Ndé people died at Bosque Redondo, held in the concentration camp there by American soldiers between 1864 and 1868.
[00:01:45] For a more thorough history of what happened at Bosque Redondo and how the Memorial Site came to be, please listen to Encounter Culture season two, episode two. In that episode, Fort Sumner Historic Site manager, Aaron Roth, and Manny Wheeler, director of the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona, talk about the many conversations that led to the re-imagining of how to respectfully commemorate the place of suffering for the Diné and Ndé peoples.
[00:02:19] As a child, I had only traveled as far east as Santa Rosa. I hadn’t learned about this place or this history in school in Las Vegas. My primary purpose on the day I visited was to see the Naaldeeh art exhibition by Diné artists, Dakota Mace and Kéyah Henry, and Santee Dakota, Mexican, and Jewish artist Daisy Trudell-Mills.
[00:02:43] Together, these three artists created work to invite healing into Bosque Redondo. I wanted to understand the history first, so I walked through the exhibition inside, which I can only describe as a kind of re-education. Then I listened to the audio tour outside. At stop number four, I listened as Diné writer, linguist, and educator Blackhorse Mitchell sang one of the many songs sung by the Diné during their imprisonment at Bosque Redondo. The recording notes that the songs are akin to the spiritual songs sung by enslaved people in the southeast of the United States during the same time period. I breathed the music in and let it settle as my gaze drifted upwards to the rows and rows of mud swallow nests built under the eaves of the memorial.
[00:03:34] I listened to Blackhorse Mitchell’s voice, the sounds of dancing, feet, bells, wind, and fire as I wondered what swallows saw back then, or what memories the golden cottonwoods along the Pecos River held. There was no wind that day, just the sun beating down on hard packed dirt and old army barracks. When I went inside, I took in the art of Dakota, Kéyah, and Daisy, which you will hear much more about in this episode.
[00:04:04] The exhibition in the gallery at Bosque Redondo is open to all and will only remain up until the end of December. But as Dakota says, the art is not about education. It is about healing for the Diné and Ndé peoples. She writes in the museum caption: “For myself, it is a chance to be embraced by our ancestors and allow their voices to be clear and present. So, as I share my experiences, I hope others see this site as a place of healing, and may their voices and stories continue to guide us.”
[00:04:45] Emily: Well, welcome Kéyah and Daisy and Dakota. I’m so excited to have you here to talk about your art at Bosque Redondo.
[00:04:42] I’m excited that Daisy’s here, because my mom delivered Daisy when she was born. So, I have known Daisy her whole life. Welcome to the studio.
[00:05:03] Daisy Trudell-Mills: I’m very excited to be here with you, Emily.
[00:05:05] Dakota: Yeah, thank you so much for inviting me today.
[00:05:07] Kéyah Keenan Henry: Yeah, I’m glad I’m part of this.
[00:05:09] Emily: I wanna jump in with some intros, but before we even start talking about your work, I wanna talk about Bosque Redondo as a memorial site so that people have the context and history for that.
[00:05:21] I grew up in Las Vegas, New Mexico. I did not learn this history in school. I’m curious by way of introduction, if you can introduce yourselves, the nations that you are a part of, and then also the knowledge that was passed down to you about this history from your elders or family members. Dakota, do you wanna start?
[00:05:42] Dakota: Sure! My name is Dakota Mace. I’m a Diné artist originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, but currently reside in Madison, Wisconsin. I’ve gone through traditional MFA programs through the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and it was there that I was really interested in terms of going back to learning about my own Diné history and family and really kind of exploring this idea of community and identity.
[00:06:09] And that’s something that’s really informed my own work as an artist, but also as an educator and a scholar. And that’s something I try to give back to the Institute of American Indian Arts, but also really kind of looking and developing more dialogue about these histories and these experiences.
[00:06:29] And that’s something that’s really been a big part of this exhibition, because Bosque Redondo has always been a site that, growing up, I was always told to never visit, because of not only the significance in terms of, um, what happened there, but kind of the, the memories and the sorrow that existed there.
[00:06:50] For a lot of Diné people, and especially Diné elders, you know, it’s a place that we don’t want to kind of dwell on that sadness and that suffering. But I think that was a big part of this project was really coming at it from the perspective of going through the experience of COVID, but also my own personal series, which is a extension of this project and really exploring kind of the ways that emotions and trauma really affect us as artists, but also especially our experience as Indigenous people.
[00:07:23] Daisy: Um, yeah. So my name is Daisy Trudell-Mills. I am of Dakota, Chicana and Jewish descent, and I’m from New Mexico. They have lived here my whole life. I’m a MFA candidate at the Institute of American Indian Arts, which is where I met Dakota, as you know. And, where I started to work with natural materials, like natural dyes, and thinking about land memory and generational memory, which is kind of in line with the work that we did or that I got to participate with Dakota in at Bosque Redondo.
[00:08:01] I spent a lot of my life growing up in Las Vegas, too, and, yeah, for me, I also didn’t learn about this in school. I did attend a school where we visited Lake Sumner, like every semester, to have a camping trip and there was a lot of talk about Billy the Kid, you know, but never about the other history there.
[00:08:26] And I think when I first learned about it, I was lucky to have a good New Mexico history teacher in sixth grade who just briefly touched on that along with all the other atrocious, New Mexico, like regional history. And so that’s kind of the first that I had heard of it and learned of it.
[00:08:48] And then of course, being around the Diné people that I have known, or in the circles that I’ve been in, especially, I’ve learned about it through that and I learned a lot about that history just through doing this project and spending time there.
[00:09:04] Kéyah: Shi éí Kéyah Henry yinishyé. Ashįįhí nishlí dóó Kin Yaa’áaníí éí ba’shishchįįn.
Um, just told you my clans, um, Salt and born for Towering House clan from the Diné Nation, and that’s where I’m from. I’m originally from Mariano Lake, New Mexico. And, um, grew up a lot in Albuquerque and back home, back and forth. And going for my master’s at the IAIA also, for the, uh, Long Walk or the camp at Bosque Redondo.
[00:09:40] Yeah, it’s like everybody else said that I didn’t learn that in school or anything, just back home from my grandparents and the stories they told about it with their grandparents or grandmas that went through that. And told us how it was out there and what happened. Some of my dad’s side, I believe, were not captured.
[00:10:03] They were one of the ones that were on the mountains hiding and they went through the whole thing and saw the people come back, the Long Walk back, stories at home, I’ve learned and heard, especially from my grandpa. It’s also a lot of trauma that happened there that he told me about, the bad things that happened and that’s what my piece shows, my artwork there.
[00:10:30] Emily: Thank you so much. And I’m sorry, you know, definitely going through that exhibition, I could feel in the words of the people that are included in that exhibit space, kind of the trauma and the ways that that trauma has been passed down in certain ways.
[00:10:46] Because I know it took at least 30 years from the time that some Diné teenagers in the 1990s wrote a letter and left it there and said: why is there all this information about Billy the Kid who has nothing to do with this place, and no information on what happened to our people? And I know there were a lot of elders from the two tribes, the Diné and Ndé tribes who were involved in putting that together. But I’m curious about how you all feel about that exhibition and if you think it does a good job of encapsulating what happened in that place.
[00:11:23] Dakota: Yeah, I can speak to that a little bit. And this was something that I think was really important about this exhibition was that because of where the site is, it’s so far away from what we would consider our traditional homelands. And I think that was kind of the hardest thing to go through was this experience of homesickness that I’ve never felt before.
[00:11:45] So kind of seeing that first initial exhibition walking into the space, it’s a start in terms of better understanding the histories that happened, not only to our people, but also when we talk more broadly about the effects of colonialism and the ways that essentially our identity was almost erased.
[00:12:06] And to think about the way that these spaces often tend to either condense our histories into very much like a monolith, but also at the same time, don’t really speak to what’s happening even today. And I really appreciate about the exhibition was towards the end you still get to hear from people who are visiting the site, their experiences, what they learned from that exhibition.
[00:12:32] Especially this being the first year of this artist’s residency, and kind of looking at ways that we can start combining the idea of residencies that are really aimed to provide a unique opportunity for artists, but also engaging with history and culture since New Mexico, you know, is so much older in terms of the histories that have already existed there, long before the birth of the United States.
[00:12:58] And I think the site has to do its work as well and to make sure that the Diné artists that they’re inviting into this space feel comfortable. Because that was kind of one of the hardest things that I think all of us experienced was going into the space, not realizing the intensity of the site itself, the memories that are stored there, but also kind of the very blatant, um, examples of colonization that’s already existing there.
[00:13:28] For us it’s being able to educate programs like this to have more care, to have better understanding, you know, just talking with everyone that worked there and people who were visiting. You know, for my family and hearing from their stories from our ancestors, we have such a deep connection to the landscape and that site for us isn’t just a memorial, it’s a place of rest.
[00:13:53] And I think that’s one of the hardest things to explain to people who have not grown up around Indigenous communities or do not come from that Indigenous perspective, is that it’s still a place to respect. So, I felt kind of indifferent walking within the space.
[Sound of trees and then birds]
[00:14:09] But also at the same time the site was, you know, sharing those stories, whether that was, through the cottonwood trees or the sound of the river, those stories still exist there.
The ancestors still exist there. So, I think there’s still a lot of work to be done, but like I said, I really appreciate this first initial step that’s happening.
[00:14:31] Kéyah: Uh, yeah, kinda relate to what Dakota was saying, but the traveling part to the place, ’cause this was my first time taking my artwork with me out that way. I could just feel what was going on at that time, just driving that way: the distance going out there and, uh, you could just feel it. Because in our ways, we were raised to, and we were taught to feel those things and take it in and respect it. So once I got there, I offered my corn pollen for the travel I did and prayed to it and prayed with my peace to be there and to take it all in.
[00:15:10] I liked, when I got there, I took a peek, I think it’s a museum or a gallery, I was walking through, saw Shonto Begay’s work and all that, and the history. And I kind of walked slower and looked at and kind of made me feel pretty bad. But I know that my positive myself is being there and, um, respecting the place. I took my dad with me. He knows all the harder languages of Diné. And that’s how I respect my dad. And he helped me hang up my painting. He told me little stuff about it and he told me about other things of the journey.
[00:14:45] He actually sang some of the journey songs, which really put us to peace. I’m coming from, uh, recovering alcoholic, and, I’m whole right now and with being in this program, it’s changed a lot more to getting my art out there. And, this is the first place that my work is actually shown for something that’s important to me.
[00:16:19] Emily: I actually think that’s a great jumping off point to hear from each of you about your art and the materials that you used and the thought processes that went into creating each of them. And I will say Dakota, at the beginning of September, I was in New York City and I walked off the elevator onto the third floor of the Whitney and there was your work right in front of me and I was immediately drawn to it. I saw your name. I had just been talking about you and this exhibition at Bosque Redondo at work the week prior, and so I was very excited to see your work there in the Whitney.
[00:16:53] And I noticed that there were some similarities in some of the symbols that you used in that work?
[00:16:58] Dakota: Yeah, definitely. So, like I said, this exhibition is actually an extension of my own project, which is titled the Dahodiyinii, which was looking at The Long Walk being told through my perspective, but also through my family and my community’s perspective.
[00:17:18] And something that really was important to me was looking at our stories, our identity, and our kinship that are often told through the stars. So this was something really important for me and my grandfather, because he has always shared all of these stories and the importance of what it means to be Diné.
[00:17:35] So a lot of the designs that you see come from the designs that are featured on his silver. And for me, that’s a big part of making sure those designs continue to be passed down through our family, but also looking at the influence of the land. So each and every one of those symbols, constantly pop up back into my work because it’s all part of this idea of storytelling, really being central to the Diné way of life.
[00:18:02] But also how kinship ties us together. And I think there’s something really important about this exhibition is that for myself and especially researching and writing about this. You know, it’s looking at the past and the present and the future kind of collapsing as one. So representing not only our emergence, but the passage of time, and of course, looking at those stronger bonds that build our shared histories.
[00:18:26] So for myself, it was delving into that narrative that was already built up and building on top of that with the work that I created there. And that something that was really important about this work was looking at the monuments on the site specifically, and with the site itself sharing mementos.
[00:18:45] And for myself as a photographer, there’s something really beautiful about an object that you hold in your hand and the importance of the way that people would come into the space, take photographs and immediately leave. And I’m like, did you read the stories or did you read of anything? And I thought about, historically, my ancestors, their first introduction to photography was cabinet cards.
[00:19:09] When we think about the history of photography, one of the first things that we know about photographs is the introduction of the tintype. So these are photographs that were originally done on aluminum plates, and the cabinet card came in, I wanna say like, late 1800s because it was a way of thinking about reproduction of images.
[00:19:31] So oftentimes the original tintype would be reproduced in these cabinet cards that you can share with family members or to give to loved ones. It was traditionally close to the size of, usually about four by five or five by seven. And you know, you could put it in your pocket, you can carry it with you. So there’s something really important about the size of that print for a lot of people. And then, of course, now our phones are essentially our digital cabinet cards.
[00:19:56] That’s what I wanted to focus on with my cyanotypes is becoming mementos or photographs that the ancestors took. So it’s actually imprints of the land itself. Sharing that deeper connection of those memories are embedded within the land and the stories of suffering and of course offering prayer.
[00:20:15] Um, and that’s kind of one of the most important things about my work is that this I see as an extension of the land and very much the way that we see ourselves, it’ll eventually go back into the earth. It’s not a burial, but it’s more so a chance for the work to go back into rest.
[00:20:32] And I think that’s really important for people to understand about this work is that it has a lifetime and it’s intended to only share stories of the ancestors that they wanted to share. but eventually they go back home and they go back into rest.
[00:20:45] Emily: Yeah, I read on the museum caption that the work will be returned to the earth at the end. And I especially really loved the cyanotypes of the raindrops. Those were so cool. What’s the material that you used?
[00:20:49] Dakota: So, they’re pre-coated on handmade paper. But what’s something really interesting about the raindrops is that because it was just completely unheard of to have that much rain on the site at the time when I was staying there. For Diné people, we have such a special relationship with rain.
[Hopeful, ethereal music]
[00:21:18] And for me, and what my grandfather told me in Navajo was that, you know, it was a sign that we were meant to be there and the ancestors were greeting our presence and for me it was a prayer. So each time it rained, it was a chance to be able to hear those voices, to capture those voices. But at the same time, you know, with very much similar to rain’s memory, it’s fleeting.
[00:21:39] So very much like the work itself, the prints are shifting and changing every time the piece interacts with light. So it does have a lifetime. it’ll slowly darken and eventually the memory of the rain will only exist as stories and that will be the end of its lifetime.
[Invitation to visit New Mexico Historic Sites]
[00:22:11] Emily: Embrace the stories that make New Mexico. New Mexico Historic Sites are the footprints left by the people of New Mexico in mountain paths and city streets. The sites serve as a bridge from the past to our collective future. Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner Historic Site tells one of the darkest stories of New Mexico’s past, that of the Long Walk: The Diné and Ndé interned at the Bosque Redondo concentration camp and beyond. Visit the memorial’s world-class permanent exhibition to hear their stories in their voices. Plan your trip at https://nmhistoricsites.org/ The link is in the show notes in the episode description in your app.
[00:23:07] Emily: Daisy, something that Dakota was talking about was the stars. And I know there are stars in your piece, so I’d love for you to talk to us about the materials that you use, the ideas behind it and the symbols on the fabric.
[00:23:21] Daisy: Yeah. Well, I’ll start with the materials. Dakota actually gifted me the silk organ organza that I used for the project, as well as the cochineal and the indigo. So I also used indigo for that. I dyed the fabric with the cochineal and then I painted stars onto it and I also printed corn husks.
[00:23:44] Emily: Can you tell listeners what cochineal is?
[00:23:48] Daisy: So cochineal is a beetle that, they, I believe, feed on the nopal cactus or they lay their eggs in the nopal cactus. I know they’re the mama bugs that are red. And so they are on the nopal cactus, and they’re dried and harvested that way.
[00:24:05] They’re ground up, and then turned into dye and they create very, very rich, like, on their own it’s like a pink, but if you add, like cream of tartar or lemon juice, soda ash. Like, it’ll react to those and it’ll create like violets, deep reds, pinks, orange. Yeah, so it’s a beetle.
[00:24:28] And these beetles, I think I mentioned Dakota did send to me a bunch of ’em. So that’s how I got those. But the process of grinding them up and turning them into pigment, we all did that on our own.
[00:24:41] Dakota: Yeah, so I had them work with cochineal just because I had a lot of interest in natural dyes and for myself as an artist, a lot of my work goes back to the traditions and history of Diné textiles, but also just Indigenous textiles pre-contact. So the pigment itself, like Daisy said, comes from the female insect and it produces this really beautiful, vibrant red pigment. And it was harvested for thousands of years by Indigenous people. And it wasn’t until the Spanish invasions of the Americas, that it started to have a bigger impact, and was traded, globally as a commodity. So there’s a lot of deep history to the dye itself, the bug itself.
[00:25:25] But kind of relaying back to this narrative of Bosque Redondo, the dye itself was very prevalent because often when we think of Diné textiles, we think of that beautiful red. And what history-wise, the stories that were told was that the women that unfortunately were at the camp were not given materials to weave.
[00:25:43] And in order to continue to weave, they unwove a lot of weavings that they already had on hand, or it would be soldiers’ coats, the wool itself that they would unweave and then weave back into their weaving. So the red is very significant to the narrative of creating this moment of prayer for the weaver and for the individual that they’re making the weaving for. But also just its history of the importance of dyes and the stories that exist within the materials themselves.
[00:26:14] Daisy: Yeah, and I was thinking about like, well, I’ll start with the stars, ’cause that’s very significant. In my family and when I was growing up, the star knowledge is very important to us. But also it’s this return, like that’s where we go when we’re done in this life.
[00:26:32] It’s kind of like an origin and a return to the stars. So I was thinking about that as well as like, as a place that holds the spirits and that we go to, but also as, like, the sky that we’re standing under and that is witnessing everything happening all of the time. And so, thinking about what these people were experiencing and, like, looking up at the stars and being so far from their homeland, you know?
[00:27:03] And so it’s kind of like, how, how do you feel that sense of home or that sense of return. And I think Dakota’s mention of homesickness is really important because that’s a very unpleasant feeling. It’s a really, like, empty, longing feeling. And as Indigenous people, we all have these stories that are kind of related and intertwined, like these stories of displacement and this experience of displacement and of seeking home.
[00:27:32] And so I felt like the star is just kind of being this universal home and point of return. And with the corn, I know that corn holds a lot of significance for Diné people. And also just like the significance of food for Indigenous people is huge. And it’s like everything, this sharing and coming together.
[00:27:56] And then thinking about the fact that this land could not be worked, it wasn’t producing corn, it wasn’t producing these plants and this food that is very significant. And so I wanted to bring some food into it, you know? Yeah, and I had corn husks and I was like, I think the corn wants to go with me.
[00:28:17] Emily: I’m curious about your idea behind the way that you hung the piece and if there’s significance in that too.
[00:28:25] Daisy: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:28:26] Emily: And for listeners, just so you can visualize it, it’s this pink fabric that’s hanging from the ceiling and you can stand underneath it or observe it from outside of it.
[00:28:36] Daisy: So, the pink is actually just the cochineal, like, talking. It’s very pH-reactive and it was my first time working with cochineal, so I was just playing. With that piece, I was really thinking about creating these holding spaces that are just that, like gentle holding spaces.
[00:28:56] Um, I have another mentor, Dylan McLaughlin, who called one of my pieces, like a gentle but firm holding space. And I really like that because that is how it should feel, you know, it’s kind of like firmly holding you there, and imparting this story that’s really heavy and, like, difficult to hear.
[00:29:15] But, it’s also gentle. It’s also, like, kind of gently holding you in this space. And the silk is really light and flowy. So it’s not… doesn’t give this, like, heaviness physically, you know, around you.
[Bright, uplifting music]
[00:29:29] It’s light, but it’s encasing you in it. And so that’s why I hung it the way I did, is I was thinking about how can I hold people in this space and kind of surround them with it and give this sensation of these stars being all around you and above you and just kind of surrounding you?
[00:30:00] Emily: Kéyah, I want you to talk about some of the figures in your painting, and then the largest central figure in your painting that is some whites and blacks and gray blues. There’s a lot of pink on the blanket in the central figure. So I’d love to hear about all of those elements.
[00:30:17] Kéyah: I use a lot of indigo in this one, from my background to the darts, to the shading. I always tell with my cohorts and during my critiques, I talk about my connection with my work. All this is coming from my mind and it goes into the artwork.
[00:30:34] So, I always tell people I work with Mother Earth and the Holy People, and they’re the ones that help me create these images and colors. And so, the right-hand side, top, corner, those are Diné people that were there at the camp, kind of like a ghostly image of when they were there. Then what were they thinking about and maybe they were hurt or wanted to go home, that kind of feeling. And it worked and I threw in some trees in there. And further top of the middle person’s image is the Navajo T.
[00:31:07] So I started seeing all these stuff and then I go down to the bottom. You can see a lot of animals going down to the mother or the grandma waiting that’s still back home and waiting for those guys to come back. Her family or the people that left that got captive, and she’s waiting, waiting for the return. To the left hand side is, kind of wanna put in where I’m from, we have a lot of the pine trees. A lot of them walked through there. They came through there, especially through the Sandia Mountains. That’s why I respect the Sandia Mountains by Albuquerque.
[00:31:42] That’s where they went through. And, um, the left side, the bottom part is where they walked through. You can see little images of people walking. And then the middle one, I used that cochineal because at that time, when we see something red, it’s something bad’s happening.
[00:31:59] Even the ring around the moon, that’s the things that my grandpa taught me, looking at the sky, looking at the moon, the stars, where things are gonna happen, even with weather. So I learned that from my grandpa. And those, in the blanket design, it looks like clouds, and she’s wearing, she or he or two-spirit: that’s what I see this image, this person is. It’s not one male or female or something like it. It’s all, they were all there also and they went through all that trauma and that’s what the images… a lot of artists glamorized women and I don’t really do that because they weren’t like that there.
[00:32:41] And it’s gotta be more, more of a real of what happened at that time. And I put the corn pollen and it touching in her face area for all the colors in her face or his face. And then, um, disfigurement, like some of them gotten hurt or beaten.
[00:33:01] Just a lot of bad things that happened to these people, to my people, the Diné. And that’s what I wanted to portray and that’s what I wanted to show of my part as an artist where I see what happened and why this painting’s there for. So that’s all cochineal, indigo, tacheene. That’s stuff we bless ourselves with and corn pollen,tádídíín, and that’s what I use in this painting. And this is what is in the image.
[Mysterious, dramatic flute music]
[00:33:42] Emily: And I wanna circle back to what motivated you, Dakota, to include your two grad students from IAIA and then also can you say more about your intent or your thinking around turning this from a place of suffering into a place of healing?
[00:34:00] Dakota: Yeah, I think my biggest thing that I wanted to do with this residency was to really focus on collaboration and community. And since I had already been working with Kéyah and Daisy as their mentor through IAIA, it just kind of naturally happened. Their work is both amazing and really the responses that they were able to create just naturally happened.
[00:34:17] And I think that was one of the most important things with the kind of building this exhibition was seeing the way that they both translated the history of the site, but also the stories that they heard growing up about the site itself. So, I think really appreciating the different types of materials they use, because I think for all three of us, we had a big interest in natural materials and going back to understanding how much the land and its materials itself are so giving, and that goes back to our way of thinking of ourselves connecting back to the land.
[00:34:56] I think with Daisy kind of exploring this from the perspective of the stars, how important that is in understanding those stories, especially kind of seeing this place of, where is home and how do we return home? And I think that was really important for Kéyah to also share his personal experience heading there because for a lot of us Diné people, we have very different experiences of the stories and the way that we’re told about it, either through songs or ceremonies or through our elders.
[00:35:26] It’s those stories of The Long Walk that we continue to remember this history. And for us it’s finding Hózhó,or balance, within ourselves. And in order to do that, it’s finding that balance with the work that we create. So this whole exhibition was really about creating the ability to be able to look at our land, understand the land, and be able to share that with our future generations and to better understand our relationship to the art that we create and how it deeply connects to the land that we call home.
[00:36:00] Emily: You know, something that I thought about when I was visiting the site was that this history and this art seems very important to tell that story of that place in that place. And also because obviously they created this concentration camp as far as possible from the Diné and Ndé homelands.
[00:36:22] That also means that the story and the history is really far from anyone who can access it. Is it challenging that people may not know about this and that to know about it, they have to travel to Bosque Redondo, and are there other ways of sharing that knowledge and that history?
[00:36:42] Dakota: Yeah, I can speak to that. Kind of a big part of this exhibition, which I think we all initially understood that the work is so far away from a lot of spaces that people often visit to look at art. And I think that was the biggest challenge, was understanding that the work is separated from this extension of the art community. But at the same time, it was intended to give back to the visitors to understand why this site is important to commemorate the Diné and Ndé, but also to recognize the spiritual weight that’s placed on that site.
[00:37:20] And I think that’s one of the biggest things, and especially the questions that I get asked about this body of work is whether or not they’ll see it in different spaces. And I tell them, you know, this, other than Bosque, Redondo and a solo exhibition in Santa Fe, that those are the only two places that you’ll see these pieces at. And the intention because of that is because I created these pieces for Diné people, for Indigenous people. And it is, you know, for them to really kind of reflect on the importance of these stories, these memories, these mementos.
[00:37:54] But also, for myself, these are prayers, these are moments to really understand that, you know, it was a very personal body of work that’s intended to be shared with others, but at the same time, you know, it’s an extension of our ancestors and the being reunited with the land, and creating that balance.
[00:38:13] And I think it’s really important that you brought that up with the exhibition, is this idea of the, the cochineal and the reds and the pinks, and this goes back to my other project, the Dahodiyinii, was exploring this idea of the color red. Um, and for myself as an artist, I’ve spent the last four years working with just the color red and the intensity of it. And, you know, for a lot of people when they think of Indigenous history and, you know, red is often associated with violence, but for Diné people, it’s a color of our medicine.
[00:38:49] It’s a medicine that we use to be able to offer prayer for those that are traveling. And that was something really important with the materials that both Kéyah and Daisy utilize is that they come from the earth, they’re part of that. But it’s also very important to all Indigenous people because it’s part of our daily lives and the ceremonies that are connected to it.
[00:39:10] So it is a deeper connection to the ways that we work with these natural dyes, but how it becomes part of the work itself. So you see it featured in these beautiful subtle pink hues in Kéyah’s painting, but also the vibrant intensity on the silk organza of Daisy’s pieces. And then with the kind of really intense, deeper reds that you see in one of my cyanotype pieces: you know, the beauty of cochineal is the variation that happens and the different types of tones that are created throughout.
[00:39:44] Kéyah: I really loved and enjoyed doing this project with Dakota and Daisy. It’s very important and I’m glad that I got to be part of this. And it’s also a learning thing, for me, as an artist just starting to get out there. And about expressing these kind of happenings for the Diné people is I think be strong through all the Indigenous artists with their work and it also is a teaching lesson for the public and the viewers. And I know that this piece that I did was being looked at by a lot of different people and I hope that it affected them.
[00:40:24] That’s what my work is about, is affecting and hoping they feel what I’m painting and feel what I feel about the painting. Yeah, I think artwork and doing this type of art could help even people to the East Coast to learn, ‘cause it still happens here at the campus. I work over here on campus and I always see the kids coming from the east and asking if we still live in teepees and running around horses, chasing trains. And, I say, “no, we’re just ordinary people like you guys, but we still hang onto our traditional ways and our history.” And we tell them, and they learn a lot from me, ’cause I went to school here at NAU for my Bachelor’s and the only time they knew about us was my critiques and where I came from. And, they were like, “oh, it’s a good job. That’s pretty cool.” Or they’ll gimme a handshake and stuff like that. All young, young kids.
[00:41:16] And I’m the only adult Native and most and everyone else, non-Natives. So yeah, it’s important. And I know this is a strong way of showing and telling our history and our stories and our creation stories to everyone in this way.
[00:41:30] Daisy: Just to speak to kind of the question that you asked a moment ago. Like, it was such an, and still is, such an honor to have participated in and be part of this project with Dakota and Kéyah. You know, I think your question was something about people being able to travel to this and how to educate people on this and the education is definitely a part of it.
[00:41:50] Like, it’s definitely there. But one of the things that I really love about this work is that it, like Dakota said, it is for Indigenous people. It is for Diné people. And so it’s not just the education, but it’s also just this healing place and this healing work. Because it’s not something that you, or that we get to have and see very much. Like we are reminded of trauma and violent histories very much.
[00:42:43] And in art, you know, you see it very like, explicitly addressed. And so this felt like a way to tell these stories that’s a lot more gentle on us and about yeah, like healing and, you know, like what is the land saying and what stories are being held here. It felt like a very gentle process; it’s still really intense to be in those spaces. I also just wanna say, like, it’s interesting presenting work like this in a memorial like space, like gallery space, it definitely is kind of like ironic. And I say that with a lot of respect to the site. But it is kind of like, you just step outside and look around at this land and you feel it, you kind of can hear these and feel these stories.
[00:43:17] Emily: The art exhibition Naaldeeh by Diné artists Dakota Mace and Kéyah Henry and Santee Dakota, Mexican and Jewish artist Daisy Trudell-Mills will be up at the Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner Historic Site until December 31st, 2023. According to Dakota Mace, the installation is intended to last for a short period.
[00:43:41] As the physical photographs being created will eventually go back into the land. I see these photographs as brief glimpses from our ancestors, a chance to share their imprint, and eventually go back to rest. Please visit this powerful exhibit while you can. If you plan a visit after the exhibit comes down, know that Dakota’s work will be beneath your feet — a part of the ongoing story of Bosque Redondo.
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[00:44:21] Encounter Culture is a production of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.
Our producer is Andrea Klunder at The Creative Impostor Studios. Season five is produced and edited by Andrea Klunder and Alex Riegler.
Our recording engineer is Kabby at Kabby Sound Studios in Santa Fe.
Technical direction and post-production audio by Edwin R. Ruiz.
Our executive producer is Daniel Zillmann.
Thank you to New Mexico artist El Brujo, D’Santi Nava, for our theme music.
For a full transcript and show notes, visit https://podcast.nmculture.org/ or click the link in the episode description in your listening app.
I’m your host, Emily Whithnall.
The New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs is your guide to the state’s exceptional museums, historic sites, and cultural institutions. Historic sites serve as a bridge from the past to our collective future. Explore New Mexico history and plan your visit at https://nmhistoricsites.org/
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