You Know Your Children (formerly “The Bones of Our Tribe”)
Michigan City’s history begins in 1830, when a wealthy banker purchased the land from the U.S. government to develop his businesses. That is, according to Wikipedian authority. Popular histories do not mention the Potawatomi, a people who have occupied the region long before white settlers. You Know Your Children unveils this silenced history, and commemorates Potawatomi narratives and voices.
This site-specific project addresses the location of Michigan City, as well as its people and history. The land on which the work is installed was once a sacred ground of sustenance and stewardship. Following the 1821 Treaty of Chicago, it became an asset, a thing to be owned and developed. The exchange of land from the Potawatomi to the U.S. government was more than a purchase agreement. It marked a fundamental change in the way we think about land, what we value, and our desires for future generations.
My research relied heavily upon interviews with Potawatomi matriarchs who have laboriously preserved their people’s traditions. I builds relationships with my collaborators, listening to their stories and looking through family photo albums. From these conversations, I constructed a visual account of these women’s memories. Photographs, trinkets and natural materials speak to the everyday lives of my collaborators, as well as Potawatomi beliefs that center upon water, animal-helpers, and tobacco.
Lastly, the centerpiece, a pre-treaty map drawn by white prospectors, simultaneously charts future properties as well as the presence of native peoples that endured long before their arrival. The Four Directions, written beneath the map in a Euro-centric alphabet, lists a foundational teaching of the Potawatomi that structures a spiritual and physical synthesis of this world. You Know Your Children presents these disparate yet entangled concepts of life, land, and history. The work offers viewers a glimpse into a non-Western perspective that is at once foreign and familiar.