Mark the date: circleofvoices.com will be launching on December 20th! The contact form is already active on-site. Louise Watson is the French anthropologist who began this project, who recently successfully presented her dissertation. Glad to have met her when she contacted me in 2016 to speak at a solidarity demonstration for Standing Rock in Berlin.
“Circle of Voices is a digital anthropological research project aiming to bring educational awareness about the situation of indigenous women and youths, and more broadly about indigenous rights. It was conducted with young women from the Atikamekw, Abenaki and Wolastoqiyik/Maliseet Nations in Quebec. It explores the process of cultural revitalization through four themes: land, language, art and spirituality. The activities entailed in the project are: participatory photography workshops; sharing circles; sound recordings and video clips of traditional practices; intergenerational dance workshops (fancy shawl); and personal narratives (biographical interviews).
There are hundreds, and doubtless thousands of Native American sacred items, objects and human remains in Germany. Before and after, but especially during their colonial period (1871-start of WWI) graverobbing, looting and theft by German “scientists” took place around the world, including North America. This past week I participated in Reparation Days 2017, with final event the Conference: Prussian Colonial Heritage, and added their signature to a powerful resolution along with representatives from Japan, Australia, Tanzania, Namibia and others who had been robbed, and which Germany had repeatedly denied and/or minimized reparations for the genocide. Many just know the European Jewish Holocaust, but the 1st genocide took place in Africa, but it gets far less, if any, attention and it is not taught in German schools or any of their colonial crimes.
This is a huge, on-going issue as the Humboldt Forum is now being constructed. It is a multimillion dollar recreation of their emperor’s palace, which will house all of this loot taken, including the bodies of the dead. Finally, the peoples and communities most affected are being denied a voice and place in the decision-making process of recognition and repatriation.
The English version of the resolution and press release is below the German one, and you’ll see the list of speakers and representatives, that included myself and Wanbli Gleska Tohake, my mentor and sponsor in AIM Central Texas, who is Lakota from Rosebud Reservation. The decolonization struggle continues worldwide.
It begins: “We, the undersigned speakers, presenters and participants of the transnational conference “Prussian Colonial Heritage: Sacred Objects and Human Remains in Berlin Museums” on October 14/15, 2017 in the Centre Français de Berlin recognize that communities all over the world have lost a considerable part of their cultural heritage, including even “sensitive materials” – comprising “sacred objects” and “human remains” – by force and fraud in the wake of colonial conquests.” Read the full resolution here at the Berlin Post-Kolonial website.
Other photos from the venue made by me.
A sincere thank you to everyone who came out to participate and help with filming great scenes that will be included in upcoming documentary Forget Winnetou! Going Beyond Native Stereotypes and as production extras for the DVD! It was a beautiful and sunny afternoon in Germany beside the picturesque Tegelsee in Berlin. As I am almost exclusively “behind the camera”, it was nice to finally see myself in photos, which were taken by Viveka Frost and Haven Smith, who are part of our team.
Three years ago I wrote an article for Indian Country Today Media Network, which was titled “Naked Faux Savages and Neo-Racism in Berlin”, to which I posted a link here on my blog. A particular museum in Berlin has chosen to have a theater troupe perform a fake potlatch ceremony, in which naked performers sexualized their interpretation of such an indigenous gathering. The museum’s director Viola König continues to work for the Humboldt Forum project, and to me symbolizes all that is wrong with the project: the entire idea and still being built edifice to its colonial brutality hidden behind a “civilized” facade.
The challenge and reality is European museum directors, curators, supporters and others, including many of the European visitors have benefited from white privilege and supremacy for centuries, educated to believe this is civilized, conservative behavior to preserve what remains of certain cultures and peoples for posterity. This is the lie of the whole thing, and ignores the crimes against the survivors who have been petitioning and ignored though rightfully demanding their peoples objects be repatriated.
When anyone has been taught that culturally abuse, misinterpretation, misrepresentation and misattribution is normal, who have been taught to believe these things are civilized parts of their society, they keep perpetuating these crimes. Other challenges and realities is that there are persons who work for Humboldt forum and/or within the German (colonial) museum system who recognize and admit these are stolen items but who wish to keep their jobs.
On 15 October I will participate is a two-day event titled, “Prussian Colonial Heritage”, which discussions and challenges the continuing colonial practices and behaviors where Europeans justify and excuse the monumental crimes against other cultures, primarily those of people of color, and their refusal to return stolen objects, sacred items and even the remains of indigenous peoples and others. Protests against the project have continued before and since the foundation stone was laid in 2013, and the Humboldt Forum’s planned completion is 2019. Another protest is planned for 20 September, as members of various organizations such as Post-Kolonial Berlin, continue to work a forcible change in policy and protocols at HF and other museums.
From the 2014 article at ICTMN: “The Ethnological Museum continues to be the center of controversy regarding cultural insensitivity, misinformation and shock-value displays of indigenous items from around the world. One such was a display case of sacred Native items alongside a crushed Budweiser can and empty flask of whiskey, with a blurb stating that the biggest problem among Native Americans was alcoholism.
The museum’s director, Viola König, defended the sexualized performance and the museum’s collection. “Das Helmi were simply, playfully implementing all typical contemporary prejudices in a vivid, imaginative way to entertain,” she said. Regarding the controversial objects and displays in the museum, she said, “Organizers of the Humboldt Lab said, ‘Cultural appropriation is always a violent act, and direct or structural violence were likely used in acquiring many objects of our ethnological collections, but they still need to be shown.’”