SATIRE—The Billy Jack Walking Tall Gallery in Minneapolis came under fire last week for its recent exhibitIndian Uprisings by Minneapolis artist Vanessa Kills Twice (Dakota). The installation is a piecing together of various historic U.S. “massacres” perpetrated upon white colonists and pioneers by Native Americans in efforts to protect their lands and their lives.
The central piece Scalp, a 50-foot statue constructed from metals and recycled materials, depicts the 1804 painting The Death of Jane McCrea by John Venderlyn, and is the culprit for the majority of the outrage by the Minneapolis Caucasian community.
Margaret Duh, white area resident, spoke out on the issue: “What was the gallery thinking? This is an outrage to the memory of my dear ancestors. Someone in the Caucasian community should have been consulted. Any time a colonist is depicted being bludgeoned to death by clubs, or what have you, it ceases being “art” and becomes “atrocity porn.” I’m thoroughly disgusted by the lack of sensitivity the gallery has demonstrated.”
Other notable art pieces in the exhibit include a depiction of the 1854 Ward Massacre (eighteen members of the Alexander Ward party were killed by Shoshone Indians while traveling on the Oregon Trail), and 1863 Pontiac’s Rebellion (Great Lakes, Illinois and Ohio tribes attacked British forts and settlements—hundreds of colonists were killed).
Gallery docent Clyde Monroe stated: “Some white folks were upset that the Whitman Massacre was installed right next to a playground sculpture of Mickey Mouse and Friends—they felt it was disrespectful to the Whitmans and the missionaries who perished at the hands of Cayuse and Umatilla Protectors. I admit it’s a pretty gruesome portrayal, but hey, it attracts media attention and keeps our doors open. And it isn’t as if the gallery has created permanent installations of church missions for tourism, and required construction-paper gallows dioramas as part of the public school curriculum. Oh, wait…um, never mind!”
Due to the public outcry of community Caucasians, the gallery’s director, Wren Ross will override all suggestions towards facilitating a community gathering to discuss the exhibit and its possible dismantling, and instead indicated that plans are underway for the exhibit’s immediate demolition and removal.
Tiffany Midge is a poetry editor at The Rumpus, and an award-winning author of The Woman Who Married a Bear. Her work is featured in McSweeney's, The Rumpus, Okey-Pankey, The Butter, Waxwing, and Moss. She is Hunkpapa Lakota. Follow her on Twitter @TiffanyMidge