Returning Clear Voice
Edgar Heap of Birds, Hock E Aye VI Native American
Not on view
Returning Clear Voices, One Who Stands on the Earth (MMA 2015.432), and Scarlet Face (MMA 2015.700) honor three members of the Dakota people who—along with thirty-five others—were hanged by the federal government during the United States–Dakota War of 1862, a conflict caused by U.S. governmental treaty violations and hardship faced by the Dakota owing to white settlement on native lands. Occurring in the region now occupied by the state of Minnesota, it was the largest one-day mass execution in American history, long glossed over or expunged from dominant historical accounts. Heap of Birds calls attention to this injustice in his work, which takes on both memorial and activist functions. By appropriating the graphic treatment and straightforward, institutional language of official signposts, he publicly commemorates these individuals in their native tongue. As such, these works perform a critical task: they reassert a buried history, countering the dominant culture’s amnesia in a manner that is subtle yet hard to ignore.