Ya’at’eeh shí ke doo shí Diné,
Greetings. My name is Remy. I am an Indigenous artist from Black Mesa on the Navajo Reservation. Right before Christmas I will be releasing an installation in Santa Fe that is rooted in shared colonial history with our relatives in Palestine. My previous solidarity work here was taken down by local Zionist pressure (https://firstsevendesignlabs.com/in-the-spirit-of-faris-odeh/). This will not be the case this time.
Through generations of my family, I was told of our tribe’s forced removal from our land by the US government. To us Diné (Navajo), this was called, Hwéeldi, which means, ‘The Long Walk”. In 1864, over 10,000 Diné were ethnically cleansed by the US military from our land and rounded up after our homes, livestock and farms were destroyed. We were forced to march almost 400 miles to be placed in the concentration camp of Fort Sumner, which at that time was considered the largest open air prison. It was these carceral designs that Hitler referenced for his own planned genocide of Jewish people during World War II.
Now with technology, we can see our own history in the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine. We still grieve for the elderly, the children and mothers who never made it along the genocidal journey to what was claimed “safe” by military occupiers. The generational trauma within our DNA is activated with every image that comes across social media having also witnessed loved ones massacred and discarded amongst our homeland as well.
During our forced march and incarceration our medicine people were targeted and singled out for trying to heal our people even without the capacity, necessities and means to do so. Songs and prayers in Indigenous tongue was all that could be offered as our relatives painfully passed on to the next world.
We understand the struggle to formulate foreign words that will never begin to encapsulate telling history correctly in terms of the loss of life, culture and land. We were called “savages” in the Declaration of Independence so that savage things could be done to us to remove us from our land. Dehumanization was repeated through a burgeoning western media in order to facilitate the bounties awarded to racist settler militias for the scalps of our children during westward expansion.
If our warriors were caught by soldiers, they would be stripped naked, chained at the neck and feet to be paraded in front of our loved ones and other tribes one last time before being disappeared to be tortured and murdered. Those of us who escaped genocide and scorched earth policies stayed to fight against foreign military technology with nothing more than wood and stone to defend the umbilical connection to our land for future generations.
The art I created could be present day Fort Sumner, but it is not.
The piece I created could be told from western media but it is not.
The installation I created could be a peaceful nativity scene, but it is not.
It is a first hand account of Gaza and the West Bank during these colonial capitalist holidays.
It is Bethlehem 2023.
The work I create is made in the spirit of Faris Odeh and with the hopes to be able to sing, Shí naashá, our song of return, along with my relatives in Palestine. Inshallah.
In solidarity with wood and stone from Dinétah,