Winter Trees Wept

I’m working on ‘Winter Trees Wept’, another piece in the riverjourney series. Besides working on sketches and some preliminary pieces in fibre, I’m reading the history of my ancestors, the Muscogee, around the time of the Removal.

The Muscogee tribe had occupied what are now the states of Georgia and Alabama for about 10,000 years until they were removed to Indian Territory in what is now the state of Oklahoma. The Removal happened between 1831 to 1836. The earlier Muscogee went more or less ‘voluntarily’, though duped by treaties with the US government and taken advantage of by unscrupulous Indian agents and speculators along the journey and once they arrived. The final Muscogee were forcibly removed by the US Army in November 1836, with the men in shackles. It is estimated that 45% of the Muscogee tribe perished during the Removal. Such a devastating loss to a people of their ancestral homelands and their community.

I’ve also been thinking about the land itself, the rivers and forests that had sheltered and supported and been cared for by the Muscogee. I wonder if the land felt the loss of a people who had spoken the language of the forest and lived in harmony with the earth.

The winter trees wept
a river of blood
when we were torn
from the land.

I made this monoprint by laying a piece of white cloth over a thin layer of black and then red printing ink, and reverse writing and making marks with a pencil and my fingertips onto it.

Monoprint

For the quilt I am making, I’m using some of the fabric that I monoprinted a couple of weeks ago using leaves, stencils and marks rubbed onto paper. I stamped onto the fabric with a feather and fabric paint.

I’m using white silk dupioni for the border and fixed the printed fabric with artist’s spray fixative to make sure that the ink doesn’t rub off onto the silk while I am sewing it together.

I printed the words of the haiku I have written for the piece onto tissue paper.

The design in progress . . .

Today someone left a very thoughtful comment on my blog and observed that I create various textures of my feelings, and display them artistically. It’s nice that the feeling comes through not only in my art work, but also via cyberspace, which can be a dehumanising method of communication.

A couple of years ago I read about therapeutic work being done with Native American tribes addressing Historical Unresolved Grief. In their pioneering studies involving American Indians, Brave Heart and DeBruyn (1998 ) describe the monumental losses of life, land, and culture experienced by peoples native to the Americas as a result of European contact and colonization. They contend that descendants of these native peoples, in response to these losses, suffer from historical unresolved grief. “Like children of Jewish Holocaust survivors, subsequent generations of American Indians also have a pervasive sense of pain from what happened to their ancestors and incomplete mourning of those losses”.

A keynote talk by Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart given at the Fifth Annual White Bison Wellbriety Conference in 2005 From Intergenerational Trauma to Intergenerational Healing.

1836. Into the winter, away from our home and land of our ancestors. A long, difficult journey marked by loss, grief and despair. A journey which has been passed down through the generations. A burden far too big for any one person to carry. I can only hold it, witness it and in doing so hope to heal it, not pass it on yet again.

It’s a difficult part of the journey. Though moments of joy when I see the swallows flying through the summer skies, the fields lush with grass and flowers and the water striders skating across the river surface.

My map is where my art work takes me, each piece of art work in my riverjourney series will take me where I need to go, to be. The making of each piece will heal what needs to be healed, not only within myself, but also for my ancestors.

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