I never saw another butterfly

Holocaust Memorial Day, January 27, is is a national event in the United Kingdom dedicated to the remembrance of the victims of The Holocaust.  The chosen date is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp by the Soviet Union in 1945.

The Butterfly

He was the last. Truly the last.
Such yellowness was bitter and blinding
Like the sun’s tear shattered on stone.
That was his true colour.
And how easily he climbed, and how high,
Certainly, climbing, he wanted
To kiss the last of my world.

I have been here seven weeks,
Who loved me have found me,
Daisies call to me,
And the branches also of the white chestnut in the yard.
But I haven’t seen a butterfly here.

That last one was the last one.
There are no butterflies, here, in the ghetto.

–  Pavel Friedman, June 4, 1942

Pavel Friedmann was born in Prague on January 7, 1921. He was deported to Terezin on April 26, 1942 and later to Auschwitz, where he died on September 29, 1944.

I’m making a series of butterflies for The Butterfly Project.  The Holocaust Museum Houston is collecting 1.5 million butterflies for an exhibition scheduled for 2013.  When most people hear the word Holocaust, they think of the genocide of European Jews and others by the Nazis during World War II. A more generic description is a ‘massive slaughter’.  In my research on the Native American Holocaust,  I was quite surprised to learn that nearly all of the holocaust museums and memorials in the United States commemorate the European Holocaust.  Even the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC doesn’t characterize or does it display the history of  the United States’ holocaust against the Native Nations and peoples of the Americas.

I made my butterflies using photographs of Native American children and text of the treaties between their tribes and the US Government.  I printed these onto hand made paper, tore it into a butterfly shape and painted the edges with gold paint.   I used wire, beads and natural and manmade fibres for the butterfly’s bodies and antennae.

Comanche boy and girl

Comanche girl

Treaty with the Comanche, eighteenth day of October, year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty five

Article III.

It is further agreed that until the Indians parties hereto have removed to the reservation provided for by the preceding article, in pursuance of the stipulations thereof, said Indians shall be and they are hereby, expressly permitted to reside upon and range at pleasure throughout the unsettled portions of that part of the country they claim as originally theirs, which lies south of the Arkansas River, as well as the country embraced within the limits of the reservation provided for by the preceding article, and that they shall and will not go elsewhere, except upon the terms and conditions prescribed by the preceding article in relation to leaving said reservation. Provided, That the provisions of the preceding article in regard to encamping within ten miles of main travelled routes, military posts, towns, and villages, shall be in full force as to the privileges granted by this article. And provided further, That they, the said Indians, shall and will at all times, and without delay, report to the commander of the nearest military post the presence in or approach to said country of any hostile band or bands of Indians whatever.

Article IV.

It is further agreed by the parties hereto that the United States may lay off and build through the reservation, provided for by Article II of this treaty, roads or highways as may be deemed necessary, and may also establish such military posts within the same as may be found necessary, in order to preserve peace among the Indians, and in order to enforce such laws, rules, and regulations as are now or may from time to time be prescribed by the President and Congress of the United States for the protection of the rights of persons and property among the Indians residing upon said reservation, and further, that in time of war such other military posts as may be considered essential to the general interests of the United States may be established. Provided, however, That upon the building of such roads, or establishment of such military posts, the amount of injury sustained by reason thereof by the Indians inhabiting said reservation shall be ascertained under direction of the President of the United States, and thereupon such compensation shall be made to said Indians as, in the judgment of the Congress of the United States, may be deemed just and proper.


9 thoughts on “I never saw another butterfly

  1. Wow, what a touching project! Love your butterflies. Those photos of the Indian children are so tragically beautiful. You’re absolutely right, here in the US, the holocaust is almost exclusively applied to the Nazi’s. Even the Nazi Holocaust is typically portrayed as a Jewish genocide. Even at the Holocaust Museum in DC it seemed to be biased in that way. About the Indian, we have ignored them and their, as he put it, Ghettotizement. I’m going to check out the Butterfly Project website to see if I can contribute anything at all.

    • I’ve been to the Holocaust Museum in DC. A very powerful experience and an excellent museum. I’ve also been to Auschwitz and Terezin camps in Poland. Difficult places to visit, but it feels important to witness the destructive side of human nature and to honour the victims, to name and tell the story.

      From my Muscogee ancestry, one of my gifts is a deep, spiritual connection with the land. There is also the legacy of Removal, loss of a culture and way of life, an inherited ‘brokenness’. I feel a need to honour and tell about our holocaust in my art work.

      The Butterfly Project is great and a nice little format (8″ x 10″) for making little art pieces. And remembering.

  2. Beautiful post and pictures. I grew up in a small town in the midwestern US. I went to school and was good friends with American Indians as well as Caucasians and did not realize that was uncommon in the US. After I left there, I realized how rare it was.

    I agree the “legacy of Removal” is heartbreaking for American Indians. Also, on a related note, when I was at Holocaust Museum in Wash DC, I was most moved when I stepped into an actual railway car used for transporting Jews to a camp. The act of removal and transportation to an unknown and terrible fate is sadly powerful.

    • Sofia, when I went through the Holocaust Museum in DC, it was the piles of discarded suitcases outside of the railway car that got to me. The care that people took to choose their last possessions and labelling their of suitcases, only to have them discarded when they reached their final destination. I went outside of the museum for a break at that point, then went back in to finish going through the exhibits.

  3. Just happened upon your site. Your art and words are beautiful. Thank you for remembering the American Indian people.
    We do have a museum here in Houston , Texas that addresses the Holocaust of American Indians. It is called the American Indian Genocide Museum (AIGM). We have participated with Holocaust Museum Houston in tolerance and Co Existence workshops. The Executive Director Susan Myers of HMH is on our Advisory board. It has been with the direction of HMH that AIGM came into being. Contact information is indmusem@aigenom.com Phone:281-841-3028 website: http://www.aigenom.com

    • Cheryl, thanks for leaving me the information about The American Indian Genocide Museum. I look forward to exploring the website.
      I have Muscogee ancestry, but feel that the history of all American Indian people needs to be remembered and honoured.

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  5. Pingback: Triumph » Blog Archive » i never saw another butterfly pictures

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