Recycle Runway Blog

The Tree of Accountability Published: 05.02.2023 at 4:25 pm by Nancy Judd

The Tree of Accountability

I am excited to announce a new project I have completed with my colleague and dear friend Dr. Deana Dartt (Coastal Chumash, Mestiza). It was commissioned by the Stanley Center for Peace and Security for their new headquarters in Muscatine, Iowa. The sculpture strives to bring awareness to the colonial history and ongoing injustices faced by Native peoples in the United States. The tree is made of upcycled aluminum railings and covered in leaves cut from decommissioned library book pages punched into elm leaf shapes and painted green.

The heart of the project is the statements written on the leaves. We began by asking the First peoples of Muscatine, the Meskwaki Nation, “How can settlers be accountable to the people of the lands on which they live?” We also invited Native peoples across the US to answer this same question. The next step was to share these responses with non-Native peoples and ask them to declare how they will be accountable to Indigenous communities. You can learn about the project, read more Native responses, and add your voice here.

This is my second collaboration with Deana, the first was a sculpture called the Suit of Invisible Settler Privilege which is part of my traveling exhibition, Alternations: Tailored Solutions to Climate Change. It explores the many privileges that non-Native peoples have that are often invisible to us. It was created in the decolonization trainings that Deana provides through her business, Live Oak Consulting. Deana invited me to participate in these trainings and provide arts integration experiences to help participants reflect on her powerful content.

On a personal note, these sculptures indicate a change in direction for my art practice. I do not expect to be making more recycled fashions but am instead drawn to exploring new forms of creativity connected to my arts integration practice and the decolonization work. Instead of making objects, I am interested in facilitating creative learning experiences, and my new “studio” is the New Mexico History Museum! Last summer when my spouse and I moved from Oregon back to New Mexico, I accepted an educator position at the History Museum. I was excited by the Museum’s dedication to exploring multifaceted views, facilitating dialog that bridges social and cultural divides, and working towards a more just society. This change in my art practice and career feels like a natural evolution for me personally and artistically, and I feel honored and excited to be doing this important work. One reason this is important to me is because my family came to the US in the 1600s and was/is part of the colonization process. We have benefited in many ways including financially off of the land that was forcibly taken from the First peoples. As a result, I have had a multitude of privileges that have benefited me including allowing me to live the last 20 years as an artist in comfort. Now I would like to use these privileges to be part of the long overdue healing this country needs around colonization, racism, and social justice.

Healing begins with acknowledging the truth and I find the requests below from the folks at the Meskwaki Nation about truthful history powerful and pertinent to my work at the History Museum. I feel honored to have a position that allows me to (attempt to) fulfill my accountability statement: “I will learn and share a true American History.”

click for larger view

Our hope is that this project contributes to the national and international conversation about what meaningful accountability to Native peoples means.

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