Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"The New Sheriff" Print & "Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement"

The New Sheriff

I just mailed off this new edition of prints to Melanie Yazzie as part of the print exchange, "As You Wish." Melanie is an ex-colleague and good friend who has an incredible energy and passion for organizing the most wonderful print exchanges. Whenever Melanie does a call for artists, her list fills up almost instantly. She's definitely way cool, and artists want to be a part of her stuff; thank you Melanie! Gunalsheesh.

At any rate, this latest As You Wish print exchange had me a bit perplexed and I had no idea what to make my edition about. I had just gotten off the phone with my 86-year old dad up in Juneau and he was so delighted. He had just gotten one of those big screen TV's (with the help of my sister Patty) and was watching the NBA, one of his favorite pastimes. Dad bought it with some of the money he'd received from the Canadian government's "Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement." This seemed like a bit of poetic justice; he was truely enjoying himself while his oppressors were long-dead. Not only that, his indigenous identity is intact.

His Nisgaá name is Sim-o-get (Cheif's designation, or most relied upon person) Axhathaatkw and is from the Laxsgiik (Eagle) House. Dad's English name is Chris McNeil Sr., and he is an Elder Nisgaá Hereditary Chief from Gingolx. I made a print about him titled simply Dad a few years ago.

To make a long story short, dad was a part of the Indian Residential Schools program when he was a young boy. He was taken from his family and placed in one of the Indian boarding schools. When he arrived he spoke only Nisgaá and was a complete innocent. Without going into nasty detail, the boarding schools were plain awful and were little more than labor camps for children, where christians essentially tried to beat their identiy out of them. Many indigenous children did not survive the abuse.

You can go to this Indian Residential Schools Settlement Official Court Website regarding the nuances of the settlement agreement, or at the Assembly of First Nations site.

Apology from Prime Minister Harper (partially in French with a translator). Nisgaá Statement on Residential School Apology.

Anyway, when Melanie asked me to join her print exchange, I was thinking that if I had my wish, none of the residential school experiences would have ever happened in the first place. It's explained better in the artist's statement below. This one's for you, dad.

The New Sheriff Artist's Statement

Tonto’s TV Script Revision had Tonto in the midst of arresting the criminal child abuser Richard Pratt in a TV scene. With this print we have our hero as the new sheriff, about ready to ride off to round up more criminals. This time the criminals are members of the christian church; members who abused indigenous children at the Indian boarding schools.

With The New Sheriff, Tonto is getting ready to execute a long list of arrest warrants, and he needs his trusty sidekick, the lone ranger to ride with him. If there were such as thing as blind justice in the world, this would have happened in real life. Instead, we have entire generations of child abusers who never had to answer for their crimes (not on this world anyway) at the Indian boarding schools. People not informed about the issue think that all this happened hundreds of years ago, and why should we care about ancient history? Well, because it extended into this generation with indigenous families today, right this moment. Thousands of families are still trying to heal from the decades of abuse.

If I had my choice, I’d sure as hell hire a sheriff and start rounding up the criminals that are still here today. This boarding school scenario happened in Canada and Australia too. Both countries have issued formal apologies to the indigenous people of their respective lands, and Canada has paid repatriations to the people that were subjected to the abuse. America is alone in their denial that any problem exists. This is ironic, because Americans initiated the boarding school horrors. More specifically, by Richard Pratt at the Carlisle Indian School. Pratt was nothing less than evil, especially with the predatory practices he initiated with the boarding schools where untold thousands of indigenous children were not only kidnapped, but also abused and murdered.

I wish that there was healing with this and I wish that there was justice. America is not the knight in shinning armor that she wishes to project and has a lot of conciliation to take care of before being able to truly move on in a good way.

It is interesting that comic book heroes (such as Superman) were started by Jewish men who felt the need for empowerment and justice via their comic books in the early 20th century. Superman won’t cut it here; we need an indigenous hero. There are indeed a lot of sorry asses to round up and bring to justice.

(This print was made to accompany the photograph Tonto's TV Script Revision, which is also about the Indian Boarding School experience.)


Jackson Rushing said...

Great print, Larry. Smart, tough, and heartfelt, as usual. Happy New Year!

Larry McNeil said...

Thanks Jackson, it seems that some of the seemingly easy ones are hard to make. Have a great new year too!