7. Wetatonmi

Edition of 4 copies
6″ x 16″ closed
Providence, RI, 1987

Wetatonmi, the surviving widow of Ollokot, Chief Joseph’s brother, spoke these words the night of leaving her tribe’s lands after suffering defeat in the Nez Perce battle of September 1877. These words express the plight of the American Indian, past and present. Although the means of death may have changed-from guns to radiation coming from poisoned water, uranium mines, and weapons testing, from armies of men to armies of bulldozers, tearing up all vegetation-they are still being forced off their land, and disappearing not into the wintry night, but in history.

Wetatonmi is a letterpress book in an edition of four. The cover is a facsimile of a handstamped rawhide envelope used by the Plains Indians to carry dried meat, as well as other foodstuffs. As the book is foreign to the Native American culture, I chose to package it in something from their own traditions. The book may be viewed upright, extended in a zig-zag position, or in the form of a cross symbolizing the north-south, east-west axis on which some Native American cities were built, due to the belief that the four directions were sacred. When displayed in a zig-zag position, sidelighting projects the images as shadows on the surface upon which the book is resting.

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