Imagining what reconciliation might look like on the Quincentenary, one hundred charred tipi skeletal frames (brought from the Black Hills of South Dakota) and over thirty historic markers were placed alongside the City and County Building and State Capitol in Civic Center Park in downtown Denver, Colorado, from October 10-12, 1992.
The placement of the tipis along the planned Columbus Day Parade route made visible a history largely unseen of betrayal and atrocity. This oppositional narrative of burnt skeletal tipis proved too stark of an image in the landscape, and together with the thousands of people gathered on October 12 to protest, the parade was ultimately cancelled. At the time I stated, “Our imagination proved stronger than theirs.”
The Quincentenary Project was a collaboration with Dave Greenlund, the American Indian Movement of Colorado, and the Fourth World Center for the Study of Indigenous Law and Politics at the University of Colorado at Denver. Funding provided by the Chinook Fund.
“There’s a little matter of genocide that’s got to be taken into account right here at home. I’m talking about the genocide which has been perpetrated against American Indians, a genocide that began the instant the first of Europe’s boat people washed up on the beach of Turtle Island, a genocide that’s continuing right now, at this moment.”
– Russell Means, American Indian Movement, speaking prior to the cancellation of the scheduled parade, October 12, 1992
“I can’t tell you what art does and how it does it, but I know that often art has judged the judges, pleaded revenge to the innocent and shown the future what the past suffered, so that it has never been forgotten. I know too that the powerful fear art, whatever its form, when it does this, and that amongst the people such art sometimes runs like a rumour and a legend because it makes sense of what life’s brutalities cannote, a sense that unites us, for it is inseparable from a justice at last. Art, when it functions like this, becomes a meeting-place of the invisible, the irreducible, the enduring, guts, and honour.”
– John Berger, Keeping a Rendezvous, October 27, 1992