North and Central America->United States->District of Columbia->Washington
This was a student project by Jennifer Fullenkamp for Forbes Lipschitz and Paula Meijerink's course LARCH 7950 in Spring 2018.
Abstract: Walk of Innocence aims to commemorate the history and lives of the Ahwahneechee tribe by re-telling their history of displacement after the discovery of gold at Yosemite Valley. The tribe’s journey is abstracted in Washington D.C. to a linear path of suspended golden molds of Native American descendants’ feet that bear the names of those affected. The path of this installation starts at the L’Enfant Metro Station, which is a busy connector metro line frequented by visitors, businessmen, and congressman daily. From there it passes by the Native American Museum where it meets the projects historical context. Finally, the journey ends at the Capitol building where the death and displacement of the Native Americans began on the fateful day Congress stamped into law the final eradication of the Native Americans from Yosemite to preserve it as a national park.
About the Project: The Ahwahneechee tribe lived in peace within Yosemite Valley until the discovery of gold in 1848. Upon this discovery, the Ahwahneechee were forced from their lands to allow for Western colonization to mine for gold and ultimately leading to thousands of deaths and displacement of Natives lives from the valley. The Ahwahneechee eventually returned to the land and continued to rightfully occupy the valley until 1890 when Congress had established Yosemite as a national park forcing the final eradication of Native Americans from their valley.
In commemoration of the Ahwahneechee, a memorial installation of golden feet will be displayed overhead. The path begins along a busy pedestrian corridor in Washington D.C. as a sea of feet and ends with only a few pairs of feet to show the deaths and displacement that occurred. As pedestrians move along this route, they are forced to traverse through the feet and be reminded of the gruesome cruelty that the Native Americans suffered and to celebrate the triumph of the few descendants that are still alive today. Due to Native Americans feeling as though they have been trampled on through history, the suspended feet also assist in displaying the reciprocal of how the Native Americans now walk on everyone else.
The installation is comprised of 20,000 feet suspended overhead, signifying the 20,000 Ahwahneechee that survived after the gold rush. As the Ahwahneechee bloodline has neared extinction today, molds of the feet will be cast from Native American Tribes living around the United States. To appear as though the foot is floating unobtrusively, it will be comprised of aluminum to allow for a lightweight object for suspension and hung on mesh wire. The aluminum foot is finally wrapped in gold leaf which conveys two symbolic meanings. The first links the displacement of the Ahwahneechee with the greedy beginning of the gold rush and the second will signify precious lives lost and those still living today due to gold being a precious metal in itself. Each foot will bear the name of the person it was molded after or with a name from someone in their lineage they wish to commemorate. The castings will be strung in alphabetical order to allow for easy location by friends and family as they progress down the path in remembrance of their history and share it with others.
In January, a festival will begin the creation of the foot molds and signify a new beginning and year for the community of Native Americans. These molds will be sent to American Alloy Foundry in Baltimore during February-March to be cast with aluminum and wrapped with the gold. The last week of March will start the curation of the memorial installation in preparation for its unveiling on April 1st . This is a symbolic date coinciding with the start of the first displacement the Native Americans suffered in the valley during the gold rush of April 1851. The feet will be displayed until the end of July and then be taken down and placed inside the Native American Museum as a historical archive preserving the history and names of Native Americans around the world for future generations to experience their heritage.