WordWrap 2017: Historical Reflections on the Law of the Land
This series of digital prints, WordWrap 2017: Historical Reflections on the Law of the Land, explores the legal and legislative response to the Treaty of Cession. I was inspired reading the history of the struggle for Alaska Native land rights and wanted to create montages that both highlighted some of the key cases and honored those who persisted through the courts in the face of many challenges. Placing them on the trees offered a unique opportunity to literally connect words to the land and create a corridor for reflecting on history and the legal process.
The focus of this series is the words and the power they carry as they are cited over many years from case to case. I sought to convey a sense of the density of the legal language and the strength required to engage with it by including entire documents and other related materials as background patterns. I intentionally layered words so that some require extra attention or even following up with the citation, in order to be understood.
Reading through the cases, especially the early ones, was a humbling experience and greatly increased my admiration for individuals who earn their law degrees and pursue justice work through the court system. The language was sometimes hard to understand and often rationalized depressing outcomes. As the pieces developed, I added historic quotes and images into the montages to give the legal words more context.
Research was a large part of this artistic process and I include below some of the resources I found most helpful. I got excerpts of the legal cases from the website Thomson Reuters Westlaw, which is accessible through our library database service.
- “Alaskool—Alaska Native Land Claims.” Alaskool.org. The Alaska Native Curriculum Project. Web, accessed 2016.
- Bering Sea Elders Group. 2011. The Northern Bering Sea: Our Way of Life.https://eloka-arctic.org/communities/elders. Web, accessed Dec. 2016.
- Case, David S. Alaska Natives and American Laws. Fairbanks: University of Alaska, 1997. Print.
- “LitSite Alaska | ANCSA at 30.” LitSite.org, University of Alaska Anchorage. Web, accessed Dec. 2016.
- Metcalfe, Peter. A Dangerous Idea: The Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Struggle for Indigenous Rights. Fairbanks, AK: University of Alaska, 2014. Print.
- Mitchell, Donald. Sold American: A Story of Alaska Natives and Their Land, 1867-1959: the Army to Statehood. Hanover: University Press of New England, 1997. Print.
- Mitchell, Donald. Take My Land, Take My Life: The Story of Congress’s Historic Settlement of Alaska Native Land Claims, 1960–1971. Fairbanks, AK: University of Alaska Press, 2001. Print.
- Alaska State Library, U.S. Forest Service Photo Collection.
- David S. Black Papers. Alaska Native Claims, North Slope (1 of 2 folders), Box #63,
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Boston.
- W. Merrill Photographs Courtesy of National Park Service, Sitka National Historic Park.
- “Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.” Library of Congress. Web, accessed Nov. 2016 – Feb. 2017. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/.
- Tundra Times images Courtesy of Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation and Tuzzy Consortium Library of Utqiaġvik (Barrow), Alaska.
- Upstander Project. http://upstanderproject.org/firstlight/doctrine. Web, accessed January 2017.
I am grateful to the many people who answered my questions along the way and/or graciously permitted me to include their quotes in these prints, especially: The Native American Rights Fund, The Tuzzy Consortium Library, Megan Alvanna-Stimpfle, Rose Coveney, Peter Grennen, Wendy Lanchester, Trevor Link, Nancy Marks, Lisa Moriarty, Nancy Rabener, Margie Root, Ron Spatz, Lee Wallace, Sarah Weatherbee and Robin Zucker. With gratitude to all the staff at the Alaska State Library Historical Collections, JFK Presidential Library, and the Library of Congress who make their materials accessible to the public. Thank you to Karinna Gomez, Kelsey Lutz, and all the wonderful people at the Sitka National Historic Park and the University of Alaska Museum of the North for hosting this exhibition.
Lisa Link, 2017