From the beginning of this project, the placement of these sweaters have been very thoughtfully considered and intentional. Sometimes I have an exact idea of where I want to place a sweater ahead of time. Other times, I carry the sweater around for a few days waiting, seeking, and responding to my environment for the best location. In rare cases, I research an ideal place for situating and find that where I had intended to leave behind a sweater it ends up not working out. Today, I went searching for a very special place indeed.
First, a little history. Arizona is a state where 1/4 of the land is owned by various tribes. Hopefully, we are all aware of the American history our past leaders would like us not to know, such as how and why these tribes exist in the first place. Living in Chicago, and researching it’s cultural and political history, I became accutely aware of the displacement that took place as the city grew and became an important economic hub to the national economy. The land of Lincoln is replete with street names, towns, and cities that highlight the Native American history that precedes anglo settlement. And, as one travels further west, not only is this history alive in names, but also in tribal towns and lands where displaced generations of indigenous cultures have been forced to relocate as settlers come to make a claim on their future. The impact of uprooting an entire culture comes at a high cost, often making a culture weaker, less intact and destined for struggle. I have been fortunate to work with and speak to many Native Americans about their family history which is often filled with stories of grand parents who fled into the cavernous canyons to escape losing their cultural identity. It was with this knowledge that I went on a search to find the last remnants of the Japanese internment camps that were located in the Gila Indian Reservation during the beginning of World War II. Over 13,000 people were interred at Butte Camp from 1942-1945. How ironic to inter one marginalized group consisting of over 60% American citizens with Japanese descent within another marginalized group’s land that was “given” to them by the U.S. government. Of course, the tribal government objected to this arrangement of “borrowing” their land for such a horrific cause, but in the end, the tribe accepted the situation and lived alongside the U.S.’s official newest marginalized group. In the search for this monument, I went to the museum site that provides visitors directions to the monument as well as historical information about this time period. Unfortunately, the museum had been closed for some time. After speaking to a local tribal woman, I learned that the museum had closed about 3-4 years ago and that it had been completely funded by the tribal government. Even after the fact, the U.S. government wouldn’t provide a reminder of this tragic event in our shared history. I imagine that many of these camps civilians faced similar trials that homeless folks today struggle with: marginalization, continually uprooted from some sort of permanent settlement, overcrowding in shared living situations and overall a very difficult life. Pictured here is the site of the Butte Camp Monument that I hope to locate on my next visit to the reservation.