Original Painting

Whitewashing Indians

Send Email Inquiry to: Terry@adobewallsstudio.com Or Phone: 325-669-6856

60”x48” Acrylic on 120-year-old, handwritten documents glued to gallery wrapped canvas.

As the encroaching white settlers began to dominate the prairies which had been inhabited by indigenous people for hundreds of years, the tables began to turn and America became Euro-Anglicized.

Toward the third quarter of the nineteenth century, the US Federal government began to introduce policies and methods to assimilate Native Americans into “white culture”.  One of the popular ways was the federally operated, Indian Boarding Schools experiment, and the most notorious one was located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

The Carlisle Indian Industrial School strove to immerse its students into mainstream Euro-American culture, believing they might thus become able to advance themselves and thrive in the dominant society.

Many white Americans believed that the only hope of survival for Native Americans was rapid assimilation into White culture.

Between 1879 and 1918, over 10,000 Indian children from 140 Native Tribes attended the Carlisle School’s 5-year program.  It is purported that only 158 ever graduated.

Federal agents convinced many prominent Native leaders and Chiefs that their next generation’s only hope of not being cheated by future treaties was to learn to read and write and become assimilated into white culture.   As the success of Carlisle grew, “recruitment” was not always “voluntary”……

 

For Price, Send Email Inquiry to:

Terry@adobewallsstudio.com

Or Phone: 325-669-6856

60”x48” Acrylic on 120-year-old, handwritten documents glued to gallery wrapped canvas.

As the encroaching white settlers began to dominate the prairies which had been inhabited by indigenous people for hundreds of years, the tables began to turn and America became Euro-Anglicized.

Toward the third quarter of the nineteenth century, the US Federal government began to introduce policies and methods to assimilate Native Americans into “white culture”.  One of the popular ways was the federally operated, Indian Boarding Schools experiment, and the most notorious one was located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

The Carlisle Indian Industrial School strove to immerse its students into mainstream Euro-American culture, believing they might thus become able to advance themselves and thrive in the dominant society.

Many white Americans believed that the only hope of survival for Native Americans was rapid assimilation into White culture.

Between 1879 and 1918, over 10,000 Indian children from 140 Native Tribes attended the Carlisle School’s 5-year program.  It is purported that only 158 ever graduated.

Federal agents convinced many prominent Native leaders and Chiefs that their next generation’s only hope of not being cheated by future treaties was to learn to read and write and become assimilated into white culture.   As the success of Carlisle grew, “recruitment” was not always “voluntary”……

Native children from tribal families all over the US were shipped across the country by train to Pennsylvania where their hair was cut, they were dressed in uniforms, and were subjected to a strict, military regime, which involved rigid corporal punishment for speaking their native tongue or practicing anything related to their own native customs and culture.  Carlisle’s motto was: “Kill the Indian; Save the man.”  Once an Indian child arrived at Carlisle, most communications with their families were cut off, letters were not delivered and families were not notified promptly when their children died.

Carlisle and similar schools, even at the time, were deeply controversial; they forced children to leave their families at young ages, giving up their indigenous cultures, languages, religious and spiritual beliefs, and even their names, thus doing untold psychological damage to generations of Native people.

The complex reality is that many of the teachers and administrators truly loved the Indian children and sincerely believed that they were acting in the children’s best interest.

There were some limited examples of “success”, but most students, after their 5-year education, were never accepted back into their tribes and families because of the changes, and most were doomed to become housemaids and field hands, albeit literate ones, for the Victorian era, post-slavery, white Americans.

The Federal Indian Boarding Schools was only one of many ways Native Americans were assimilated into white culture.

My painting, “Whitewashing Indians” is my artistic depiction of this assimilation.  It is loaded with symbolism and interpretative imagery.

In the painting, an evil white, female owl is holding a paintbrush in her talons as she spreads white paint across Chief Quanah Parker’s forehead.  In Comanche folklore, the carnivorous Pia Mupitsi (meaning Mother Owl) was the horrible “Boogie Man” figure used to scare Comanche children into obedience and compliance.   The cannibalistic owl would steal disobedient Comanche children, and carry them away to her cave in the South face of the Wichita Mountains where she would torture and eat them!  It is difficult for us to grasp the horror, but because of his childhood “baggage”, Pia Mupitsi, was the only thing a brave Comanche warrior feared.  Pia Mupitsi struck terror in the hearts of the Comanche people.  In my research, I discovered that in nearly all indigenous cultures, there is a counterpart to Pia Mupitsi, just with a different name and slight variations.

I have chosen Pia Mupitsi, the Owl Monster, to symbolize the invading White people—painting the Indians white, thus devouring their culture, history, and spirituality.  The kidnapping nature of Pia Mupitsi is diabolically similar to the “recruiting” practices of the federal agents and the Carlisle Indian School.

Behind Chief Parker is a silhouette of a teepee and braves, already smeared with white paint, their culture obliterated.  Below the owl on the right is an approaching steam locomotive, another symbol of the invading change, and I have designed the front of the engine to depict a devouring scull.

One final symbol in the lower right corner is the solitary prickly pear cactus blossom, “Prairie Flower”.  It is a repeated image in many of my paintings, and it symbolizes the natural world’s observance of the events described in the painting.

“Prairie Flower” was also the name of Chief Quanah Parker’s infant sister who, like him, was half white because their mother, Cynthia Ann Parker was a white captive of the Comanches who became the wife of a Chief.  After Cynthia Ann’s and her baby’s recapture by the Texas Rangers, Prairie Flower died, and her mother later died, purportedly of a broken heart.

In this painting, you may notice that Prairie Flower has been splashed by a stray bit of white paint from Pia Mupitsi’s brush.  The whitewashing of Indians has marred the natural world and brought eventual death in some cases.

The painting is 60”x48” and is Acrylic painted on 120-year-old, handwritten deeds, glued to canvas, from Parker County, Texas.  Significantly, Parker County was named after Isaac Parker, the Chief’s mother, Cynthia Ann Parker’s uncle.  These deeds conveyed Land once controlled by the Comanches.  In this most recent work, parts of the picture plane reveal the historic documents, and these actual relics from the time period of the event have become an important part of the artwork both visually and symbolically.

Thank you for reading this long narrative.  Through my art, I hope that this complex and very tragic subject is illuminated in a different way than just words.  Art speaks when words fail…

Image Type

Original Painting by Terry Browder (NOT a Copy)

Dimensions

60" X 48"

Media

Acrylic on historic documents glued to canvas.

Contact For Price

325-669-6856

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Whitewashing Indians