Saturday, May 09, 2009

Carved Indian statue at welcome rest area, I80, PA

I'm on the road, en route to get my daughter from end-of-year at college. Yesterday, I entered Pennsylvania and stopped at the 'Welcome' rest area on Interstate 80. There is a tall, carved wood statue there, of an Indian head. The plaque at the base of the statue says:

"Dedicated to the American Indians (Seneca)
...But they won't be forgotten,
But will be remembered in our minds
And in our hearts.
Love is life."

It is signed "Peter Toth, June 30th, 1973."

I recall that Toth is trying to put one of these in every state. I don't have time to do research on him or this work right now, but I am curious. Seneca, he says, who will be remembered, because they are.... what? What does Toth think? What do his words suggest to you?

Teachers! Before school is out for the summer, ask students to pay attention to these sorts of statues if they come across them. Of, if there's one near you, study the statue, dedication.

Just in case you're wondering, the Seneca people are alive and well.


Elizabeth Sky-McIlvain said...

I have just had an email conversation with Down East Magazine about using the past tense in a current article about the Wabanaki (in Maine). The editor doesn't get it. I sent him to you.

jpm said...

Maybe Toth's own memory and vision problems come into play. He supposedly does enough research to create a "composite" of Native faces, but the sculpted faces look like nobody anyone's ever actually seen except in one of those carnival mirrors. A visit the optometrist is in order. Plus, by the time he's ready to write each of the poems, it seems he has forgotten that he actually met living people while collecting images for his composite, so he writes the poems as if Indians are gone. Maybe some megavitamins would help with that memory loss.

Seriously, after looking at some of the other images on the web, i'm wondering why more communities don't "just say no" to allowing Toth to exhibit his kitsch, er, stuff.

Jodie said...

Thank you for your very helpful blog. Do you ever have workshops in IL? We were just at the Cherokee Ancient Village in OK and the guide mentioned that democracy was modeled after tribal governments not Greek and Roman governments as we had been taught in the past. Do you have any good references for more research on this subject? Thanks

Carys said...

The impression I get from the inscription is that the Seneca people are some sort of artifact of the past - no longer with us, and in need of being 'remembered'. I'm glad that now I can read something like this and SEE that bias. I know that for me that wasn't always the case. Last night I was watching the "We Shall Remain" episode about Wounded Knee. In 1973 I was in early grade school - and while I was really young, I have absolutely no recollection of this event. To be fair, the only thing I remember about Watergate is listening to Nixon's resignation speech in the car while we were on vacation - but at least Watergate was something discussed in the classroom in later years. What I do remember about the early 1970's is that at that time I had a little book that I got on a flight on one of the airlines (back in the day!). It was about the life of a Dakota boy. There was probably a lot of good information in that book - in particular I recall that it talked about the fact that the Dakota didn't call themselves Sioux- but there was probably a lot that was wrong. I wish I still had this book because I want to see how it reads now. I remember reading that book and thinking there would be nothing more wonderful than to BE an Indian "back in the day". I read that book over and over so that even to this day there are certain pages I can still see in my head. But there was a fatal flaw. The book made absolutely NO mention of the fact that there were in fact Dakota people alive and well in the present time. How could I have thought that when the events at Wounded Knee were front and center in the news? Then again - how could an inscription like this not raise questions and ire?

Kynn said...

How does it read? Like a gravestone.