The forced integration of millions of natives is a truth that their descendants have come to know and deal with. My history of assimilation and my grandfathers forced boarding school experience at the Carlisle School is not unique. The feelings that have been passed down are now part of our genetic heritage. My current studio work deals with my ancestor's many stories of assimilation. For this body of work, it was necessary to choose a new medium and material from which to begin to bridge these abstract ideas and bring them into concrete forms.
The form of the basketball was specifically chosen for many reasons; First and foremost, James Naismith was the University of Kansas' first basketball coach, where I am now currently living and in my second year of graduate school. Second, Naismith pioneered the KU basketball program, which today has become an athletic enterprise. Nearby Haskell Indian Nations University, was once a Native American Bureau of Indian Affairs Children's Boarding School, like the Carlisle School. Today, Haskell is one of the only four year accredited Native American college in the United States, and continues the Naismith tradition, with a strong basketball program for native athletes in the United States. For many Native Americans, basketball, as well as many other sports, is considered an extremely viable way towards survival, both monetarily and physically. It is also a way to achieve excellent educational opportunities through athletic scholarships. Choosing the basketball to make a ceramic cast of was deliberate; I wanted to bring the game into theses post-colonial issues.
The ceramic body represents the idea of craft that would have been passed down to me by my ancestors, were their way of life and well being not purposely divided and conquered. To ancient peoples, clay was a means of survival; here I purposely use it to signify survival that continues, despite the Dawes Act and the assimilation practices that occurred. The encaustic material on its surface is replicating my Ojibwa heritage with its beadwork patterning and birch bark "bitten" notations. I chose to start building the traditional coil pots made my by ancestors as a way of honoring what came before. To my people, honoring history is important, for necessary change does not happen intentionally unless one does so.