Stigmata at Wounded Knee

Apex Gallery, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Rapid City, 2007

Materials: 4' x 8' photograph of Minneconjou chief Big Foot, sinew, coyote skeleton, deer hides, gold mining pans, cottonwood leaves gilded in gold leaf, plexi-glass

About ten years ago while doing research for one of my installations, I came across a photo of the Minneconjou Chief, Big Foot (Si Tanka or Spotted Elk). This photo had been taken on January 1, 1891, two days after the chief was killed by a revengeful Seventh Cavalry gone berserk. Big Foot’s body had frozen into a pose that reminded me of Giotto’s fresco of St. Francis with the Stigmata. I was not only struck by the beauty of the pose but also overwhelmed by the events that had occurred on that sad day near Wounded Knee. I knew then that I would have to use the photo as part of a future installation.

Stigmata at Wounded Knee highlights another ugly mark made in the name of progress, discovery, and manifest destiny which has contributed to the “unsettling of America”—a tragic mark culminating in the massacre of 300 Lakota at Wounded Knee.