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

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.