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Imprinting Dimensional States of Being Mural Image map

The mural titled Imprinting Dimensional States of Being at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design showcases the history of the local Piscataway tribe, a Native American group who historically and presently call the District their home and now spans the length of George Washington University’s Flagg Building.

This work is intended as a land acknowledgment and a collaborative narrative visualization of the Piscataway People whose ancestral lands lay where Washington DC and surrounding urban areas exist today. So what exactly is a land acknowledgment? A land acknowledgment is, it is a formal statement that recognizes the ancestral land of the indigenous Peoples, who both historically and presently reside on the lands. This work in this place formally recognizes the ancestral lands of the Piscataway. A special thanks to Gabriel and Sebi Tayac for their guidance and collaboration to make this mural possible in depth and content.

Piscacataway means Confluence of waters.

This project first came to light when my friend Joseph Kunkle invited me to DC from Santa Fe, NM to work on a mural for his exhibition “Bridging Boundaries” in the Corcoran. This exhibition is a traveling exhibit focusing on native and non-native voices speaking on issues in Indian Country. As part of this exhibit I created a mobile mural focusing on food sovereignty & indigenous culinary practices. Joseph mentioned to me it would be great for me to produce a mural about the Piscataway in the Corcoran as a permanent installation. I agreed it would however I did not know a lot about the Piscataway even though words from their Algonquian language are echoed in the names of cities and streets, as well as their ancestral lands laying under our countries centralized place of power Washington DC. Once I discussed this project with the Corcoran’s former director Sanjit Sethi and it was approved I reached out to Sebi Tayac.

As you begin you will notice a topographical depiction of the Chesapeake Bay Area. The ancestrial territory of the Piscataway.

Mervin Savoy a tribal chairwoman of the Piscataway-Conoy Tribe.

Painted under layers are 4 commandments of 10 translated to the Piscataway language by Father Andrew White 1630’s. The lettering is Father White’s handwriting.

The 4 commandments painted in the mural translated to English are as listed.

5. Thou shalt not kill.

7. Thou shalt not steal.

8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy nieghbor.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy Nieghbor’s goods.

Chesapeake Bay eels were a medicine used by Turkey Tayac. Turkey would wrap eel skin around his joints to work with his arthritis.

You may see a fluid motion of flesh tones depicted in this section of the mural. These flesh colored rainbows represent the multi racial makeup of the Piscataway.

Here is a portrait of Chief Turkey Tayac the 27th Hereditary Chief of the Piscataway and on both sides of him are dipictions of Living Solid Face.

In Eastern tribes headdresses are typically upright. Meaning the feathers do not drape or rest down the back but rather have an upright structure.

Living Solid face tattoo

Living Solid Face is a spirit carved on rocks throughout the North East. This spirit is said to let out just enough animals from another dimension so that people have just enough to eat. The eyes of this spirit are thunderbirds crying lightning. The arc surrounding the Living Solid Face's forehead is an expression of universal consciousness. To the Piscataway the thunderbird appears as a woodpecker.

A woodpecker expressed as a thunderbird in a cloud like formation.

You may be asking why all the complex layers and busy aesthetic? If you think about where the Piscataway’s ancestral lands are located, the capital of the United States it may strike a chord. First it is an international location of global relations. Second and most importantly the Piscataway have endured a bombardment of settlers, wars, colonizers and even before the United States came into exhistance. They have endured and survived many layers of this colonial process and genocide.

The Longest Walk poster 1978

With Washington DC being the United States centralized point of power it cultivated a focal point for Indigenous Activism to influence policy and for voices to be heard through action.

Longest Walkers 1978

The first Longest Walk, in 1978, was a 3,000-mile march across the United States to bring attention to the rights of Native people in the United States and to protest 11 anti-Indian bills introduced in Congress that threatened treaty rights. Emphasizing the walk as a peaceful spiritual protest, thousands of Native activists, allies, and community members gathered together to support the movement. After a ceremony on Alcatraz Island, the group began their walk with thousands of people taking part. By July 15, an estimated 2,000 people walked into Washington, D.C. They stayed in the capital for the following week to ensure that their voices were heard and to conduct workshops to educate others about Native people, bringing together members of different Native nations to share knowledge and experience.

A visualization of the word Piscataway “confluence of waters” is two waters falls pouring into the same body. At the base of this body of water is Turkey Tayac’s hands holding a tobacco bundle.

Chief Turkey Tayac holding a tobacco bundle
Image of Turkey Tayac in France WWII. Turkey served in the Rainbow Division.
A figurative outline based on colonist John White’s watercolors of the Piscataway.

The Eagle and Condor flying together represent all of the Americas as one land known as Turtle Island to First Nations.

Imagine before countries or borders this continent was a place of territories with organic edges of porosity where different tribes lived side by side. This place has ancient roads and cities long before the ones we now know. The symbol of the Eagle and Condor represent continuity and unity throughout all of Turtle Island.

Natalie proctor and Chief Billy Red Wing
Chairwoman Natalie Proctor and Chief Billy Redwing, son of Turkey Tayac
Mid Atlantic Handstyle by GoGo writer Cool Disco Dan

So why all the style writing or graffiti letters? Well graffiti is an American invention that is the first globally networked form of visual expression. This American invention is a social symptom that questions property and challenges who gets to have a voice in public space. When you think about the bombardment of consumerist advertisements from a wealthy position of power engaging your eyes daily do you ever question why you can’t have such a visually powerful voice? What if you could could speak upon which is important to you? Why is public space regulated but First Nations sacred sites suffer from governmental eminent domain for energy resources and mining? Why don’t we get to choose to keep our natural resources clean and pristine for future generations?

There are many graffiti letter styles depicted in this work. The most prominent style is the Mid Atlantic styles representing the region. This style is typically highly legible and impactful reminiscent of comic book lettering and influenced by the regional funk music genre Go Go.

An expression of the Tree at Piscataway Park “Mayoane” emerging and growing into the 27 hereditary chiefs buried underneath.
Sebi Tayac, Great grandson of Turkey Tayac
Gabriel Tayac, grandaugter of Turkey Tayac.
Sebi and Gabriel Tayac
Top left a longest walkers Weldon Austin& Lone Wolf Willie from the Longest Walk 2 2008, middle left George Washington, bottom left Gabriel Tayac, center Gabriel’s father and Vetran Joe Tayac, bottom right Algonquian floral regalia design and horse.
Joe Tayac Sailer, vetran and son of Turkey Tayac
Bottom left Dennis Banks, bottom center BIA take over, bottom right American Indian Movement Drum and Logo, top a wild turkey.

Washington DC has been and continues to be a central location for Indigenous Activism. Turkey Tayac and the Piscataway have played a large role in this movement and process. They have seen, been a part of many phases and trends of issues surrounding indigenous rights. The Piscataway have worked with many members from other tribes that have come to DC to speak out, find unity through action and effect policies. Some of these people have become close to the Piscataway and have created strong alliances in effort to cultivate change.

Top BIA takeover nov 3-9th 1972, bottom left Dennis Banks, American Indian Movement Logo and Drum
Turkey Tayac and Alcatraz AIM Graffiti

In the spirit of protest and the efforts to communicate change, letters and visual expression are a key role in activism. This is sometimes expressed by way of signage and graffiti. The letters shown in the background are a recognition, reclamation, demand and expression of ancestral land acknowledgment.

Graffiti Alcatraz island 1978
Right Roberta Blackgoat
One of Roberta's famous slogans

Roberta Blackgoat became friends of the Piscataway when she would travel to protest and do speaking engagements in DC. She was protesting an executive order to remove Dine’ & Hopi residents from black mesa in Arizona. The force removal forced 14,000 Navajo and several hundred Hopi to move, however along with several hundred Roberta stayed and fought for her right to live out her life on her ancestral land. The removal was to expand the Peabody coal mining operation. Under Black Mesa 20 billion tons of low sulfur coal was discovered. Activist like Roberta Blackgoat were highly influential to the Piscataway and their activism in Washington DC.

This mural "Imprinting Dimensional States of Being" is only a sliver of the complex and long story of the Piscataway. There is no way to capture the full scope of these People indigenous to the Chesapeake Bay Area. I can only attempt to provide an interpreted / collaborative essence of a complex story. I hope as you have explored this work along with this image map you have opened yourself up to the ground you walk upon and not only recognize Washington DC as ancestral lands to First Nations like the Piscataway but all of Turtle Island's First Nations.

I recognize the Chesapeake Bay Area as the ancestral land of the Piscataway this mural is my offering to this land. May the colors and shapes on this wall open hearts, bring awareness, change minds and cultivate healing.

Joerael Numina 2019

Internationally acclaimed, Santa Fe-based artist activator Joerael Numina (b. 1980, San Angelo, Texas), has been dedicated to creating art that promotes meaningful social change. For Joerael, art is about bringing awareness. His artistic advancements have a science and technological bend such as embedding his large-scale murals with QR codes allowing the viewer to dive deeper into the compelling content of the piece beyond the visual experience. An activator, yogi, muralist, tattoo artist and frequent lecturer, Joerael was the first artist in residence at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) and participates in its Broken Symmetry Society, which engages with artists, writers, poets, musicians, and other creative thinkers in talks, panels and onsite art exhibitions in partnership with SFI’s scientists.

A visionary disruptor and art entrepreneur, Joerael creates art that matters in all its forms from mixed media drawings and paintings to large-scale mural projects. The founder of a project called Mobilize Walls, launched in the days following in the 2018 election, Joerael network of fast-growing murals is now 40,000 feet long and acts as a petition of scale. Indeed, his project is the polar opposite of Trump’s proposed wall; it’s decentralized, transformative, inclusive, healing—bridging versus building borders between communities. “All the work I’m trying to do is about transformation, unity and inclusiveness.”

Imprinting Dimensional States of Being is 2,052 Sq. Ft. to out-scale & out-art the US/MEX border wall.