November 06, 2010

Tonantzin recognizes Trail of Death

Sculpture honors Indian women

Artist creates limestone statue to honor Indian women who faced hardships during forced relocations

By Jan Biles
"Tonantzin," an 11½-foot-tall statue of a Mascouten noble woman, is taking shape in the yard at artist James Wahwassuck's home.

The cottonwood limestone monument, weighing nearly 20 tons, commemorates the 1830 Indian Removal Act, the forced relocation of Indians to lands east of the Mississippi River, and the Potawatomi Trail of Death, the forced removal of Potawatomi Indians from north-central Indiana to eastern Kansas in 1838.
And:The Mascouten lived in southern Michigan and then in Wisconsin and Illinois, Wahwassuck said. In the early 1700s, they united with the Kickapoo and Fox, after almost being exterminated by the French and the Potawatomi. Survivors moved westward and in the early 1800s became part of the Prairie Bands of the Kickapoo or Potawatomi.

Although his sculpture depicts a Mascouten woman, he said he named his work after Tonantzin, the Aztec goddess considered to be "the mother of all indigenous people."
Comment:  See how easy it it to portray an Indian who doesn't look like a half-naked chief, warrior, or princess? Keep this in mind whenever you see a stereotypical statue.

The only thing I question is the name "Tonantzin." Some tribes may acknowledge kinship with the Aztec, but many don't. There's no widespread belief that Indians came from Mexico or that Tonantzin is a "mother goddess" to everyone. To give two examples, the Lakota honor White Buffalo Woman and the Navajo honor Changing Woman, not Tonantzin.

For more on the Trail of Death, see Signs Placed on Trail of Death and Caravan on the Trail of Death.

No comments: