I Own This Stolen Land is work-in-progress, using photography, text, performance, and the landscape in which I live. It aims to enrich the custom of Land Acknowledgements in the context of actual land ownership. What are the meanings of owning land when the title to it originates in settler-colonial genocide? What are my responsibilities? Could an awareness of these histories, and those of the Indigenous former inhabitants, inform a desire to repair the present?
Last year my wife and I bought a field and forest next to our house in upstate New York. Since then, I have been reflecting on the history and connections of this quiet rural landscape. Wrested from Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ' (Cayuga) people by the ruthless 1779 Sullivan Expedition and subsequent fraudulent treaties, it bears the scars of failed settler-colonial agriculture. It is nonetheless a site of global capitalism, producing hay for industrial milk production and, prior to our purchase, slated for logging to supply the international lumber market, which was to be followed by development for housing. Adding to the pressures are devastating forest pests, brought in by global trade
I’ve come to appreciate that Indigenous peoples have a reciprocal rather than an exploitative relationship to land and to each other. As the new owner of this picturesque forest and field, I am both a beneficiary of genocide and a fallible agent of capitalism. I am developing creative strategies to explore and uncover radical understandings of my opportunities and responsibilities.
In this initial phase of the project, the text I Own This Stolen Land appears in the landscape whole or in fragments. The word "Stolen" is then replaced by other words, created with materials to hand: snow, fence wire, vegetation, upcycled lumber, etc. The word “Land” is simply represented by the setting. Many of the images are layered blends of several photographs. The project is envisioned as an installation in which the images will hang in pairs or clusters.