Choctaw Birth Certificate by Karen Clarkson
A Choctaw Story of Land and Blood is a solo art exhibition by Prescott-based native artist Karen Clarkson. The exhibition will illustrate both the history and the effects of past governmental regulations on Choctaw land and blood.
The exhibition opens in the Jewel Gallery with a Members Preview Reception on Saturday, January 6, 2018, alongside Arrangement for a Silent Orchestra in the Main Gallery. There will be a public opening reception on Saturday, January 13, and the show will be open during regular hours January 9 through February 10.
In the late 1800’s the forced regulatory compliance of the Dawes Commission Rolls required numerous tribes to register their percentage of native blood to petition for ownership of their land – a concept entirely foreign to Native Americans. Thus ensued a bizarre set of checks and balances. An act of Congress finally decreed any Indian claiming more than half blood would have his rights severely restricted – forbidding him to sell, deed or will his land to anyone, even family, for a period of 25 years. This law had disastrous effects then and continues to this day.
A Choctaw Story of Land and Blood is based upon my own ancestor’s documents such as: photographs, birth certificates, land allotments, marriage certificates, Indian census records, commission interviews, and the Dawes Commission Roles. It shows the real issue of Blood Quantum then and now and the far-reaching effect it has had for those who inherited their blood quantification through the Rolls. The issue of Blood Quantification touches not only the Choctaw community but also the greater Indian Nation at large.
Because most non-native people have never heard of the Dawes Rolls this exhibit attempts to tell the story of forced compliance and the very real issues faced then and now. It should leave the viewer questioning these issues as it relates to them and those around them. Should Native Americans be viewed and regulated by their blood percentage? What are the repercussions to quantification today both political and economical? How do Native Americans see themselves today and what is the advantage of being “certified?” What is the current dialogue like among today’s Native Americans regarding these issues? How have these issues been institutionalized by American society?