As for you,
you meant evil against me,
but God meant it for good,
to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
— Genesis 50:20
Within the first 40 years of the 19th century, almost all of the original inhabitants of the southeastern United States—the Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Cherokees and Seminoles—had been removed, either voluntarily or forcibly, to new lands in what is now the state of Oklahoma. In a stunning triumph of ethnic cleansing, the U.S. government’s policy of removal of Indian tribes from their ancestral homelands succeeded in uprooting and relocating whole tribal cultures to a strange and distant Indian Territory in the West. For almost 200 years now, that strange and distant territory has been home to the “Five Civilized Tribes”— while the original homelands in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida and the Carolinas have in large part become a distant memory only recalled through historic documents and oral tradition.
But has that memory, that connection to place of origin, really disappeared? How do contemporary Southeastern Native peoples see themselves in light of the historic events of removal and displacement? Do these historic events still have an affect on lives today? These are the questions this exhibition seeks to address, through responses and reactions to the themes of Removal, Return, and Resilience, presented by a premier group of 32 contemporary Southeastern Native American artists.