Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

April 8, 2013

Apache Artist Andrew Goseyun Morrison artwork may be lost forever in Seattle

By Sandra Rambler
Censored News

Apache Artist Andrew Goseyun Morrison artwork may be lost forever in Seattle, Washington

Seattle — After school officials at the Indian Heritage Middle College passed a capital levy last month to tear down their aging building and replace it with two new schools, the five large scale 25-foot high murals painted by 31-year-old native of Apache and Haida descent, Andrew Goseyun Morrison, may be lost forever.
            Artist Morrison, the son of San Carlos Apache tribal elder, Elesta Goseyun Morrison, began painting the murals which can be seen for blocks in North Seattle at the Wilson-Pacific school campus.  The paintings of Chief Joseph, Chief Seattle, an acquaintance and friends and most notably, an Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer have become part of the Native American community in this region.
            The school officials have been asked by members of the community including Sarah Sense-Wilson, Chairwoman of the Urban Native Education Alliance and coordinator for the Clear Sky Youth Council and Dr. Kelvin Frank, Executive Director of the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, to renovate the aging building at Wilson-Pacific rather than replace it.  Their main intent is to save the murals.
            The Indian Heritage Middle College created in 2000 was designed to help Indian students by offering community college courses and cultural offerings.  These students have their own classrooms and their own instructors. 
            Artist Morrison stated in an interview, “My grandparents are David and Edna Wright Goseyun from Bylas, Arizona.  I take a tremendous amount of pride in carrying on the legacy of  my grandparents.  Before my grandmother, Edna, went to Heaven, she was able to hold me as a baby infant and she gave me an Apache name which meant, ‘The Boss All Around.’  My mother, Elesta, gave me the middle name of ‘Goseyun’ so that our family’s legacy and strength can continue in my life.  As a baby, my mother Elesta, would speak the Apache language into my ears before I could ever speak.  When I began to walk, she would speak the Apache language into my spirit.”
            “I spent much of my childhood on the San Carlos Apache reservation in Bylas and San Carlos and on the White Mountain Apache reservation in Whiteriver, Arizona.  We would eat handmade tortillas filled with potatoes and eggs.  Our cousins, Baby D, Jello, Plumber, Daniel and Tonya would take me way out into the desert countryside and we would catch grass hoppers, make slingshots out of old tires, carve spears out of sticks and pursue catfish in the rivers.  Our Auntie Angie and Uncle Eugene Nozie, who are now in Heaven, would speak Apache to me and I would nod my head in agreement.”
            “Many hot summer nights were spent at our Auntie Martha and Uncle Dempsey’s home.  The nights were so warm that we would have to throw our blankets in tubs of cold water and then wrap ourselves with these wet blankets.  As a child, many times I remember my mother, Elesta, bathing me in a tin bucket in the backyard by the ant hills.  As children, we would stomp our feet and cast off these ants!  Many times, I heard stories of scorpions that are as big as cats and a woman with a basket that would kidnap children who did not go to sleep on time.”
            At the age of 14 years old, I made a pilgrimage to Bylas, Arizona, with my artwork in hand and met with the prestigious artist, Douglas Miles.  It was a moment that changed my life forever that will always be engrained in my mind, body and spirit.  Douglas congratulated me on my creations and gave me an original print with the hand written note, ‘Keep creating works of art,’ and I have held onto this print all these years and protected it from harm.”
            “When I begin to create artwork, these are just some of the memories that are circulating within my mind, body and spirit.  These memories of a rich childhood and an even richer family lineage manifest through my hands of creation.  My hands of creation are tools that the Almighty Creator has given me.  Since my earliest memories, I have had a rich relationship with the Creator.  My father, a Haida Gwaii Native American tribal member from Hydaburg, Alaska and my mother from the San Carlos Apache Tribe, instilled me with a deep belief in the power and grace of God.  Before I create, my spirit is centered and my soul is grounded.  My creation process is a natural process and it is always in harmony with the earth.  I pray throughout the entire day from the time I wake until the time I retire to sleep.” 
“On days that I know I will be creating great works of art, from the moment my eyes open, I am initiating prayers.  I pay homage to my patron deities, guardian angels and the Almighty Creator that created heaven, earth and the universe.  From this point on, I am counting my blessings and becoming more grateful by the second.  This process is an intense siege of positivity and by the time I am in front of my canvas or wall, I am naturally elated from true benevolence.”
“Being born and also raised in the metropolitan city of Seattle, Washington, I have always found the Indian Heritage High School in North Seattle to be a safe haven for not only myself but thousands of Native Americans that call Seattle their home.  The Indian Heritage High School was founded because there was a need for the Indian community to feel real love and real charity in the metropolitan city of over 2 million people.  Over the last 50 years, hundreds of thousands of Native American people of all tribes have flocked to the urban Seattle area because of the relocation programs to seek better employment than what was offered on their reservations.”
“In 2001, I was volunteering at the Indian Heritage High School and I had a vision quest to paint murals on the dormant walls of the school.  I felt the need to enrich this land, enrich these grounds, enrich this program and surround these beautiful Native American Indian children with breathtaking artwork.  I began painting these murals as a labor of love and did not stop painting for 10 years.”
“The last mural I painted at Indian Heritage High School was completed in 2011.  I wanted and still want the beautiful Indian people to love themselves and love the beautiful Native American images that now cover the entire cafeteria and gymnasium of Indian Heritage High School.  Historically, the Seattle area was home to the Coast Salish people.  Chief Seattle, the founding father and namesake of the city, is a Duwamish and Suquamish tribal member.  In 2002, I had a vision quest to make a commemoration of this great warrior Chief on the wall of Indian Heritage High School.  I wanted the entire world to see and experience his great image.  When the 25-foot tall commemoration was completed, the Mayor of Seattle came out to attend the unveiling ceremony.”
“In 2007, I had another vision quest to make a commemoration of another great warrior Chief from the Pacific Northwest region, Chief Joseph, who is a Nez Perce and his ancestral lands stretch across Washington State, Canada, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.  Chief Joseph was captured and laid to rest in Nespelem on the Colville Indian Reservation in Eastern Washington.”
“I have lifelong friends and family from Nespelem that grew up close to the burial site of this great Chief Joseph.  Therefore, I felt it was fitting and it was appropriate that I paint this great warrior’s image on the wall for the entire world to see.  When this 25-foot high commemoration was completed in 2007, Brooklyn Baptiste, Vice-Chairman of the Nez Perce Tribe came out to Seattle and blessed the walls with sage, songs and prayer.  This process of progress, commitment to the Indian community and benevolence of love for all living creatures is what was poured into the paintings I created at Indian Heritage High School in Seattle, Washington,” concluded Artist Morrison.
Some of Morrison’s artwork can be found in Illinois, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho and many places throughout Washington State including the Snoqualmie Casino, El Centro La Raza and Edmonds Community College.
Lenora Robertson, member of the San Carlos Apache Elder’s Council, pointed out in her native Apache language, “I am shocked that the school officials would want to destroy the artwork of our Apache relative in Washington.  We need to help him because of the painting of the Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer is something you don’t mess with.  To us, the Apaches, this is a holy being that communicates directly with our Creator and heals us and protects us from harm.”
“My late father, George Starr, Sr., danced as an Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer since he was young and he taught us to respect our Apache way of life.  This Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer is still part of our lives today as we celebrate the coming of age ceremony for our young Apache girls as they are initiated into womanhood.  This makes me sad that we are far away from where this artist is but those murals should not be destroyed.  It is now part of Indian Country.  In the Elder’s Council, we have meetings on the Native American Graves Protection & Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) that helps preserve our cultural items,” concluded Spiritual Leader, Lenora Robertson.
“I have seen Andrew’s work and it is truly amazing and inspiring,” said Dorothea Stevens an advocate for the Peridot Strategic Tribal Empowerment Prevention Program (STEPP) Coalition that works with youth and adults to address issues of alcohol and drug prevention.
“I grew up under my grandfather, David Dan Goseyun, who was an Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer.  We were always at traditional ceremonies.  Early in the mornings, the last dancer of the group of five Apache Mountain Dancers for each ceremony, whom we refer to as the ‘clown’ would wake us up.  We were taught certain ways especially to respect our Apache culture and way of living.  When it comes to the Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer, we were not supposed to know who they were and not to mess with them because it was messing with our Creator.  You had to show respect at all times.”
“After I found out that these murals that Andrew painted may be destroyed, it sent off an alarm in my mind.  My first impression was that they cannot take it apart.  To us, the mural of the Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer is sacred and I thought, oh no, we have to save it!”
“There has to be some way these murals can be saved.  Either bring it back here to San Carlos or maybe the tribes there around Seattle, Washington, can save it and put it on their reservation. “
“The Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer is part of us and the thought of desecrating a part of our culture was very emotional to me.  These people, they don’t understand and they have no idea what it is to be a Native American Indian.  This is especially true to me and my family because of the way we were raised, very traditional.  We were taught all these things every day as we were growing up.  The priority should be not to take the murals a part and bring it back here to our reservation or put it somewhere where no one will do away with it, but rather preserve it.   My main concern is for the Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer.  These murals could be placed at Native American museums, Smithsonian or even at the Heard Museum, but all I’m saying is to preserve it and I don’t know how much it would cost to do all that.”
“The Wall located in the old city of Jerusalem is considered the most sacred site recognized by the Jewish faith.  We, the Native American Indians, also have sacred sites but we never get that same recognition.  Our native religion has been passed on to us since the beginning of time,” concluded Stevens.
Meanwhile in California, State Assemblyman, Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) introduced Assembly Bill 52 in December 2012 which called for, “…legislation to improve the protection of sacred and cultural sites by requiring developers to consult with the appropriate tribes prior to projection initiation.”
            Assemblyman Gatto publicly stated, “I think the State of California has not been a great custodian of our history.  After everything we’ve put our Native people through, it would be really wrong and a travesty if we allowed sacred sites to disappear.”
            The bill was introduced after the California tribes reported that, “…sacred sites and burial sites are too vulnerable to vandalism and destruction that comes about through development.”
            It appears that more tribes in Indian Country are now asking for consultation by developers before their plans are drawn and finalized in conjunction with laws created by the federal government through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Native American Indian Religious Freedom Act (NAIRFA) and the Native American Graves Protection & Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).
            NAGPRA laws passed on Nov. 16, 1990 under P.L. 101-601, entails “…the Act requires federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funding to return Native American cultural items to lineal descendants and culturally affiliated tribes cultural items include human remains, funery objects, sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony.”
            NAGPRA also entails, “…establishes procedures for the inadvertent or planned excavation of Native American cultural items on federal or Indian lands.  While these provisions do not apply to discoveries or excavation on private or state lands, the collection provisions of the Act may apply to Native American cultural items if they come under the control of an institution that receives federal funding.”
            The nearly 40-year-old building called the Indian Heritage High School has helped educate thousands of Native American Indian children in Northern Seattle, Washington. Letters to oppose the destruction of the artwork of tribal member, Andrew Morrison can be emailed to or contact Superintendent, Jose Banda at (206) 252-0168.
            School officials at Indian Heritage Middle College were unavailable for comment.

1 comment:

SillyWhabbit said...

There are a few places I enjoy driving by in Seattle because of this AMAZING artwork.
It will be a shame if these places go away.
This news makes me sad.