After the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving is the most heavily mythologized US-specific holiday, and in some ways its myth is even more insidious. Whereas the Fourth of July is an origin story for the nation, Thanksgiving is its supposed prehistory, a deceptively anodyne depiction of relations between European settlers and the land’s Native inhabitants. The story of friendly New England pilgrims and Wampanoag people breaking bread together is instilled in every schoolchild in the country. Recent years have seen a pushback against this picture-book version of the past and the sanitized narrative it represents, as Native people of various nations fight for recognition and reparation of both their historical persecution and contemporary government neglect.
This is the context in which the Upstander Project, a decolonization-minded media education initiative, has released its new documentary short Bounty. Produced in collaboration with members of the Penobscot Nation, it tells the little-known history of government bounties for Indigenous people across the Northeast, both before and after the founding of the United States. These murders were commissioned starting only a generation after the fabled “First Thanksgiving.” Researchers for the film uncovered records of government payments for 375 human scalps that amounted to the modern equivalent of millions of dollars, awarded over the course of many years. Additionally, bounty hunters were sometimes rewarded with the land of the people they killed, resulting in thousands of acres throughout the region being stolen. And this is only what is known from what currently survives in various archives.
The film features several Penobscot relaying this history to their children in Boston’s Old State House, in the very room where in 1755 the settler government proclaimed war on their ancestors. The documentary is made both as a provocative “We are still here” statement and as an introduction to a greater dialogue around these issues. The film’s website is built with a novel structure, introducing elements piece by piece as the reader scrolls, encouraging you to ingest each piece of information in turn before proceeding to the next section. It is filled with supplementary materials — videos that introduce and contextualize the short, clips that tell more about the participants, a teacher’s guide, a timeline of events, an appendix of documented land grants in the Northeast, and more. Bounty is a potent piece of Thanksgiving counter-programming. On this holiday, people are encouraged to reflect; don’t leave this history out of that reflection.
Bounty can be viewed, along with its accompanying videos and other materials, on its website.
Special Edition: 🖌️Artists’ Signatures ✍️
In this special edition, we investigate what artists’ signatures actually mean, and the fascinating results reveal the multifaceted history of this curious phenomenon.
What Is a Signature in the Internet Age?
As a cryptographic unit for record-keeping, an NFT can be seen as analogous to a signature or an autograph.
The Public Theater Explores the Hurricane Katrina Diaspora in shadow/land
Written by Erika Dickerson-Despenza and directed by Candis C. Jones, this lyrical meditation on legacy, erotic fugitivity, and self-determination is on view in NYC.
The Meaning of Ancient Greek and Roman Artisan Signatures
What did a signature mean in the ancient world, and how much can we trust what they seem to tell us?
Michelangelo’s Signature and the Myth of Genius
Michelangelo served as a stellar example for future artists who sought status and economic independence.
The Rubin Museum Presents Death Is Not the End
Tibetan Buddhist and Christian works of art made across 12 centuries explore death, the afterlife, and the desire to continue to exist. On view in NYC.
Uncovering the Photographer Behind Arshile Gorky’s Most Famous Painting
As we pursue photographer Hovhannes Avedaghayan a fascinating picture begins to emerge of him and the world of which he was part.
100 Years of Artist Signatures in a Detroit Club
The beams in Detroit’s Scarab Club act as a guest book of sorts, carrying a wealth of stories and history, including signatures by Diego Rivera, Marcel Duchamp, Margaret Bourke-White, Isamu Noguchi, and others.
When I Am Empty Please Dispose of Me Properly
Ayanna Dozier, Ilana Harris-Babou, Meena Hasan, Lucia Hierro, Catherine Opie, Chuck Ramirez, and Pacifico Silano explore the myths of the American Dream at Brooklyn’s BRIC House.
The Myth of Agency Around Artists’ Signatures
In an art world built on shifting sands, artists’ signatures become symbols of agency for some, and relics of the past for others.
The Women Artists Commemorated on an NYC Sidewalk
The signatures of Rosa Bonheur, Mary Cassatt, and six other historical women artists are engraved on a small stretch of sidewalk on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Pratt’s 2023 Fine Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition Is On View in Brooklyn
The two-part exhibition features the work of 41 graduating artists across disciplines, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and integrated practices.
Met Museum Repatriates 15 Objects to India
The sculptures were all at one point sold by the disgraced art dealer Subhash Kapoor.
Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova Placed on Russian “Wanted” List
Tolokonnikova has long been a thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin’s regime.