DONNA GARCIA STATEMENT & BIO
PROJECT ABSTRACT - In 1830, the United States government, led by President Andrew Jackson, forcibly relocated native populations east of the Mississippi in order that white farmers could take over their land. The event led to a conveniently forgotten genocide, and the extinguishment of the Indigenous narratives from American history.
My series Indian Land For Sale, attempts to recreate the horror of this event from the perspective of the native tribes. My images serve to replace what has been lost from official historical archives and seeks to sound an alarm, as the federal government, in 2020 and beyond, continues its attempt to revoke ancestral land from protective trust.
SERIES STATEMENT: INDIAN LAND FOR SALE
In 1830 the Indian Removal Act was enacted throughout the American East Coast.
President Jackson declared that Indian removal would "…Incalculably strengthen the southwestern frontier. Clearing Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi of their Indian populations would enable those states to advance rapidly in population, wealth, and power."
Systematic hunts were made to force indigenous people from their ancestral land.
A Georgia volunteer, later a Colonel in the Confederate service, said, “‘I fought through the civil war and have seen men shot to pieces and slaughtered by the thousands, but the Indian removal was the cruelest work I ever knew.”
Following the signing of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 the American government began forcibly relocating East Coast tribes across the Mississippi. The removal included many members of the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations from their homelands to “Indian Territory” in eastern sections of the present-day Oklahoma. It was a 1,000-mile walk and took 116 days from Georgia, walking all day and only being allowed to stop at night to bury their dead. This is what we now know as the start of the Trail of Tears.
Between the years of 1830-1838, 100,00 indigenous people were “removed” from their ancestral lands. Although, no one is sure the exact number, approximately 21,700 Muscogee and approximately 16,500 Cherokee were removed by 1831.
Not all indigenous people left in 1830, specifically the Cherokee. Many stayed, thinking that they would be allowed to live peacefully or have the ability to fight back (actually winning several legal battles against the removal order). However, the Georgia State government and Andrew Jackson, had plans for their land. Flyers began to circulate hailing “Indian Land For Sale”.
White farmers flocked in droves to auctions of indigenous, ancestral land that was still, up to 1838, being occupied by its native people.
It was in 1838 that 7,000 US soldiers in Georgia enforced a final evacuation. The Cherokee, Creek, Shawnee and Choctaw villages were invaded and the people were forced to leave, at gunpoint, with only the clothing on their backs.
For the few who resisted, approximately 1,800, died while imprisoned for refusing to leave.
Historians such as David Stannard and Barbara Mann have noted that the army deliberately routed the march of the Cherokee to pass through areas of known cholera epidemics, such as Vicksburg. Stannard estimates that during the forced removal from their homelands, 8000 Cherokee died, about half the total population. Half of the Choctaw nation was wiped out and 1 in 4 Creek.
A Cherokee survivor of the trail told her granddaughter, “The winter was very harsh and many of us no longer had shoes. Our feet froze and burst, as we left bloody footprints in the snow. We were not allowed to stop to bury our dead. Many mothers carried their dead children, miles, until we stopped at nightfall. All night you could only hear digging.”
The deportation of indigenous tribes along the Trail of Tears was an act of genocide that has been conveniently forgotten today. But, on March 30, 2020, the federal government of the United States revoked reservation designation for the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and removed their 300 acres of ancestral land on Cape Cod from federal trust. This most recent government land grab raised grave concerns among indigenous advocacy groups across the country that all tribes could now be at risk of removal– again.
Donna Garcia is lens-based artist, filmmaker, curator, art director and educator based in Atlanta, Georgia. Originally from Boston, her work often illustrates a semiotic dislocation that has been organically reconstructed in a way that gives her subjects a voice in the present moment; something they often did not have in the past. Her images rise above what they actually are and become empathic recreations in a fine art narrative. She often utilizes self-portraiture with motion to provide an indication of the other in her work; a surplus threat to the perpetuity of our modern day grand narratives in defining elements like gender and race. Her work reveals the self as a stronger potential that does not correlate with a bounded social order and my subjects don’t abide by rules. There is a strong presence of future and coming into being, which allows these images to pull the viewer forward through recognition and interpretation, into a new sovereignty and an expanded way of knowing.
She has worked as an art director for Ogilvy, NYC, an adjunct faculty member at the Art Institute in Atlanta, a contributing editor of LENSCRATCH and founded the Garcia | Wilburn Fine Art Gallery, where she directed and curated a number of influential exhibitions highlighting the work of emerging and established artists. Garcia and her partner, Darnell Wilburn launched the Modern Art and Culture Podcast. In their first year, they were chosen to become the official podcast of the Atlanta Celebrates Photography Festival, the United States largest, month-long photography festival, held annually in October.
She has exhibited internationally and has had her work published worldwide (see donnagarcia.com). She is a 2019 nominee of reGENERATION 4: The Challenges of Photography and the Museum of Tomorrow. Musee de l’Elysee, Lausanne, Switzerland. Emerging Artists to Watch.
Donna Garcia has a Master of Fine Art from the Savannah College of Art and Design and a Master of Science in Communications from Kennesaw State University.