An article by Associate Professor Louise Siddons, “Seeing the Four Sacred Mountains: Mapping, landscape, and Navajo sovereignty” has just been published in the European Journal of American Culture (March 2020)
Faculty and students with an OSU login can access the full text through either of two library databases: "America: History and Life,” or “EBSCOhost Academic Search Premier.”
In the article, I discuss photographer Laura Gilpin’s 1968 book, The Enduring Navaho, which intentionally juxtaposes colonialist cartography with an immersive understanding of landscape. This article situates Gilpin’s project within the broader historical trajectory of traditional Navajo spatial imaginaries, including the work of contemporary Navajo artist Will Wilson. Euramerican settler-colonist maps of the Navajo Nation at mid-century were tools for Native displacement, revealing the transnational dilemma of the Navajo people. Their twentieth-century history was one of continual negotiation; on a pragmatic level, it often entailed the cultivation and education of Euramerican allies such as Gilpin. For her, landscape photography offered an alternative indexical authority to colonial maps, and thus had the potential to redefine Navajo space in the Euramerican imagination ‐ in terms that were closely aligned with Navajo ideology. Without escaping the contradictions inherent in her postcolonial situation, Gilpin sought a political space for Navajo epistemology, and thus for Navajo sovereignty.
Research for this article was funded by the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Oklahoma Humanities, and Oklahoma State University.