Forked tongues

American Indians have little reason to trust the written word. They are buried in broken treaties and false history texts—words, as Chief Joseph said and Alvin Josephy reiterated 100 years later, spoken with “forked tongue.” Alvin also said that Indians have been and are still disserved by the omission of words, by historical accounts that omit the Indians who were here, and contemporary accounts that forget that they are here still.

Our Josephy Center sculpture project aims to right a local omission, that of an Indian artist on Main Street in the town of Joseph. Four bronze statues in our town depict Indians—none of them the work of an Indian artist.

We selected Doug Hyde—or Doug Hyde selected us! Doug was born in Hermiston, grew up in part at Lapwai, Idaho, was packed off to the Indian art school in Santa Fe when he was 17 after a high school teacher sent a portfolio to the school.

The road wasn’t all smooth. There was Vietnam, combat wounds, and work in Lewiston carving cemetery monuments, but now he is an established artist in bronze and stone across the country. He’s past 70, but working hard from his Arizona studio—because he loves what he does. And what he is doing now for us in Joseph is what he is doing for people and tribes across the country—telling stories without words, without forked tongues.

A Hyde sculpture tellling Hopi stories. I don’t know those stories, but can imagine the Indians nodding at this, seeing their grandmothers and aunties in stone, captured with arms and clothing intertwined, pride and expectation on their faces.
And here’s Doug’s initial concept of the piece that will go in the Josephy Center courtyard: a slab of granite, the Wallowa Mountains profiled on the top, a Nez Perce woman cut out of the granite, and the woman–in bronze–walking back toward the mountains.
Here he is, carving the “maquette” of the woman who will soon walk in Joseph. Notice other Indians looking on in the background, and imagine their life-sized doubles on Indian grounds across the country.