The University of Utah
College of Architecture + Planning

Faculty-student team won $100,000 Monument Lab 2021-2022 Grant

Faculty-student team won $100,000 Monument Lab 2021-2022 Grant

Samantha Eddy (Senior in the School of Architecture), Kassie John (Senior in the Division of Multi-Disciplinary Design), Shundana Yusaf (Associate Professor of Architectural History and Theory), and Tonia Sing Chi (Adjunct faculty in Architecture & Peripheral Office), are members of a Community Development Collaborative called Nááts’ílid Initiative. An intergenerational coalition of indigenous and diasporic women, they are one of ten winning teams of the Monument Lab Re-generation cohort for 2021-2022 award of $100,000.

They propose to re-generate a monument that is already built. Entitled Walking with Dinétah, they seek to co-create strategies for cultural resilience and healing through memory work, oral histories, mapmaking, and participatory art—in other words, through Hózhó náhásdlíí’ or walking in beauty. They will create a living digital archive in the form of a regional map by collecting narratives from elders, and asset mapping with residents of Chilchinbeto, Kayenta, and Dennehotso in Navajo Nation. The research will generate an Indigenous trail in Chilchinbeto through embedding digitally recorded knowledge, place-based Indigenous art, mnemonic installations, and local vegetation that will attract wildlife.

The team says: “Our goal is to shift the narratives with which places in these three chapters are currently consumed by tourists and overlooked by Navajo youth. The aesthetic gaze of the modern tourist silences the ancestral red rock mesas and wind chiseled canyons in the region to merely “sublime desolation,” and pristine, uninhabited “wilderness.” European romanticism actively erases Indigenous history and replicates colonial patterns that justified The Long Walk forced upon the Navajo. Its reductive-ness is reinforced by the delegitimization of Indigenous values and ethics and the destruction of mnemonic systems through which skills and belonging have been traditionally passed from elders to younger generations. Tourism and modern education have institutionalized a vision of Indigenous land as land without people and people without a history, science, and meaningful knowledge.”

Our team comes together through a common desire for decolonizing art and architectural education, the historical narratives that feed it, and the production of public space that promotes plural ways of belonging and being in the world.

Read more here.