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Where I Forgot

Rosi Hayes

2014

Digital sound installation, engraved mirrors, photographs

"Where I Forgot" consists of four sound recordings made at the site of the Bear River Massacre, or Massacre at Boa Ogoi, near present-day Preston, Idaho. 2013 marked the 150th anniversary of the massacre, in which the United States Army killed hundreds of Northwestern Shoshone and raped and wounded many more. Over half of the dead were women and children.

The Cache Valley, where the massacre occurred on January 29, 1863, was part of the ancestral homeland of the Northwestern Shoshone, who had lived in the area for thousands of years. This piece is about the forgetting that has occurred in the American culture that took possession of—and has come to dominate—the land that was once someone else's. A practiced collective forgetting allows people to live in comfort and security without being troubled by the memory of atrocities that made colonization possible. As a white descendent of pioneers who has inherited life and privilege on taken ground, I approach the site of the massacre with a question about what and who has been hurt and forgotten in the process of my/American progress.

The sounds are edits of four field recordings taken at the place where the massacre occurred near a bend in the Bear River. In a tree near official US historical markers, contemporary Shoshone tribe members have hung gifts of memory that sometimes sing in the wind. A shooting range sits very close to the original site. On most days, gun shots regularly interrupt the constant roar of US Highway 91 nearby.

The piece also includes mirrors and photographs engraved with traces of my viewpoint at the site. The mirrors try to reflect what theorist and author Louis Owens calls the “tricky mirror that reflects the Euro-American consciousness back at itself.” I hope that by foregrounding the hearing and seeing of site and history as positional, intentional, and limited acts, I can also begin to question the mirror and the recording into the possibility of seeing or hearing something forgotten that could finally be listened to or seen in a way that transforms toward some kind of justice. The piece is about the need to begin the embodied process of asking and re-membering at sites of forgetting, such as at a bend in the Bear River in the Valley of Seuhubeogoi/Cache Valley.