I loved it, an easy landmark, turn right at the Big Indian.
To me, a White woman, it was a familiar, welcome sight, a reminder of the native people of this land!
Of course, I also knew it was commercial, not authentic, not actually any connection here with Penobscot or MicMac, Passamaquoddy. I know immediately it’s a sort of a cartoon Indian, not an actual historic figure, it’s a BIG roadside attraction, and it comforts people: stretch legs, you’re on vacation now! Maybe you’ll buy a beaded hand-drum, or bow and arrows.
Big statues of men sell a variety of things across the country. I don’t see many big Black dudes. Not many women at all. When you look at roadside attraction giants, we’re reminded that human beings are weird animals. We can create reinforcers out of almost anything!
The impact that the FBI had on me was, it comforted me! It felt so good to see it, but why? I try to dig into the ways seeing it made me feel good … maybe it felt like… forgiveness. Like all is forgiven and now we are all part of the same community? But that feeling of closeness with the native people of our region isn’t real. The Big Indian isn’t bringing us any closer to native people. It isn’t bringing us any message at all from native people.
And what message is it sending native people?
I can feel how White people like me are evidently reinforced, that means we get a rush of oxytocin, when we see the Big Indian.Apparently, he looks like a nice guy, a good guy, a downtrodden guy? A once mighty Chief, who now has no power over these lands at all? I don’t know how native people, children, teens, adults, older people are impacted when they see it, but could it be that they might not have the same burst of contented oxytocin that White people experience? I can imagine that some people might experience a surge of adrenaline rather than oxytocin, due to our actual, not cartoon-style, social history.
From a purely “art” point of view, it’s strange, isn’t it? Roadside attractions! Zoom in and magnify THESE features. And funny. Is it supposed to be funny? Or serious? It’s interesting isn’t it the way we enjoy, we almost seem to need this cultural gawking. The shield, beads, feathers, the scarred face, a cartoon Warrior … what part of me is it that loves seeing it?
I see the Big Indian as a Mighty Warrior, blessing all those who pass by, welcoming us all to his land. But in reality, the Big Indian isn’t bringing us any message at all from native people.