Sarah Pfohl

Phlox, Foliage on Bank, 2016
archival inkjet print; 6.75 x 10 in image printed on 11 x 14 in. paper

I work in teacher education in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, where an American Indian Boarding School operated from 1893 to 1934. Designed and funded by the U.S. government, American Indian Boarding Schools worked to systematically eradicate Native American culture from the United States. At the boarding schools imperialists executed cultural genocide and forced assimilation through the seemingly benevolent, unobjectionable vehicle of schooling. This deceit and its implications calls teachers to carefully consider the nature of the relations they cultivate in their teaching contexts and to interrogate the alignment across their words, actions, and values.

The images in this project operate as models of more equitable approaches to teaching. They foreground complexity and intricacy over direct clarity, they mash up or wipe out the anticipated singular focal point, they ask the viewer to look at and take seriously what may appear to be nothing, odd, or wonky.

I made these photographs in the public parks and forests around the site of the American Indian Boarding School in Mount Pleasant. Access to the school site is closed and the public spaces within which I photographed are the closest one can get to the school site without trespass. Drawn from a history of oppression in the name of education, I wanted the images to speak toward hope and consciousness and to embody pathways beyond the history of violence rooted in the locations of their making.