Arts and Social Justice Fellow Collaborates with Mortimer’s ‘Intro. to Native American History’

Atlanta-based painter and social practice artist Bird Harris, a 2023-24 Arts & Social Justice (ASJ) fellow at Emory, has worked this past semester with Dr. Loren Michael Mortimer‘s class “HIST 285: Introduction to Native American History.” Now in its fourth year, the ASJ program pairs artists in Atlanta with faculty across schools at Emory to “reimagine an existing course, injecting a creative approach to addressing the social justice issues that surfaced within class conversations.”

Harris led students in the course on a Radical Noticing Walk through the sacred Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park during their historic trip to the 31st Ocmulgee Indigenous Celebration in September of this year. That walk formed part of a broader project she has developed with students in Mortimer’s class, titled “Land as Living Memory.” Mortimer is Provost Postdoctoral Fellow in Native American history in the History Department. His book manuscript, Kaniatarowanenneh Crossings: Indigenous Power and Presence in the St. Lawrence River Watershed, 1534-1842, is under advance contract with University of Nebraska Press.

“I believe the earth has a long memory and that we, often intentionally, do not. I view my roles as an artist, mother, historian, and citizen as deeply intertwined and linked to the same core responsibilities: interrogate imbalances, reckon with hard histories, create beauty, and work towards a future of natural equilibrium. Having just moved my family from our home in New Orleans, one of the fastest disappearing land masses in the world, my work is a meditation on land loss, the multiple histories of American land, and mothering in the face of ecological collapse.”

Bird Harris, Artist Statement

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