Iris Ward Loughran


While on residency in Dortmund, Germany, I saw an ad for a new Winnetou movie, based on the classic German novel by Karl May. His 1892 novel is a key factor in the German phenomenon of what some scholars have called “indianthusiasm” an obsession with a romanticized image of Native Americans. I began doing research as it was ever present and strange to see my country’s genocidal history potrayed so carelessly by Germans. 

One of Dortmund's attractions is the Big Tipi, a 35m tall tipi that is an active children's play center. While conducting field research at the tipi, I came across a large fire pit where I imagined countless excited German children evoking the wild west of America.  I knew I wanted to activate the space using wildfire charcoal that I collected near my hometown in California. I chose to use the charcoal in this location because the California wildfires wouldn’t be so extreme if Indigenous Californians never lost the ability to steward their ancestral lands. I had the charcoal that I collected in California shipped to me in Dortmund, and I began developing a spell. 

Site of the spell cast at the Big Tipi in Dortmund, Germany, 2022, Wild fire charcoal, candle,  

At dawn one day when the Big-tipi was closed, I jumped the fence and headed to the fire pit. I cleaned the pit of any debris, and I lit a candle and recited a spell to enchant the charcoal with magic. I then proceded to rub the Wild fire charcoal into the ash and charcoal of the pit, until it was blacked and filled the area of the pit.  

The intention of the spell was for individuals who enjoy future fires at the big tipi to become concerned with the 21st century Indigenous person, not a romanticized fiction. indigenous land stewardship is important for the future of our planet as climate justice is so closely linked to indigenous rights. 

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