4 weeks ago
This is peter toth, a hungarian-born sculptor based in florida. he’s dedicated most of his life to carving these larger-than-life statues of native americans out of tree trunks — a series he calls the whispering giants. his original goal was to place one in every state, but he’s completed 74 so far and, at the age of 70, has no plans to stop. when i was mapping out my plan for the story that just published in the december issue of @natgeo, i knew i wanted to include peter for personal reasons: he carved a statue that stood prominently at the center of a small delaware beach town where i spent many summers as a child. it somewhat resembles a totem pole, and i remember assuming as a kid that it must have been a relic from a coastal native tribe. it wasn’t until decades later that i learned totem poles come from communities in the pacific northwest. that was my goal for this project: to look at how non-native creators have employed, benefitted, and profited from native symbols and culture, and the misinformation they sow along the way. sometimes it seems relatively harmless, like my own childhood misunderstanding, but it is not disconnected from the casual racism that underpins sports team names like the redskins, or any other number of examples of the ways in which we continue to disenfranchise and silence indigenous people on this continent.