What we now call the United States has always had a population made up by people from elsewhere. From the earliest settlers crossing the land bridge over 10,000 years ago to the most recent arrivals five minutes ago, we are a nation of immigrants. For most of it's history, this land has had it's boundaries wide open and everyone who could make it here was allowed in. The Steerage Act passed by United States congress in 1819 was the first time anyone started keeping track of immigration and since then there have been all sorts of laws passed restricting who can and cannot pass the borders of this nation.
When Columbus arrived in 1492, the native population was estimated between 60 million and 120 million people, a population that was quickly decimated through disease and violence. At the time the Steerage Act was enacted in 1820, the United States Census Bureau put the population at just under 10 million people, a number that largely did not include the Native American population. It also did not include slaves and indentured servants who were brought here forcefully, or their children who were born here into servitude.
I wove this piece in reaction to the ridiculous immigration ban that our current government is trying to enact, a ban that discriminates against people based on ethnicity, religion and monetary status. This weaving is made up of earth and people colored stripes, to celebrate the beauty and diversity of the land we live on and the people who live here. There are stripes for the 82 million immigrants documented since 1820. There are stripes for the approximately 950,000 slaves and indentured servants who were brought here forcefully and for their children who eventually numbered in the millions. There are stripes for the first nations people who have been here so much longer than any of us and have gone from making up the entirety of the population in the 15th century to about 2% of the current population. There are stripes for the undocumented immigrants whose true numbers can never be known, but make up an estimated 3% of people living here right now. There are stripes for everyone who has been here, who is here now and who will be here in the future.
"Go back to where you came from" gets tossed around a lot in the rhetoric surrounding the issue of immigration and at the best of the times it is unhelpful and the worst of times it is downright hateful. Where do we draw the imaginary line? Should I, as a third generation U.S. citizen, go back to the Slavic and Scandinavian homelands of my great grandparents? How long is long enough? 100 or 500 years? 1000? Should we send everyone "home" and leave the land empty until future generations can come up with a satisfactory answer to the immigration question? This land was not always our land, it once belonged to no one and everyone. Passing laws to allow certain people in and not others based on the politics of the day is our current practice and we need to always be mindful of what these laws are based on. From my perspective these laws are largely based on fear and greed and neither of those will ever be good enough standards for me. I don't have the perfect answer, but I am deeply unsatisfied/horrified with what is happening right now. As an individual I feel pretty powerless to change minds, laws and policy, but I think the ACLU is doing a a great job stepping up and challenging the government. I'm in full support of this cause and 10% from the sale of this little striped rug will go directly to help them keep an out-of- control government in check.
This weaving is part of my collection, Warp of Dissent, which was woven in response to the egregious actions taken by our current government.
Immigration Population was hand woven in Portland, OR on my Rio Grande walking loom from 100% wool yarn on a wool warp. It measures 30 x 51 inches or ~59 in. with fringe.
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