This publication documents new spatial notational systems developed by architect Nina Valerie Kolowratnik to help Indigenous communities from New Mexico to protect and regain traditional lands.
In The Language of Secret Proof, Nina Valerie Kolowratnik
challenges the conditions under which Indigenous rights to protect and
regain traditional lands are currently negotiated in United States legal
frameworks. The tenth volume in the Critical Spatial Practice
series responds to the urgent need for alternative modes of evidentiary
production by introducing an innovative system of architectural drawing and
Today, most Western legal forums utilized by Indigenous communities for
recognition of their rights continue to employ evidentiary rules that do not
allow for Native truths to be accepted as “reliable” evidence. When tribes
are asked to provide proof of their traditional connection to the land, what
Western legal forums accept as documentation does not truly represent or
respect tribal culture and traditional formats of knowledge transfer.
Kolowratnik's research focuses on the double bind Pueblo communities in the
American Southwest are confronted with when they become involved in a legal
effort to reclaim and protect ancestral lands, since the process of
producing evidence runs counter to their structural organization around oral
history and cultural secrecy. The spatial notational systems developed by
Kolowratnik with the support of Hemish people, members of Jemez Pueblo in
northern New Mexico, and presented in this volume are an attempt to produce
evidentiary documentation that speaks Native truths while respecting demands
on secrecy. These systems also attempt to instigate a dialogue where there
currently is none, deconstructing the fixed opposition between secrecy and
disclosure within Western legal systems.
Nina Valerie Kolowratnik is an architect and researcher
currently based in Vienna. Her practice is situated in the context of
forced migration and cultural claims to territory and develops spatial
notational systems that operate within human rights debates. Since 2014
she has been teaching graduate courses on borderlands, migration and
counter narratives at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture,
Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) and TU Vienna.