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Faculty-Student Team Won $100,000 Monument Lab 2021-2022 Grant

Samantha Eddy (Senior in the School of Architecture), Kassie John (Senior in the Division of Multi-Disciplinary Design), Shundana Yusaf (Associate Professor of Architectural History and Theory), and Tonia Sing Chi (Adjunct faculty in Architecture & Peripheral Office), are one of ten winning teams of the Monument Lab Re-generation cohort for 2021-2022 award of $100,000 with their Community Development Collaborative called Nááts’ílid Initiative, an intergenerational coalition of indigenous and diasporic women.

The team proposed to re-generate a monument with the project Walking with Dinétah, which seeks to co-create strategies for cultural resilience and healing through memory work, oral histories, mapmaking, and participatory art—in other words, through Hózhó náhásdlíí’ or “walking in beauty.” They will create a living digital archive in the form of a regional map by collecting narratives from elders, and asset mapping with residents of Chilchinbeto, Kayenta, and Dennehotso in the Navajo Nation. The research will generate an Indigenous trail in Chilchinbeto by embedding digitally recorded knowledge, place-based Indigenous art, mnemonic installations, and local vegetation that will attract wildlife.

The team says: “Our goal is to shift the narratives with which places in these three chapters are currently consumed by tourists and overlooked by Navajo youth. The aesthetic gaze of the modern tourist silences the ancestral red rock mesas and wind-chiseled canyons in the region to merely “sublime desolation,” and pristine, uninhabited “wilderness.” European romanticism actively erases Indigenous history and replicates colonial patterns that justified The Long Walk forced upon the Navajo. Its reductiveness is reinforced by the delegitimization of Indigenous values and ethics and the destruction of mnemonic systems through which skills and belonging have been traditionally passed from elders to younger generations. Tourism and modern education have institutionalized a vision of Indigenous land as land without people and people without a history, science, and meaningful knowledge.”

The team comes together through a common desire for decolonizing art and architectural education, the historical narratives that feed it, and the production of public space that promotes plural ways of belonging and being in the world.

About the organization:

Monument Lab is a non-profit public art and history studio based in Philadelphia. Supported by a generous grant from the Mellon Foundation, they have sub-granted $1 Million across 10 collaborative teams of artists, educators, storytellers, and organizers to change the public imagination by reimagining public monuments.

For more information on Monument Lab, click here.

about the team:

Kassie John @john.kassie is an Indigenous designer weaving together Diné and non-Diné creative practices to empower and carry on intergenerational healing and reclamation.

Samantha Eddy @sambidsj is an architectural designer who is passionate about bringing her Indigenous knowledge system to serve as a compass for her design education and practice.

Shundana Yusaf @shundanayusaf is an architectural historian, educator, and designer, committed to promoting decolonial creative practices and scholarship in her discipline.

Tonia Sing Chi @toniasingchi@peripheraloffice is a Taiwanese and Chinese diasporic designer & scholar working at the intersections of place-based building practices, storytelling, and creative, cross-cultural approaches to architecture and preservation.


Walking with Dinétah team at the artist retreat in Philadelphia, October 2021. Photo Credit: Shundana Yusaf.


Walking with Dinétah team asset mapping at the Kayenta Flea Market, March 2022. Photo Credit: Tonia Sing Chi.


Chilchinbeto Toes to be integrated into the walking trail. Photo Credit: Kassie John.


Walking the “Just Move it” Trail. Photo Credit: Kassie John.


Aerial View of the terrain in Kayenta. Photo Credit: Samantha Eddy.

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