By Ciera Miller, Staff Writer
Hannah Binder at Colby’s HT94 installation (Photo courtesy of Ciera Miller)
Since September, University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) students across five disciplines participated in filling out a total of 1,370 toe tags for the Hostile Terrain 94 (HT94) installation at the Oak Institute for Human Rights at Colby College. A toe tag is a piece of cardboard or paper attached to the toe of a deceased person used to identify them. HT94 is an art project organized by the Undocumented Migration Project (UMP), directed by anthropologist Jason de León.
HT94 was born out of the term “Hostile Terrain”, a direct quote from the U.S. government’s Prevention Through Deterrence (PTD) policy. PTD uses the desert and mountains as a form of border patrol to deter people from migrating into the United States through Arizona. However, PTD has failed and migrants continue to flood in.
For this project, toe tags are filled out and pinned to a large wall map at the coordinates at which a dead migrant body was found. Orange tags belong to unidentified people and white tags belong to the identified.
Dr. Gaelyn Aguilar brought HT94 to UMF because she believes in “teaching justice in an unjust world.” She said, “I was hoping that filling out our toe tags would feel an awful lot like the naming of names,” which she compared to the most recent surge of Black Lives Matter protests throughout the country.
Cassie Donald, a UMF student who participated in filling out over 20 toe tags, echoed Aguilar. It made them feel more personally involved and was more than just an assignment. “Putting names to the issue made it very real,” they said. “It brought forward a lot of emotion that reading an article might not.”
Aguilar discussed the language used to dehumanize migrants coming into the U.S. from our southern border. “We call undocumented immigrants ‘illegal’―folks do that to avoid speaking the names of those who’ve died, or even having to imagine their faces,” she said. Aguilar believes contributing to this toe tag installation allowed herself, her faculty members, and her students to reinvision these migrants and give them their names back, not only in individual consciences but in our national conscience as well.
Senior Adriana Burnham knows what it’s like to experience this language. “I’m half-Mexican, and I get a lot of jokes about jumping the border,” she said. Due to Burnham’s heritage, it felt personally disrespectful not to fill out these toe tags. Living in the U.S., Burnham reflects that most don’t have to stress about crossing into a new country to start a new life and/or supporting families from afar. “It gives a reality to something we don’t see in Maine,” she said. “We have this chance to recognize these people who risked their lives.”
Laney Randolph, a senior education major, was blindsided by the amount of tags UMF received to fill out. She hadn’t realized how many people died crossing the border. “It’s horrifying to think that this isn’t something most people are aware of,” Randolph said. “I think Americans would have a much more empathetic attitude towards immigrants if they knew just how difficult and dangerous it was to get here.”
Their reactions are the purpose of HT94. This installation is a moment of global reflection and remembrance of those who’ve died on this hostile terrain, trying to cross into the United States. Donald said it best: “It’s important for people outside of the issue to gain awareness of the issue.”
I have recently been at home, due to everything that has been going on. While I love my family and all, I can’t help but go absolutely insane when dealing with them. I have a part time job while I’m here, and while it gets me out of the house, I don’t know what’s worse–my family or my coworkers? Is there any way for me to last through these next few months without killing someone, or is that just crazy to think in itself?
I completely understand where you’re coming from. I too am back at my dam and I swear I’ve gnawed through at least 3 trees already. I’ve been coping by buying my little miracle in a bottle otherwise known as melatonin. That’s right, hibernation is coming early this year folks. Three of them and I’m out like a light, they really have been a saving grace during this time.
I have run myself into a small dilemma (or I should say my heart has). I have started becoming more interested in my teacher than the lesson, if that makes sense. My heart throbs for him and I can’t help but almost drool over him while he lectures. I have gotten to the point where I have to turn my camera off while in class because it’s THAT obvious. Any suggestions…?
-Heart Eyes For Him
Dear Heart Eyes,
Ask to stay after class for “extra help” on Zoom. Profess (no pun intended) your undying love for him, what’s the worst that could happen? He feels too awkward to fail you and risk having you in class again, so he passes you? Yes please! You got this, and remember, Zoom calls are recorded just for future record 😉
I am a faculty member here at UMF. Lately my students have been leaving my Zoom calls early. I feel like I’m just talking to an empty space (it doesn’t help that their cameras are off). Is there any way to engage my students more than I already am?
-Fuming While Zooming
I think you could benefit from reading this article. We have a student who can’t stop staring at her professor during Zoom and yours are running away from you. May I suggest taking more so a Magic Mike method of teaching. Now I’m not saying full on strip for your class (but I’m sure it would help) but just give them a little eye candy during the lecture and I assure you attendance will skyrocket.
I am currently in the Journalism class and I feel like no one reads my pieces. It feels like I’m putting my readers to sleep. Am I not interesting? Do the students at UMF not care about the rising water levels of the Sandy River during the rainy season? What can I do to make my articles more interesting?
As an old soul with The Farmington Flyer I often preview articles before they make it into the paper and let’s just say that I find your articles riveting, but your audience doesn’t. I can attest to the falling asleep bit because, well, I have taken a small nap while reading your articles. Try writing about some hot gossip, it’s what the readers want (dare I say need). Or you can stick to writing your dry articles and putting our readers to sleep. I mean, we all need help getting to sleep sometimes.
By Faith Rouillard, Contributing Writer
Around the holidays we seem to indulge ourselves more than ever when it comes to tasty treats. A former bread lover spots the stuffing from across the room, she wants it desperately…her gluten allergy doesn’t care!
A dairy enthusiast has worked so hard all year and feels he deserves a small slice of cheesecake…his lactose intolerance doesn’t care!
An aspiring vegan sees a Christmas ham, juicy and glazed. “One bite won’t hurt,” she thinks. Her moral compass doesn’t care!
Dietary restrictions affect many and are just another reason to dread the holidays. Thanksgiving is behind us, Christmas is yet to come, and COVID is all around us. Many are choosing to stay put in the homes they reside in. At first glance, this seems like a bummer to not spend Christmas at your great Aunt Sally’s who you see for that one day a year… and funerals. Wait, is that really a bummer?
Living with a dietary restriction, though it’s not the worst thing, can make for uncomfortable situations. Great Aunt Sally always forgets to accommodate (on accident). “Wait, I can’t put butter in the mashed potatoes? I didn’t think that was dairy!” or “Vegetarians can eat chicken right? It’s white meat!” As the complicated eater, you never want to make the host upset or feel bad, leaving you with few options: “Aunt Sally, I actually ate before I came and I’m all set, thank you though!” And starve. Or “Thank you, Aunt Sally, it looks great! My lactose intolerance actually went away!” And you pay for it later. First world problems, am I right?
Maybe I’m just a scrooge, but is all this stress really worth it? I constantly wait for the dreaded questions when eating at a family function—“You’re vegan? That’s stupid,” I feel miserable after the event knowing I inconvenienced the host. Let’s start educating our family tree on dietary restrictions and move on with our lives.
Cheers to eating our feelings during our newfound quarantine Christmas. But hey, at least we get to eat whatever the hell we want.