The Language of Secret Proof: A Notational System as Architectural Expertise in the Jemez Pueblo Land Claim

Critical, Curatorial + Conceptual Practices in Architecture, Thesis

Nina Kolowratnik

Mark Wasiuta, advisor

How to imagine an evidentiary document that is working within the regime of pueblo secrecy, however satisfies the factual demands on the evidentiary document in court? Can architectural tools produce a notational system that manages both demands on exposure and concealment and translates not merely rituals to court, but from a culture of secrecy to one of transparency?

This thesis is located within the ongoing Native American Jemez Pubelo land claim and the dilemma the Pueblo finds itself in at the moment of getting involved in a litigation where proof of the connectedness to the land claimed needs to be created, the reason why the Pueblo is claiming right to ownership however is anchored in the tribe’s spiritual religious system of significance—an essential feature of the Pueblo’s power-knowledge economy—and thus is regarded to be a secret.

This project tries to work through this double bind by means of drawing and notation. In a situation where criteria of proof betray the essence of what is to be proved, the evidentiary object needs to make a claim to truth while resisting to demonstrate what constitutes truth or tribal significance. In collaboration with the tribe, I produced three evidentiary drawings which make the traditional, spiritual and daily use of the claimed Valles Caldera by the Jemez tribe evident, yet at the same time do not allow to be used as a guide to pueblo culture.