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Ana María León: Destroying Big Mound: Historic Preservation and Settler Colonialism, 1869, 1929, 2014
Ana María León is trained as an architect and a historian. Her work examines how architectures of struggle have shaped the modernity and coloniality of the Americas. She is co-founder of several research and practice collectives including Nuestro Norte es el Sur and the Settler Colonial City Project. She recently published Modernity for the Masses: Antonio Bonet’s Dreams for Buenos Aires (University of Texas Press, 2021) and A Ruin in Reverse (Ediciones ARQ, 2021). León is Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan and serves on the boards of GAHTC and SAH.
In 1869, the Osage burial monument known as Big Mound, located in the middle of downtown St. Louis, was destroyed. But the desecration of the site did not end there. The multiple destructions and memorializations that this sacred site subsequently endured reveal the markers of settler colonialism, a form of occupation that replaces Indigenous populations with invasive societies. These efforts have elided and erased the claims of its builders—the Osage Nation—and constructed an image of the site as empty, a former ruin built by supposedly distant, disappeared groups. By disconnecting the original builders from contemporary Indigenous groups, avowed efforts to memorialize the site have followed settler colonial frameworks resulting in acts of both physical and conceptual un-making that extend to the present.