When Indigenous communities are asked to provide proof of their connection to ancestral lands, what Western legal forums accept as documentation does not truly represent or respect tribal culture and traditional formats of knowledge transfer. Responding to the experiences of evidence production by Jemez Pueblo members in New Mexico, Nina Valerie Kolowratnik’s research challenges the conditions under which Indigenous rights to protect and regain traditional land are negotiated in United States legal frameworks.
architect and researcher
Nina Valerie Kolowratnik is an architect and PhD researcher within the Human Rights Centre at Ghent University, Belgium. Her doctoral research focuses on Indigenous peoples’ knowledge in human rights courts and the impact of its evidentiary regimes on access to justice and knowledge representation. Following her postgraduate studies at Columbia University, New York, she founded a research and advocacy practice that develops spatial notation systems in the context of forced migration, cultural claims to territory, and indigenous rights. Kolowratnik’s book, The Language of Secret Proof: Indigenous Truth and Representation (2019), examines evidence production and cultural secrecy within Native American land claims and presents a set of alternative evidentiary drawings—developed with members and elders of Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico—that respect and work within a culture organized around secrecy. Recently Kolowratnik’s work has been shown at Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna; Rotor Center for Contemporary Art, Graz; and Stacion CCA Prishtina among others. Kolowratnik currently lives and works in Vienna.