THE IFUGAO HUT HEALING PROJECT
From April to December of the year 1904 was the St. Louis World’s Fair in Missouri. The fair celebrated the hundredth anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase from France. It was described by the media as an international and historical exposition that showcased how the U.S. progressed and progressed as a new colonial nation.
To highlight the “U.S. achievements” Americans brought a number of indigenous peoples and those from whose home nations were colonized by the U.S. for display in villages or reservations within the fair grounds. These indigenous groups were brought to show to the American people how “backwards” and “uncivilized” they were. The people from the Philippines, which was recently purchased from Spain and turned into a colony, who were brought over to the fair to be showcased in a human zoo were seen as “primitive” to their onlookers.
One of these groups were the Igorot from Northern Philippines. In media advertisements they were described as a group of “savages,” “headhunters,” and “dog-eaters.”
For the duration of the fair, 110 members composed of men, women, and children were placed on display in the Igorot Village. They are “studied, inspected, stared at, peered at, denigrated, pitied, and despised,” by thousands of fairgoers. As part of their acts the fair administration required them to perform daily dog feast for their meals for their white American audience to make a profit out of their explotation. The Igorot Village eventually became the most popular exhibit at the fair from their abuse, exploitation, and being used as a human zoo.
Today descendants of the Igorots in the U.S. don’t want to be called by their ethnic group names. They, with a large number of Pilipin@s, feel a sense of shame, guilt and depression which comes from the abuse their ancestors went through during the World Fair and in which caused stereotypes among Pilipin@s such as us being dog eaters. The stigma caused from the human zoos during the World Fair has stayed even today.
The Goal of the Project:
The Ifugao Hut Healing Project was initiated by Mamerto Tindongan, an Ifugao descendant and mombaki (shaman) who has a knowledge of the indigenous healing traditions of Northern Philippines. He is a Pilipin@-American immigrant based in Ohio, who practices a combination of both Eastern and Western healing traditions. He believes that performing a ritual at the former site of the St. Louis World’s Fair will help address the deep psychic wounds of his people and the colonial relations between Pilipin@s and the United States.
The project is meant to honor those who were mocked and put on display in the Igorot Village and their descendants. The goal is for Mamerto, who is also an expert wood carver and professional sculptor, to build a traditional Ifugao hut. It will be patterned after the same hut found at the 1904 Igorot Village. It will be composed of transportable parts, to be taken and reassembled in St. Louis, Missouri. The hut will serve as the symbol of peace and the central structure whereby healing rituals can be offered to Pilipin@ communities, as well as non-Filipino communities.
There is a crowdfunding fundraiser for the project. For those interested and willingly to help donate to the construction of the hut here is the link to the fundraiser.
If you want to see the video for the project with Mamerto talking and showing the idea behind the hut visit here.