Whose Story Should Be Told

Authors: Barbara Leigh Smith

Disciplines: Art, Communications, History, Political Science and Public Administration, Psychology, Social Work and Sociology

Themes: Activism, Indian Identity, Intergovernmental Relations, Law and Justice, Leadership, Racism and Prejudice

This case tells the story of controversial murals in a prominent federal building in the historic Federal Triangle district in Washington D.C.  American Indian employees who work in the building, which is now headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency, want the murals removed, saying they perpetuate inaccurate and demeaning stereotypes of Native Americans and create a hostile work environment.  The mural dispute raises issues about the connections between government and the arts and difficult questions about leadership, public policy, stereotypes, historical integrity, civil rights, and cultural politics.  These conflicts illustrate important issues of rights vs interests and the relationship between Native concerns and the so-called “national good.”