Society of American Indian Government Employees

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Murals at the EPA Headquarters, William Jefferson Clinton Building (formerly the Ariel Rios Building), in Washington, DC

For several years SAIGE has been engaged in a debate concerning the suitability of  controversial historical artwork (murals) at EPA Headquarters, in the William Jefferson Clinton building in Washington , D.C. The building is owned by the General Services Administration, (GSA) and leased by the EPA, and is historically protected as part of the Federal Triangle Historic District.

American Indian employees of the EPA complained that the murals perpetuate negative stereotypes of American Indians and create a hostile work environment for them. EPA employees approached SAIGE for assistance in late 2003. After years of much public input and numerous meetings, the GSA announced in 2007 that the murals would stay in place. GSA indicated that they would place interpretive signage next to the murals to promote better understanding of the 1930’s WPA Art program and the controversy surrounding the murals. As to the “Dangers of the Mail,” due to the violent nudity and vociferous objections, a screen would be devised that could be rolled away should anyone want to view the artwork, but otherwise would block it from view.

IMAGES:
To see depictions of the artwork in the EPA building CLICK HERE.

HISTORY:

– SAIGE initially submitted a letter in early 2004 to the GSA, which manages the Ariel Rios (now William Jefferson Clinton building) federal building . (Letter Here)

On March 16th, 2005 GSA publicly announced that they were initiating a 106 Historical Preservation review for the murals . (Announcement)

– In December 2005, as a designated 106 Consulting Party, SAIGE provided the GSA with this position statement regarding the murals. (SAIGE Position Statement)

– National Indian web-based news source, Indianz.com covered the story of the objections to the works. <click here> .

– In June of 2006, the GSA published this summary of comments they had received on the six murals in question. <click here>

– On October 30, 2006 the GSA held a panel discussion regarding the Murals in question. Several SAIGE members attended and testified. Here is a written transcript of those proceedings. <click here>

– In April of 2007, a final Consulting Parties meeting was held with an independent facilitator. <click here for transcript>

– During September 2007 GSA issued a letter regarding their findings for the proceedings. Here is a copy of the letter. <click here>

– SAIGE’s  2009 statement to the GSA about the murals <click here .pdf>.

– GSA Response to our letter <click here .pdf>.

Support: 

– Letters from National Congress of American Indians regarding the murals. <click here>  Hall    <click here> Johnson
– NCAI Resolution (2004) concerning offensive artwork in the Federal Workplace <click here>

– Letter from the National Coalition for Equity in Public Service <click here>
– Letters from Federally Employed Women (FEW) <click here> 2006  <click here> 2010

Update: As of 2014, the GSA has still not completed the interpretive panels to accompany the murals in question, nor has the agency provided a screen for the “Dangers of the Mail” as they had stipulated in their 2007 decision to retain the murals in place.

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