Willamette Valley Meteorite

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Client: Garrick Imatani

Completion date: 2019

Project Team

Artist

Garrick Imatani

Overview

Installed at University of Oregon’s Straub Hall, the cast aluminum meteorite was first created digitally, based on the Willamette Valley Meteorite.

Goals

As Imatani learned about the meteorite’s history, he thought about its travels and how it was carted around and put on display with little thought for long-term consequences.

“I just thought that was really fascinating that something doesn’t need to be of this planet to be representative of the ongoing issues around repatriation, cultural rights and the legacy of colonialism,” Imatani said.

Process

The artist's model was divided into castable segments and 3D Printed in an investable material. After infusing with wax, the prints were sent to the foundry for direct casting without any need for molds.

Additional Information

This piece is inspired by one of the most unique spiritual entities in Pacific Northwest tribal history: a mass of iron and nickel the size of a large SUV that hurtled out of the sky, carried by floods to the Willamette Valley. For millennia, the Clackamas people held an awareness of the meteorite, which they called Tomanowos. It was seen as this visitor, this kind of traveler that came from space. The meteorite formed around the same time as the Earth, and while there's no impact crater indicating its exact point of landing, scientists believe it must have touched down in or near present-day Montana. The glacial melt of the Missoula Floods brought it south to the Clackamas people, where it bore witness to thousands of years of pre-contact life. When white settlers reached Oregon, they too were taken with the meteorite. It changed hands several times, legally and illegally, from a local farmer to Oregon Ironworks to Wall Street baron William E. Dodge. It ultimately landed in the hands of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, thousands of miles away from the tribes who revered it. Meanwhile, the Clackamas people signed the Willamette Valley Treaty of 1855 and were relocated to the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Reservation.