FREEDOM SPEAKS THROUGH US
In my early twenties, I became entranced with the art and technique of fabricating and casting silver, bronze, and gold. I dove passionately into my profession as a metalsmith. I knew it was my life's work. The first metalsmithing teacher I had inspired me the most, and then my own fascination with the work nurtured me as I freed up my creativity. The Berkeley student riots of the 1970s pulled me into a larger world, offering an intense environment to grow into myself as a jeweler, designer, ritual artist, and community organizer. I began to sell my jewelry at local shows, museums and shops around the country.
My familiarity with metals and gemstones evolved, and form and style grew out of this bonding. The metals spoke to me in meditations and dreams, shaping my designs and their adaptations from ancient art. My studies in art history introduced me to the early matriarchal cultures, whose earthen Goddess figures embodied the cultural way of connecting art and spiritual devotion.
Lady Freedom - Silver Pendant
I began carving Goddess images from my own life's journey as a woman, and saw powerful female imagery everywhere, including on several states’ Capitol buildings and in central parks. At the time, in California, there was a resurgence in understanding of matrilineal societies, and a 'coming alive' in women's art, writing, and teaching. This atmosphere created a renaissance of women’s historical understanding and their role in it.
Statue of Freedom Refurbished - October 1993
In 1993, when “Freedom,” the statue on the U.S. Capitol Dome, spoke to me in a meditation, it should not have been a surprise, but the force of her messages was personal, and made me take it seriously. She said, “Katya, I feel so honored to be here on top of the Capitol, but so unseen.” I was being asked to do something about the invisibility of this female statue and the spirit she represents. I was already in the process of creating a miniature statue of Lady Freedom for my jewelry line. The original plaster statue was being taken from the Smithsonian’s basement storage and pieced together, and the cast bronze statue atop the Capitol dome in Washington D.C. was being repaired and cleansed, becoming more visible to all.
I sent a silver pendant to Barbara Wolanin, the Curator of the Statue and to First Lady Hillary Clinton to wear at the ceremony lifting the bronze lady back atop the Capitol Dome in October 1993, and received beautiful thank-you notes in return! The buyer at the Capitol Gift Shop bought pendants to sell in the Capitol’s kiosks, and I began to write the story of the Lady of Freedom for a product card, with the emblem of the U.S. Capitol's Historical Society on the back.
In the 1960s, a traditional Hawaiian woman named Morrnah Simeona was sitting on the front lawn of the Capitol Building in Washington and looked up at the ﬁgure on the dome as she heard a voice say, “Do you know who I am?” Morrnah stated “Oh, you're Pocahontas.” Freedom said, “No, I'm the Lady of Freedom, and from today on, your work will be to set me free”. In 1989, Morrnah Simeona presented a Bill to the Hawaiian House Committee on Intergovernmental Relations and International Affairs, asking that the Lady of Freedom be recognized as a symbol of World Peace. In her speech, Morrnah Simeona said, “Today is a historic and unprecedented occasion. You are the First committee of the First state legislature of the United States of America to hold public hearings on the Lady of Freedom. We are gathered here today not by accident, for in the Divine scheme of creation there are no accidents. We are pioneers in a movement yet unknown.” “In 1776 our young country declared its freedom and independence from Britain, yet this freedom was acquired by bloodshed. Today the struggle and bloodshed of the original thirteen colonies still haunts us. As you all know, the ill effect of the Civil War, the bloodiest war in American History, is still with us today. Our freedom today is determined by bloodshed, fear, and conflict. Are we still to continue this heritage of equating Freedom with bloodshed? We are given the opportunity now to rectify and release these past errors so that the United States of America can experience a new birth of Freedom. As a governmental body of the State of Hawaii, you are here today to herald in the dawning of a new age of Freedom by acknowledging the Lady of Freedom.” “She represents freedom for the United States of America and for the Cosmos, not just for mankind but also for all of creation. To initiate awakening in the people of our great country is Divine destiny - to bring Peace and Freedom to the world and the entire cosmos, which is reﬂected in the inscription at the base of the Lady of Freedom-'E Pluribus Unum,' out of many one.”
This Resolution passed as an effort to promote world peace and freedom. Morrnah Simeona then met with Hawaiian Congressman Akaka and with George White, the Architect of the Capitol, and also sought spiritual guidance. The U.S. Congress passed legislation to receive donations from the public to restore, relocate and display the original model of the Lady of Freedom. Morrnah called her the 'consciousness of the nation,' and was instrumental in getting the plaster statue, then in many pieces, out of storage in the Smithsonian and putting her in a very visible place. She was put in the Russell Rotunda in 1993, but moved to the new Capitol Visitors Center when it opened in December of 2008 underneath the Capitol grounds. Morrnah said that in order to honor this plaster model of Freedom, each individual American must honor his or her own sacred identity created in the image of Love. The work of the Foundation of I, Morrnah's organization, exists today to fulﬁl this possibility by teaching the ancient knowledge through a modern form.
In order to share this story, of “Freedom,” I read many historical books, articles, and unpublished manuscripts to understand the symbolism and art embedded in this statue. In particular, I focused on the art and politics of the years before 1863 when the Statue of Freedom was first completed and raised to the top of the dome. The native matriarchal cultures along the eastern shores of the United States before the Revolutionary War have been a focus for me in understanding this powerful statue representing our “free” woman’s story. This focus has led me to the renowned historical personalities of Thomas Crawford, the expatriate sculptor of Lady Freedom who lived in Rome, Italy, from about 1835-1857; the infamous Jefferson Davis, instrumental in choosing Capitol Art before he led the Southern Confederacy during the civil war; Senator Charles Sumner, who helped Crawford get commissions from wealthy patrons and ultimately, the US government; and Julia Ward Howe, sister-in-law of Crawford, and writer of the Mother’s Day Proclamation for Peace.
Since 1995, I have met with the Curator of Art at the Capitol, and the Historian of the United State Capitol Historical Society. I was asked to write the statue’s story as America, Freedom, Liberty, and Pocahontas. My two articles have been published in the beautiful and professional journal of Art at the Capitol. With all my years accumulating histories, I wrote a book outline in seven parts. The Curator asked me to apply for their Fellowship, which was granted. The most interesting part of Freedom’s story is her name, America which the commissioner and sculptor called her. In my forthcoming book, Beloved Freedom: Secret on the US Capitol Dome, it is my hope that this image-driven story will reconnect and reclaim this powerful protectress to heal and rightfully connect us to the spirit of the nation and the hills and valleys of the USA.
I am dedicating this understanding to Jikonaseh, the ﬁrst in the matriarchal lineage of Iroquois, considered the 'Mother of Nations.' She was the ﬁrst woman to believe in the Peacemaker's journey, who empowered her to begin the process of weaning men from war towards an integration of the nurturing role of the clansmother and the circle of women. They demonstrate leadership roles of the male, using a good mind and clear communication. The Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) form of freedom and their Democracy became the ﬁrst confederacy or union of nations, and was a powerful inﬂuence on Benjamin Franklin and the other colonists. It is said that Chief Shenandoah ﬁrst urged Franklin to unite the colonies for both business and political reasons. Their ways became a foundation for our constitution.
Thomas Crawford Marble Bust – 1860’s
This story also honors Philip Reid, the ex-slave who cast the Statue of Freedom in bronze in 1858. Embedded in the consciousness of the bronze Lady are the generations of Black-Americans who suffered because of the ideas for which the Civil War was fought from 1861-1865. They were instrumental in the physical work of building our monumental US Capitol.
I write for Pocahontas, whose image is misunderstood, assuming she is the only Native Woman, and married an Englishman, the ﬁrst accepted mixed-race couple who brought the sacred magic of planting, harvesting, and curing tobacco - an Algonquin agent of change, transformation, and healing - to the Virginia Colony. She helped to create the ﬁrst self-supporting English colony in America, and the tobacco industry, which became the ﬁnancial base for the US!
This story is also dedicated to clanmother Alice Papineau, keeper of the traditional ways of the Onondaga Reservation in upstate New York who died of diabetes, a common cause of death among the indigenous people who eat the “American diet.” And to Maisie Shenandoah, an Oneida clanmother whose families are losing their homes and homeland from within the reserve because of the inﬂuence of the U.S. Government's Bureau of Indian Affairs. The traditional matriarchal way of balance continues to be degraded internally and externally on traditional land! In this way, I cry for the many women who have dedicated their life’s work to bringing balance, equality, and justice, and for which the founding mothers fought to create a real liberty and freedom for all!
This is also for all humans like myself who want to be known for our gifts of intelligence and love, and who desperately want to weave the web of a thriving society, making us all Mothers of our Nation. The Iroquois Six Nations continue into this 21st century to fight for their rightful lands and treaty rights. We can make the connection between politics and a real spirit in our country, creating a balanced and healthy society.
It was in these United States that my own grandparents found freedom from an oppressive Russian government at the turn of the 19th century. This story is for those who did not leave Russia and other oppressive situations, and did not live! Some people have suffered from misdirected legislation and some have beneﬁted from laws being enacted underneath Lady Freedom's feet in the halls of the Congress both before and after her birth in the mid-1800’s.
She clears the path for forgiveness in our great nation. We can move beyond the contamination of the past, knowing we all have what it takes to knit together families that work, hearts that can heal, neighborhoods without guns, and societies that support the smallest voice. We can support the men and women who have the knowledge of how to work together to preserve culture.
I call upon those skilled in interpreting history to serve the truth with the help of the spirits, seen and unseen, keeping us awake and balanced. Lady Freedom holds the spirit of our Founding Fathers with their rich spiritual and political ideals, the women who walked with them, and the indigenous people of the Americas. We are all Mothers of our Nation, families, and clans, and have the desire to live in this land of LIBERTY and FREEDOM!
I am saddened that in over 20 years of research, I never came across a good definition of what Freedom stands for, and why we fight in Her name. Julia Ward Howe had it right in the nineteenth century, that before Mothers send their sons, and now daughters, to battle, for women to come together across national lines, to recognize what we hold in common above what divides us, and commit to finding peaceful resolutions to conflicts. Men of Power have a stranglehold over people’s lives and governmental bodies. If we keep Freedom as our purpose, we can melt the shackles of bondage. Julia Ward Howe also wrote, “History remembers what it wants to remember, not what really happened.”
My personal path has been silent, but I am compelled to expose my story to a larger audience. I was not a writer or historian, so went into shock when called upon to evolve the story of Freedom, the Woman. In the halls of the Capitol the walls echoed to me “the story is all here,” and in the 'akashic records' of the Library of Congress.
Lady Freedom is still unseen; the Capitol has become a fortress since 9/11; and because of this lockdown, people remain unaware of “Freedom,” and still no one really sees her or knows what she represents! For over 150 years, standing nineteen and a half feet tall, 265 feet above the Capitol building, Lady Freedom has been a symbol to Americans in many ways.
The women represented in this statue, both native and Euro-American, some the descendants of black slaves, have not been given the opportunity to meet together and weave a web that is life-giving, sharing resources, to raise the next generations in wisdom. Using our creative imaginations collectively, we can work towards a sustaining world! The Statue of Freedom is meant to inspire Americans by restoring the true democracy and freedom, values upon which the country is based. From the place far above and beyond where humans dare stand, almost 300 feet above the Congress, on the Dome in the sky, in the place imbued with the light of the blue daytime sky and the starry darkness of the night time sky resides FREEDOM! For over 150 years now, 365 days a year, Lady Freedom has been blessing America with love and strength. She is an ideal female image put in an honored place to inspire Americans to do great deeds. The "Goddess" herself radiates a truth. The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars are with her, creating a consciousness in every man, woman, and child in the lands called America and beyond. Look up and listen deeply to the Lady inside each of us. It is time!
Healing Amulets made and worn by Katya Miller -1993
About the Author
Katya Miller is a native San Franciscan who spent twenty years in New Mexico’s wide-open lands and skies along the Rio Grande River, home of the Pueblo peoples. She currently lives Santa Rosa, California where fires surrounded her home for 10 days during the October 2017 Firestorm when she evacuated to San Francisco to spend time with her grandchildren. She holds a degree in Design and Art History from the University of California, Berkeley, and is currently a writer, Art Historian, Visionary Activist, and Documentary filmmaker. Her thirty-year career was as a metalsmith and jeweler with a line of healing amulets and Goddesses which can be seen at www.culturalimages.net.
She is writing a history of the Statue of Freedom atop the US Capitol Dome which grew out of a mystical connection with the statue, years of extensive research, and consultation with Native and non-Native American historians and thinkers. She was awarded a research Fellowship at the United States Capitol Historical Society and the Architect of the Capitol (2012-2013) to write the book Beloved Freedom: Secret on the US Capitol Dome. Her published articles entitled, “AN APPRECIATION OF THOMAS CRAWFORD'S STATUE OF FREEDOM-A Statue called America, Pocahontas, Liberty and Freedom” and “Behold the Statue of Freedom: Sculptor Thomas Crawford and Senator Charles Sumner” were published in the USCHS’s magazine The Capitol Dome. Katya continues to write Freedoms story into articles, a children’s book “Who’s That Lady on the Capitol Dome,” and the non-fiction book. She proposes a documentary to be made out of this image driven story to inspire our present-day struggle for true Freedom. You are invited to focus on the Lady on the Capitol Dome for inspiration and the coming of a more Matriarchal culture.