Table of Con­tents | Arti­cle doi: 10.17742/IMAGE.VT.11.3.4 | PDF


Trans­lat­ing the “Dead Indi­an” Nicole Per­ry

Translating the “Dead Indian”: Kent Monkman, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, and the Painting of the American West

Nicole Per­ry
This arti­cle exam­ines the work of Kent Monkman, an artist of Cree ances­try, and his Indige­nous inter­ven­tions into art of the Amer­i­can West. Known for his provoca­tive and high­ly sex­u­al­ized genre, Monkman, along with his gen­der flu­id alter ego and com­pan­ion, Miss Chief Eagle Testick­le, have been upset­ting the art world for more than a decade. By using Thomas King’s (Chero­kee) con­cept of the “Dead Indi­an”, I exam­ine how Monkman’s work revi­talis­es Indige­nous his­to­ries and places them in the cen­tre of the paint­ings by the 19th-cen­tu­ry Ger­man-Amer­i­can artist of the Amer­i­can West, Albert Bier­stadt. By repur­pos­ing the scene, Monkman trans­lates the images from anachro­nis­tic set­tler-colo­nial nar­ra­tives and uses these images from the past to high­light Indige­nous nar­ra­tives of the Amer­i­can West.
Cet arti­cle exam­ine l’oeuvre de Kent Monkman, un artiste d’origine cri, et ses inter­ven­tions indigènes dans l’art de l’Ouest améri­cain. Con­nu pour son genre provo­ca­teur et haute­ment sex­u­al­isé, Monkman, accom­pa­g­né de son alter-ego et com­pagnon, Miss Chief Eagle Testick­les dont l’identité de genre est flu­ide, boule­verse le monde de l’art depuis plus d’une décen­nie. Util­isant le con­cept (chero­kee) de “l’Indien mort,” j’examine com­ment l’oeuvre de Monkman revi­talise les his­toires indigènes et les place au cen­tre des tableaux d’Albert Bier­stadt, l’artiste améri­cain d’origine alle­mande, pein­tre de l’Ouest améri­cain. En changeant le mes­sage de la scène, Monkman offre une nou­velle tra­duc­tion des images de nar­ra­tions anachroniques des colons-immi­grants et réap­pro­prie ces images du passé pour illus­tr­er les nar­ra­tions indigènes de l’Ouest américain.

Those who wish to study the splen­dour of the Euro­pean Male in his orig­i­nal state must trav­el far and wide to see him.”
Miss Chief Eagle Testickle,
Wan­der­ings of an Artist (2007)

Cree artist Kent Monkman is one of North America’s most pro­lif­ic Indige­nous artists. He is also one of the most con­tro­ver­sial. A recent paint­ing, Han­ky Panky (2020), has drawn stark com­men­tary, both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive, for his por­tray­al of and com­men­tary on the miss­ing and mur­dered Indige­nous women and girls (MMIWG) in Cana­da. While laud­ed by some for its brazen approach—Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau is pic­tured bent over with his pants around his knees await­ing a “con­sen­su­al act”—Han­ky Panky has also drawn scruti­ny for its depic­tion of Cree women on the periph­ery of the paint­ing, laugh­ing as they watch the male-cen­tred spec­ta­cle (Angeleti; Gra­bish).1 The por­tray­al of the women, whom he calls the oki­hc­itâwiskwêwak, or the tra­di­tion­al coun­cil of Cree women law keep­ers, has been called dis­re­spect­ful (Gra­bish), as has the por­tray­al of, and lack of clear bound­aries sur­round­ing, vio­lent sex (Mar­tin). His Indige­nous crit­ics belong to Indige­nous trans com­mu­ni­ties, work with vic­tims of sex­u­al assault, and are rel­a­tives of women who have been mur­dered (Porter; Gra­bish), while promi­nent male sup­port­ers such as Sen­a­tor Mur­ray Sin­clair have sup­port­ed the paint­ing as a rever­sal of the vic­tims and vic­tim­iz­ers (Porter). Monkman’s work is polar­is­ing, it always has been, and although Han­ky Panky can be con­sid­ered one of his most con­tro­ver­sial paint­ings, it is in keep­ing with the provoca­tive, high­ly sex­u­al­ized tra­jec­to­ry of his oeu­vre.2 Monkman’s artis­tic rep­u­ta­tion rests on his push­ing the bound­aries of the accept­able, revis­it­ing West­ern gen­res of art and using his work to tell a dif­fer­ent sto­ry as he sex­u­al­izes, decol­o­nizes, and Indi­g­e­nizes the West­ern canon across a mul­ti­tude of medi­ums, includ­ing paint­ing, per­for­mance, instal­la­tion, film, and video. And he works as an agent of change in the con­tentious polit­i­cal land­scape sur­round­ing the rep­re­sen­ta­tions of North Amer­i­can Indige­nous peo­ples. Through his heady and often polem­i­cal body of work, he inserts Indige­nous his­to­ries and con­tent into the Euro-Amer­i­can dis­course on North Amer­i­ca, bring­ing Indige­nous voic­es to the fore­front so that they can be recognized.

Monkman’s artis­tic alter ego, the gen­der flu­id Miss Chief Eagle Testick­le, who has been called a “trick­ster in drag” (Amos) and a “Postin­di­an diva war­rior” (McIn­tosh 12), has been cen­tral to his project of sub­vert­ing and recast­ing the gaze of the colonis­er.3 As an artist, Monkman sees his respon­si­bil­i­ty as twofold: to act as both the cre­ator and trans­la­tor of his work, some­thing that can at times have unin­tend­ed results, as with Han­ky Panky. In order to demon­strate how Monkman uses his art to trans­late sto­ries of Indige­nous North Amer­i­ca so that they can be insert­ed into its hege­mon­ic art dis­course and pro­voke uncom­fort­able, long over­due con­ver­sa­tions, I exam­ine two of Monkman’s (re)paintings of the Amer­i­can West. Each high­lights the ten­sion between the his­tor­i­cal lega­cies of the orig­i­nal works and Monkman’s Indige­nous remas­ter­ings, and each fea­tures Miss Chief. In both paint­ings Monkman repaints land­scape scenes by the Ger­man-Amer­i­can Albert Bier­stadt. Canon­i­cal 19th-cen­tu­ry West­ern Amer­i­can painters such as Bier­stadt, George Catlin, and the sculp­tor James Ear­le Fras­er are known for cre­at­ing a hege­mon­ic ver­sion of the West, set­ting the tone in por­tray­als of Indige­nous char­ac­ters and pre­de­ter­min­ing the sto­ry of the Amer­i­can West from its begin­ning. Monkman’s trans­la­tions of Bierstadt’s orig­i­nal scenes, which exude the seren­i­ty and vast­ness of the Amer­i­can West and show­case a Euro-Amer­i­can nos­tal­gia for the sup­pos­ed­ly soon-to-be-extinct Indige­nous way of life, expose the gaps in (art) his­to­ry and dis­rupt the anachro­nis­tic image of Indige­nous peo­ples in North Amer­i­ca that Thomas King (Chero­kee) has named the “Dead Indi­an.” After out­lin­ing King’s “Dead Indi­an” argu­ment about how canon­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tions sit­u­ate Indige­nous sub­jects as neo-roman­tic, nos­tal­gic images in a state of vic­tim­ry, I ana­lyze The Trap­pers of Men (2006), Monkman’s repaint­ing of Albert Bierstadt’s Among the Sier­ra Neva­da, Cal­i­for­nia (1868), and The Death of Ado­nis (2009), his reimag­in­ing of Bierstadt’s icon­ic The Last of the Buf­fa­lo (1888). I show how Monkman updates the 19th-cen­tu­ry “Dead Indi­an” image for the 21st cen­tu­ry by fea­tur­ing a scene-steal­ing, and very much alive, Miss Chief. As Monkman recen­tres the gaze in his paint­ings to high­light pre­vi­ous era­sures of Indige­nous his­to­ries, I argue that he is also reflect­ing on North America’s fas­ci­na­tion with, and need for, the “Dead Indi­an” as one of its found­ing myths and lega­cies. Ulti­mate­ly his work demands that audi­ences acknowl­edge con­tem­po­rary Indige­nous peo­ples, there­by giv­ing vis­i­bil­i­ty and a plat­form to con­tem­po­rary Indige­nous issues.

The Creation and Musealization of the Indian as Image

King explores the “Dead Indi­an” trope in his award-win­ning The Incon­ve­nient Indi­an: A Curi­ous Account of Native Peo­ple in North Amer­i­ca (2012). In this analy­sis, King iden­ti­fies three types of Indi­an: Dead, Live, and Legal. Legal Indi­ans are those who are rec­og­nized as being “Indi­ans” by the Cana­di­an and US gov­ern­ments (68), while Dead Indi­ans and Live Indi­ans are dis­tin­guished as fol­lows: “Dead Indi­ans are dig­ni­fied, noble, silent, suit­ably garbed. And dead. Live Indi­ans are invis­i­ble, unruly, dis­ap­point­ing. And breath­ing. One is a roman­tic reminder of a hero­ic but fic­tion­al past. The oth­er is sim­ply an unpleas­ant, con­tem­po­rary sur­prise” (66, empha­sis mine). Through his wit and humour, King high­lights two impor­tant vec­tors along which Indi­ans are cat­e­go­rized: vis­i­bil­i­ty vs. invis­i­bil­i­ty and expec­ta­tions vs. real­i­ty. His work has a syn­er­gy with Daniel Francis’s 1992 The Imag­i­nary Indi­an: The Image of the Indi­an in Cana­di­an Cul­ture, which sum­maris­es the sen­ti­ment of gen­er­a­tions of Euro-Amer­i­can writ­ers and artists who have crit­i­cal­ly engaged with the unsta­ble and con­tra­dic­to­ry image of North America’s Indige­nous peo­ples. As Fran­cis explains, “The Indi­an began as a White man’s mis­take, and became a White man’s fan­ta­sy. Through the prism of White hopes, fears and prej­u­dices, indige­nous Amer­i­cans would be seen to have lost con­tact with real­i­ty and to have become ‘Indi­ans’; that is, any­thing non-Natives want­ed them to be” (5). He high­lights that “the Indi­an” is a neo-roman­tic arche­type, a flat char­ac­ter that reflects, first, the Enlight­en­ment con­cept of Nature’s gen­tle­man and, lat­er, in the 19th cen­tu­ry, the igno­ble sav­age. The image of “the Indi­an” thus came to embody the fatal­is­tic view that Indige­nous peo­ples and their way of life were not con­gru­ent with the dom­i­nant North Amer­i­can soci­ety of colo­nial expan­sion and Man­i­fest Des­tiny. While the par­a­digm of the noble and igno­ble sav­age has been used to reflect, often con­cur­rent­ly, the hopes and fears of the dom­i­nant Euro-Amer­i­can soci­eties, it has also focussed exclu­sive­ly on Euro-Amer­i­can dis­cours­es, ignor­ing Indige­nous world­views, ren­der­ing Indige­nous peo­ples as invis­i­ble by pre­sent­ing an incon­sis­tent and para­dox­i­cal notion that high­light­ed either the noble or the sav­age of the term to reflect polit­i­cal and soci­etal ten­sions in the dom­i­nant cul­ture. These terms lacked, and indeed worked to pre­vent, Indige­nous agency and con­tent. King’s argu­ment sit­u­ates and builds on the works of schol­ars such as Ger­ald Vizenor (Fugi­tive Pos­es; Man­i­fest Man­ners; Nar­ra­tive Chance; “Trick­ster Dis­course”), Arnold Kru­pat (The Turn to the Native), and Philip Delo­ria (Indi­ans in Unex­pect­ed Places; Play­ing Indi­an) and their broad­er argu­ments regard­ing Indige­nous (in)visibilities in both his­tor­i­cal and con­tem­po­rary con­texts. These influ­en­tial argu­ments paved the way for a younger gen­er­a­tion of Indige­nous schol­ars, includ­ing Audra Simp­son (Mohawk Interup­tus; The­o­riz­ing Native Stud­ies), Leanne Betasamosake Simp­son (As We Have Always Done), and Daniel Heath Jus­tice (Why Indige­nous Lit­er­a­tures Mat­ter), to go beyond the sim­plis­tic bina­ries of vis­i­ble and invis­i­ble regard­ing Indige­nous iden­ti­ties and to com­pli­cate and expose nar­ra­tives of set­tler colo­nial lega­cies and Indige­nous sovereignty.

As this schol­ar­ship has also estab­lished, the “Dead Indi­an” image is any­thing but dead and is still capa­ble of evok­ing a host of debil­i­tat­ing ideas and stereo­types. A 2019 exhi­bi­tion cur­rent­ly ongo­ing at the Smith­son­ian Nation­al Muse­um of the Amer­i­can Indi­an and sim­ply enti­tled Amer­i­cans exam­ines the com­pli­cat­ed his­to­ry of Indige­nous (North) Amer­i­cans in pop­u­lar cul­ture and the lega­cy of invis­i­bil­i­ty. The online por­tal pos­es the ques­tion: “How is it that Indi­ans can be so present and so absent in Amer­i­can life?” (Amer­i­cans). The exhi­bi­tion is divid­ed into four sub­sec­tions and explores how, even though Indige­nous Amer­i­cans rep­re­sent less than 1% of the pop­u­la­tion, Indige­nous cul­ture still per­me­ates the Unit­ed States and the lega­cies cre­at­ed that con­tin­ue to func­tion as its found­ing myths: from Thanks­giv­ing and Pocha­hon­tas to the Indi­an Removal Act and the Bat­tle of Greasy Grass/ Lit­tle Big Horn (Amer­i­cans). Rich C. King in his work red­skins: Insult and Brand (2016) explores the prob­lem­at­ic brand­ing of sports teams such as the tit­u­lar Nation­al Foot­ball League (NFL) team from Wash­ing­ton, and how these logos, epi­thets, imagery, and specif­i­cal­ly, a sin­gle word can influ­ence and dam­age a mar­gin­al­ized pop­u­la­tion. On July 13, 2020, after a review tak­en in the light of the racial upheaval in the Unit­ed States fol­low­ing the mur­der of George Floyd by police offi­cers in Min­neapo­lis, Min­neso­ta and oth­er vic­tims of sys­temic vio­lence, the own­er of the team decid­ed to retire the deroga­to­ry name after many years of con­tro­ver­sy and pub­lic out­cry (“State­ment”). The Edmon­ton team of the Cana­di­an Foot­ball League (CFL) has sim­i­lar­ly indi­cat­ed that, after an inter­nal dis­cus­sion, the team will also change their name. Not only sports mas­cots, but the West­ern film genre, adver­tis­ing, and mar­ket­ing are exam­ples of the use and func­tion of the “Indi­an” in North Amer­i­can cul­ture. The dif­fuse­ness of these tropes expos­es the racist blind spot that allows for the “Dead Indi­an” to be both present and absent in con­tem­po­rary North Amer­i­can life.

This ten­sion con­tin­ues to gen­er­ate con­tro­ver­sy. In a recent ple­nary at the Soci­ety of His­to­ri­ans of the Ear­ly Amer­i­can Repub­lic (SHEAR), Daniel Feller argued that Andrew Jackson’s lega­cy in regards to the Indi­an Removal Act (1830) and oth­er acts of geno­cide, was not “as bad” as we think (@historianess). Such a state­ment attempts to “white­wash” his­tor­i­cal fact and sit­u­ate Indige­nous peo­ples in the past, with­out an active pres­ence. In rela­tion to the art and art his­to­ry of the Amer­i­can West, painters, sculp­tors, and pho­tog­ra­phers of the late-19th and ear­ly-20th cen­tu­ry rushed to pre­serve the last rem­nants of the “dying” Indige­nous cul­tures, a trope that that sit­u­ates Indige­nous peo­ples in the role of vic­tim. Edward Curtis’s pho­tographs are a promi­nent and visu­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion of this process. Typ­i­cal­ly dressed in tra­di­tion­al cloth­ing and often pos­ing for pic­tures in stu­dios, the Indige­nous peo­ple who sat for his pho­tographs were con­sis­tent­ly depict­ed as the cul­tur­al arche­type of the “Dead Indi­an,” the defeat­ed war­rior rid­ing his tired horse west as artic­u­lat­ed in James Ear­le Frasier’s sculp­ture End of the Trail (1918). Orig­i­nal­ly under­stood to be a trib­ute to Indige­nous peo­ples, the works of both Cur­tis and Frasi­er have con­tributed direct­ly to the ahis­tor­i­cal image of North Amer­i­can Indige­nous cul­tures. These images clear­ly sit­u­ate Indige­nous peo­ples as relics of the past, and set­tler cul­ture made a point of “cel­e­brat­ing” Indige­nous soci­ety at the very moment when it was seen to have been effaced.

Monkman and the Postindian

As the Smithsonian’s Amer­i­cans exhi­bi­tion proves, the roman­ti­cised, nos­tal­gic, and loaded image of the “Dead Indi­an” remains entrenched in the Amer­i­can imag­i­nary, one of “White North America’s sig­ni­fiers of Indi­an authen­tic­i­ty” (King 55). How­ev­er, con­tem­po­rary Indige­nous respons­es have begun to reclaim the image and chal­lenge its harm­ful, neo-roman­tic ele­ments through a vari­ety of mul­ti­me­dia plat­forms. Kent Monkman is one such artist. In re-appro­pri­at­ing the appro­pri­a­tion of Indige­nous images, Monkman draws atten­tion to the con­struct­ed nature of deeply root­ed, cul­tur­al stereo­types. By adding his voice and cre­at­ing con­ver­sa­tions, espe­cial­ly con­tro­ver­sial ones, Monkman forces his view­ers to engage crit­i­cal­ly with their atti­tudes towards North Amer­i­can Indige­nous peo­ples and con­tem­plate how far paint­ings should be regard­ed as arte­facts of his­to­ry. In speak­ing of his work, Monkman express­es “a desire to look at his­to­ry as it was writ­ten by Euro­peans, but to look at it through an Abo­rig­i­nal lens” (qtd. in Gonick), some­thing all the more nec­es­sary because “[m]odernity espoused a will­ful amne­sia about the past” (Mil­roy 76).

Monkman plays with King’s “Dead Indi­an” trope by expos­ing the gaps in, and con­ven­tions asso­ci­at­ed with, the image. King calls the trope a sim­u­lacrum that rep­re­sents some­thing that nev­er exist­ed. Here, he bor­rows from Anishi­naabe schol­ar Ger­ald Vizenor, who, in coin­ing the term “native sur­vivance,” has not­ed the Euro-Amer­i­can nar­ra­tive does not rec­og­nize an Indige­nous pres­ence. Vizenor under­scores the oth­er­ing that is invoked with the term Indi­an, as it indi­cates an absence of natives, where­as “natives are a native cre­ation” and thus “the sto­ries of sur­vivance” (Vizenor, Fugi­tive Pos­es 27). The indi­gene is the noble sav­age, pas­sive and anachro­nis­tic while the absence of natives rep­re­sents the space between and the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of Indigeneity.

This absence allows the “Dead Indi­an” to rep­re­sent the needs of main­stream soci­ety, a rep­re­sen­ta­tion­al void of Indige­nous con­tent. By using the coloniser’s terms of indi­ans and indi­gene, Vizenor empha­sizes the tropes asso­ci­at­ed with igno­ble and noble sav­agery, con­cepts both pas­sive­ly and deeply entrenched in 18th- and 19th-cen­tu­ry dis­cours­es and igno­rant of (con­tem­po­rary) Indige­nous issues. King’s argu­ment about the imposter-like sta­tus of “Dead Indi­an” cul­ture in North Amer­i­ca when jux­ta­posed with con­tem­po­rary Indige­nous cul­tures high­lights the insta­bil­i­ty, incon­sis­ten­cies, and even more impor­tant­ly, the stay­ing pow­er of the “Dead Indi­an” image (75). Native sur­vivance explains why artists like Monkman act as cru­cial agents of change in chal­leng­ing these tropes. For Vizenor, the action of indict­ing the dom­i­nant cul­ture is a key aspect of sur­vivance. It “is more than sur­vival, more than endurance or mere response; the sto­ries of sur­vivance are an active pres­ence… The native sto­ries of sur­vivance are suc­ces­sive and nat­ur­al estates; sur­vivance is an active repu­di­a­tion of dom­i­nance, tragedy and vic­tim­ry” (Vizenor, Fugi­tive Pos­es 15). In con­nec­tion with the active pres­ence and agency of native sur­vivance, Vizenor coined anoth­er term: postin­di­an. The postin­di­an is anoth­er indict­ment of the dom­i­nant dis­course sur­round­ing the term Indi­an. In Postin­di­an Con­ver­sa­tions (1999), Vizenor returns to the ideas expressed in Fugi­tive Pos­es regard­ing sur­vivance and sim­u­la­tions, and in con­ver­sa­tion with A. Robert Lee he argues that “we are long past the colo­nial inven­tion of the indi­an” (Vizenor and Lee 84). Draw­ing on post­struc­tur­al phi­los­o­phy, Vizenor’s postin­di­an reflects an Indige­nous pres­ence, one that vis­i­bly acknowl­edges trib­al iden­ti­ty, affil­i­a­tions, and diver­si­ty among North Amer­i­can Indige­nous peo­ples and resists arti­fi­cial or blan­ket names giv­en by the dom­i­nant society.

Monkman’s work can be under­stood as an act of native sur­vivance as he recon­fig­ures through his Indige­nous lens paint­ings, images, and forms from vary­ing Euro-Amer­i­can art move­ments, includ­ing neo­clas­si­cism, Amer­i­can West­ern art, and land­scape paint­ing, to focus explic­it­ly on Indige­nous his­to­ries. But Monkman puts his own spe­cial “post” stamp on Vizenor’s postin­di­an. Accom­pa­ny­ing Monkman on his jour­ney to reframe and chal­lenge the dom­i­nant under­stand­ings of North Amer­i­can his­to­ry is his alter-ego, the dan­ger­ous­ly beau­ti­ful, gen­der flu­id trick­ster fig­ure, Miss Chief Eagle Testick­le, whose name is a play on both the words mis­chief and ego­tis­ti­cal as well as the male sex organs. Includ­ing an homage to the singer Cher, Miss Chief’s name orig­i­nal­ly includ­ed Share, Monkman high­light­ing the “half-breed” phase of Cher's career in the 1970s (Katz 19). With Louis Vuit­ton quiv­ers, rac­coon jock straps, and an expen­sive taste in cham­pagne, Miss Chief decol­o­nizes postin­di­an gen­der and sex­u­al­i­ty with pomp and grandeur. In Sep­tem­ber 2017, for exam­ple, her “cre­ative union” with the French fash­ion design­er Jean Paul Gaulti­er was filmed as a wed­ding video at Montreal’s Musée des Beaux Arts (Monkman “Anoth­er Feath­er in her Bon­net”). Miss Chief’s gen­der flu­id­i­ty “reminds us that the mak­ing of his­to­ry is a flu­id and sub­ject process that entails con­stant inquiry and reeval­u­a­tion,” as does Monkman’s work in gen­er­al (Madill 28). By adding Miss Chief to the nar­ra­tive, Monkman desta­bi­lizes the gaze of set­tler-colo­nial view­ers. Nar­ra­tives includ­ing the set­tling of the West are viewed from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive. Ger­ald McMas­ter (Cree) observes:

We don’t see the rape of the (fem­i­nine) land­scape by the mas­cu­line new­com­er; instead we see how Monkman, via Miss Chief/the Abo­rig­i­nal male, revers­es the pow­er rela­tions. S/he toys with the Euro­pean in a sex­u­al­ized way that doesn’t de-mas­culin­ize him but rather plays against the his­toric-het­ero dis­course. This is how we should read Monkman’s work, because he embarks on a new tra­jec­to­ry by forc­ing new read­ings of the so-called Amer­i­can land­scape. (McMas­ter 96)

This nuanced rever­sal of pow­er rela­tions forces view­ers to recon­sid­er their under­stand­ings of North Amer­i­can his­to­ry in light of the Indige­nous view­point. The vis­i­bil­i­ty of dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tives sur­round­ing both North Amer­i­ca and the idea of “the West” leads to a more com­plex and intri­cate read­ing of his­to­ries sur­round­ing the found­ing myths of North America.

Repainting the Masters, Translating Bierstadt

Monkman’s land­scape-paint­ing oeu­vre is exten­sive, with the major­i­ty of his ear­ly work stem­ming from his visu­al retellings of the sto­ry of the 19th-cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can West. While for his exhi­bi­tion at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art he did not repaint Amer­i­can West land­scape paint­ings, Monkman did rein­ter­pret Emanuel Leutze’s Wash­ing­ton Cross­ing the Delaware (1851), a sem­i­nal por­trai­ture of US Amer­i­can his­to­ry. Mas­ter­ful­ly, if iron­i­cal­ly, his land­scapes offer nar­ra­tives that with the help of Miss Chief, her fol­low­ers, and lovers refig­ure the buf­fa­lo, deer, and the “Dead Indi­an” in the works of the 19th-cen­tu­ry Euro-Amer­i­can writ­ers and artists, who, as we saw above, attempt­ed to pre­serve and remem­ber Indige­nous peo­ples of North America.

Fig. 1: Bier­stadt, Albert. Among the Sier­ra Neva­da, Cal­i­for­nia. 1868.

Monkman’s 2006 The Trap­pers of Men is a rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of Albert Bierstadt’s 1868 Among the Sier­ra Moun­tains. Bierstadt’s paint­ing, which is oil on can­vas and hangs in the Smith­son­ian Amer­i­can Art Muse­um, was paint­ed in his stu­dio in Rome, Italy. Cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the Euro­pean fas­ci­na­tion with North Amer­i­ca and the Amer­i­can West, Bier­stadt was known for his show­man­ship and busi­ness acu­men as well as his work. Paint­ings such as Among the Sier­ra Moun­tains were roman­ti­cized con­cep­tions of the Amer­i­can West intend­ed to sell on the Euro­pean mar­ket. They were also a source of inspi­ra­tion for new immi­grants to Amer­i­ca, which was viewed as the land of oppor­tu­ni­ty, promise, and above all in the West: space, por­trayed as wild and untamed nature, devoid of any human pop­u­la­tion. The paint­ing does not include an Indige­nous voice, nor was it meant to—it is a Euro­pean roman­ti­cised notion of the Amer­i­can West tar­get­ing a Euro-Amer­i­can audi­ence. The can­vas is a peace­ful, ide­al­ized land­scape, and the fore­ground is replete with deer on the shore of a calm lake as ducks fly off into the air. To the left a large water­fall is emp­ty­ing into the lake with the pow­er­ful pres­ence of the moun­tains fram­ing the back­ground of the paint­ing, with a small­er, sec­ondary water­fall in the mid­dle of the scene. The light­ing con­tributes to the soft glow reflect­ing off the moun­tains at sun­set and solid­i­fies the roman­tic notions found in the painting.

Monkman’s acrylic on can­vas ver­sion, which is part of the Mon­tre­al Muse­um of Fine Arts col­lec­tion, resets time and sub­sti­tutes the ani­mals from Bierstadt’s paint­ing with promi­nent char­ac­ters in North Amer­i­can (art) his­to­ry, empha­siz­ing the pre­vail­ing Euro­pean notion of Indige­nous peo­ples’ roman­ti­cized rela­tion­ship to nature and under­scor­ing that often Indige­nous peo­ples were used inter­change­ably or syn­ony­mous­ly with ani­mals such as buf­fa­lo and viewed as on par with them. Monkman’s paint­ing is set at mid­day, which, as Melis­sa Elston notes, is an obvi­ous rejec­tion of Bierstadt’s sun­set, a com­mon motif in 19th-cen­tu­ry paint­ings used to sym­bol­ise the set­tling of the Amer­i­can West as the end of an era lead­ing to the dawn of anoth­er (188). In the fore­ground to the right the great explor­ers Lewis and Clark are con­sult­ing a map, while a semi-nude cow­boy seems to be help­ing them. The Yank­ton­ais win­ter count keep­er, Lone Dog, is work­ing on the win­ter count that bears his name, and although not his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate in regard to the pro­duc­tion of Bierstadt’s paint­ing, this win­ter count is from the year the Lako­ta defeat­ed Custer (1876) at the bat­tle the Lako­ta call of the Greasy Grass but which is more com­mon­ly known as the Bat­tle of the Lit­tle Bighorn.4 As Monkman explains, this image dis­places events deemed impor­tant or even leg­endary by Euro­peans, which the Lako­ta viewed as triv­ial or insignif­i­cant (Timm). To the left of Lone Dog and the way­ward explor­ers, we find Jack­son Pol­lack and Piet Mon­dri­an, both abstract artists but at oppo­site ends of the abstract art spec­trum. Pol­lack, who was born in Cody, Wyoming, and died at the age of 44 as a result of an alco­hol-relat­ed sin­gle-car acci­dent, is shown hold­ing a bot­tle of alco­hol while he drags Mon­dri­an away from the abstract paint­ing he is work­ing on. Or is he catch­ing Mon­dri­an as he faints after see­ing Miss Chief? Alexan­der Macken­zie is to the right of the painters. Macken­zie, who com­plet­ed the first cross­ing of Amer­i­ca from east to west 12 years before Lewis and Clark, is try­ing to calm the rear­ing horse Whistle­jack­et, based on a paint­ing by George Stubbs in 1762. Belong­ing to the Mar­quess of Rock­ing­ham, Whistle­jack­et was an aris­to­crat­ic race­horse that Stubbs paint­ed to per­fec­tion, high­light­ing the beau­ty of the Ara­bi­an thor­ough­bred (Rosen­thal). By includ­ing the race­horse and the British explor­er Macken­zie as he tries to con­trol the rear­ing and untamed beast from the Ori­ent, Monkman’s paint­ing calls atten­tion to the com­pli­cat­ed glob­al lega­cies of colo­nial­ism, exoti­cism, and Indi­gene­ity. The rest of the right-hand side of the can­vas con­sists of half-naked cow­boys, George Catlin and one of his por­traits on the grass beside Lone Dog and then a Cana­di­an moniker in the paint­ing: a Hudson’s Bay point blan­ket, rest­ing between him and a half-naked RCMP offi­cer along with an Indige­nous man smok­ing a pipe.5 Edward Cur­tis, locat­ed front left, is tak­ing con­trived pho­tos of two Indige­nous men, who have removed their long hair and feath­ers but are wear­ing pink lip­stick, indi­cat­ing a flu­id­i­ty of sex­u­al­i­ty and an indict­ment of the hyper­mas­culin­i­ty asso­ci­at­ed with both the “Dead Indi­an” and Cur­tis’ work. But Cur­tis has turned from his work to view the true spec­ta­cle of the piece, Miss Chief Eagle Tes­ti­cle, as she ris­es out of the water in a style rem­i­nis­cent of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus (1485-1486). Blonde, naked, erect, and in pink high heels, Miss Chief stares seduc­tive­ly at the men in the front right of the paint­ing, all of whom have stopped what they are doing to gaze at the won­der ris­ing from the water. Miss Chief is the “Trap­pers of Men,” a gen­der flu­id fig­ure whose re-enact­ment of The Birth of Venus is an exam­ple of Monkman’s provoca­tive play­ing with canon­i­cal Euro­pean art works. Unri­valled in her sala­cious beau­ty, she is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the oth­er trap­pers of men, who, like Miss Chief, slip between the Euro-Amer­i­can under­stand­ings of sex­u­al­i­ty, entic­ing the cow­boy as he trav­els West. The Birth of Venus is wide­ly under­stood as an icon­ic image embody­ing the essence of clas­sic, vir­ginal female beau­ty. In sit­u­at­ing Miss Chief as the focal point of The Trap­pers of Men, Monkman trans­lates the chaste, divine love the clas­si­cal god­dess rep­re­sents into a wan­ton erot­ic appeal that departs from the het­ero­nor­ma­tive dis­course tra­di­tion­al­ly found in West­ern art.

Monkman’s can­vas is large at 213.4 cm x 365.8 cm (84” x 144”), but there is no sec­ond guess­ing the main focal point of the scene. Sur­round­ed by her friends, lovers, and aspir­ing lovers, Miss Chief com­mands the set­ting as the moun­tains seem to fade into the back­ground and every char­ac­ter is watch­ing in won­der at her emer­gence from the lake. This sig­nals the mak­ing vis­i­ble of repressed his­to­ries, both Indige­nous and queer, absent in the tra­di­tion­al gen­res of art, his­to­ry, and the mythol­o­gy of the West. Bierstadt’s paint­ing empha­sizes the absence of (white) peo­ple, show­ing a serene set­ting, wait­ing to be explored and set­tled. Unlike The Last of the Buf­fa­lo, to which I turn next, Trap­pers of Men does not show­case the vio­lence and atroc­i­ties that took place in the set­tling of the Amer­i­can West. Rather, it pop­u­lates the false his­to­ries Bier­stadt pro­mul­gat­ed to ful­fill the expec­ta­tions of view­ers on the East­ern seaboard or in Europe, far removed from the real­i­ties of the Amer­i­can West. Trap­pers of Men works to sub­vert the mythol­o­gy of the West as open and emp­ty by recast­ing and revers­ing the gaze to sub­vert Euro-Amer­i­can norms and expec­ta­tions of art his­to­ry and history.

Fig.2: Bier­stadt, Albert. The Last of the Buf­fa­lo. 1888.

The sec­ond Bier­stadt paint­ing of inter­est here that Monkman has reworked is the 1888 oil on can­vas Last of the Buf­fa­lo, a paint­ing that I saw when at the Buf­fa­lo Bill Cen­ter of the West in Cody, Wyoming. Imme­di­ate­ly, I was struck by the pow­er of the scene: the dec­i­ma­tion and car­nage of the buf­fa­lo car­cass­es with the arrest­ing land­scape in the back­ground, togeth­er with the lone war­rior, his spear raised as his horse is gored by one of the remain­ing buf­fa­lo. It rep­re­sent­ed to me the roman­ti­ci­sa­tion of the Amer­i­can West, the under­stand­ing that the fron­tier was now closed, with the buf­fa­lo and war­rior rem­nants of an era now firm­ly sit­u­at­ed in the past. Called Bierstadt’s “final, great, west­ern paint­ing” (Nation­al Gallery of Art), it is also one of Bierstadt’s most famous, as well as an icon­ic exam­ple of 19th-cen­tu­ry art of the Amer­i­can West. The title of the paint­ing is a clear ref­er­ence to the expect­ed extinc­tion of the plains buf­fa­lo, togeth­er with the Indige­nous peo­ples and their tra­di­tion­al way of life. Buf­fa­lo were essen­tial to the sur­vival of many Indige­nous tribes, and the set­tler expan­sion of the West cou­pled with exces­sive over­hunt­ing and the inten­tion­al destruc­tion of the buf­fa­lo as a pol­i­cy to destroy them as a source of food and cloth­ing for Indige­nous pop­u­la­tions led to the rapid decrease in buf­fa­lo num­bers and left Plains Indi­an tribes dec­i­mat­ed. Bierstadt’s paint­ing explic­it­ly high­lights the “Dead Indi­an” trope along with the anni­hi­la­tion of the buf­fa­lo, from approx­i­mate­ly 30 mil­lion at the turn of the 19th cen­tu­ry to 1,000 by 1888. The fore­ground of the paint­ing is lit­tered with buf­fa­lo skulls, car­cas­es, a dead horse, and an Indige­nous war­rior beside a seem­ing­ly melan­choly buf­fa­lo rest­ing with its head on its hooves after killing the hunter, while anoth­er buf­fa­lo stands alone on the left watch­ing the main action of the paint­ing, ready to defend itself. A lone war­rior on a white horse with his spear raised is ready to attack a buf­fa­lo in the process of gorg­ing the under­bel­ly of his horse. To the right in the back­ground there are oth­er fig­ures hunt­ing buf­fa­lo, with the same steely resolve as the pro­tag­o­nist of the paint­ing. The near­ly extinct buf­fa­lo and the near­ly extinct hunter in his tra­di­tion­al dress and hunt­ing style rep­re­sent the impend­ing clos­ing of the fron­tier from a hyper-roman­ti­cized and nos­tal­gic per­spec­tive. In the mid­dle of the paint­ing, buf­fa­lo are seen cross­ing the riv­er, mov­ing west away from the encroach­ing set­tler, and plen­ti­ful in num­ber – a direct con­trast to the real­i­ty of the time. In the back­ground the plains give way to a riv­er basin, and final­ly snow-capped peaks can be seen in the dis­tance, imply­ing the seem­ing­ly end­less unoc­cu­pied space and free­dom of the West itself.

Monkman’s 2009 Death of Ado­nis re-envi­sions this Bier­stadt paint­ing. Ado­nis’ death is a well-uti­lized scene in art his­to­ry with mas­ters such as Peter Paul Ruebens (1614) and Ben­jamin West (1768) offer­ing inter­pre­ta­tions of the ancient Greek myth. Ado­nis was the son of Myrrha and her father, King Cinyras of Cyprus, after Aphrodite had cast a spell on Myrrha, trick­ing her into the liai­son. Ado­nis was raised by Perse­phone, the Queen of the Under­world, and became a beau­ti­ful young man, which led Perse­phone and Aphrodite to fight over him. Zeus set­tled the mat­ter, hav­ing Ado­nis spend a third of his time with Perse­phone, a third with Aphrodite, and the final third with whomev­er he pleased, which he spent with Aphrodite. One day while out hunt­ing, Ado­nis was charged by a wild boar and died in Aphrodite’s arms. Their tears mixed togeth­er, cre­at­ing a fast-grow­ing flower. The cen­tral idea of the myth is the death and res­ur­rec­tion of Ado­nis, which, like the flower, is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the change of sea­sons. Monkman inserts the Greek myth into the 19th-cen­tu­ry roman­ti­cised paint­ing of the Amer­i­can West to cre­ate a sex­u­al­ized sub­ver­sion of both myth and painting.

Monkman’s repaint­ing of the Bier­stadt can­vas seem­ing­ly effort­less­ly recap­tures the essence of the orig­i­nal. The buf­fa­lo car­cass­es and skulls remain, as do the myr­i­ad of buf­fa­lo cross­ing the riv­er in the mid­dle of the can­vas and the expan­sive sky and snow-capped moun­tains in the dis­tance. The war­rior in Bierstadt’s paint­ing is replaced, how­ev­er, by quite pos­si­bly a more accu­rate his­tor­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion: that of a white cow­boy on a horse being gorged by a buf­fa­lo. The spear is also replaced with a rifle that has been fired into the far right of the can­vas as the rid­er los­es his bal­ance while try­ing not to fall off the horse, arguably shoot­ing his com­rade in the mid­dle right of the work. This is an inter­est­ing depar­ture from Bierstadt’s paint­ing. The war­rior of the orig­i­nal dis­plays expert horse­man­ship and resolve, as he is com­plete­ly con­cen­trat­ed on the buf­fa­lo. Monkman’s cow­boys in the back­ground seem to lack their Indige­nous coun­ter­parts’ skills. In the front right of Death of Ado­nis, the two main char­ac­ters draw the viewer’s eye: a cow­boy hold­ing a rifle in his right hand with his shirt open, dis­plays his mor­tal wound as his lover, Miss Chief Eagle Testick­le, dressed in a sheer pink loin­cloth and thigh-high pink stilet­to boots, holds him and seems to stare regret­ful­ly at the buf­fa­lo behind her, per­haps at the one that gored her lover, almost as if she has to choose between the two. The cow­boy boot lay­ing metres from the body indi­cates that it was the buf­fa­lo that took his life, knock­ing him off his feet. The lone buf­fa­lo of Bierstadt’s paint­ing is depict­ed in the same aggres­sive stance in Monkman’s rework­ing, pre­pared to charge if pro­voked, while the dead war­rior is replaced by a calf, per­haps sug­gest­ing the con­ti­nu­ity of life. The melan­choly buf­fa­lo remains front-cen­tre, pos­si­bly as the per­pe­tra­tor of Adonis’s death.

By replac­ing the war­riors with cow­boys and adding the lovers Miss Chief (Aphrodite) and Ado­nis, and Miss Chief’s ambigu­ous stare at the melan­choly buf­fa­lo, Monkman breathes life into a quin­tes­sen­tial image that has tra­di­tion­al­ly been accept­ed as rep­re­sent­ing the demise of an entire species and way of life. Even the title Death of Ado­nis chal­lenges and forces the dom­i­nant dis­course to acknowl­edge the resilience of Indige­nous peo­ples. The Last of the Buf­fa­lo is still con­sid­ered an icon­ic piece, one which Monkman has trans­lat­ed in a way that priv­i­leges Indige­nous ways of life and includes his gen­der-flu­id, postin­di­an diva-warrior.

Conclusion

What one sees in these two Monkman paint­ings is his sophis­ti­cat­ed, play­ful approach to trans­la­tion, recre­at­ing Indige­nous expe­ri­ences, sto­ries, and cul­tures that con­tra­dict, indict, and decon­struct the dom­i­nant frame­work of canon­i­cal Euro-Amer­i­can (art) his­to­ry. His work rep­re­sents a shift­ing of the pic­ture, a re-telling of his­to­ries, and a re-enliven­ing of the “Dead Indi­an” trope. By using Euro­pean mytholo­gies, under­stand­ings, and roman­ti­ciza­tions of the Amer­i­can West, Monkman is using the colonis­ers’ tools against them. As he cre­ates dif­fer­ent visu­al­i­ties regard­ing set­tler-indige­nous rela­tions in North Amer­i­ca, Monkman shows the view­er how much still remains to be done to bring Indige­nous his­to­ries to light and life. His work is not meant to be all-encom­pass­ing of Indige­nous iden­ti­ties but rather to encour­age fur­ther retrans­la­tions in the spir­it of Miss Chief hold­ing a mir­ror to set­tler-colo­nial nar­ra­tives of the Amer­i­can West. While Monkman may have over­stepped in Han­ky Panky, he was quick to acknowl­edge that it did “fail in its mes­sage to address the vic­tim­i­sa­tion of Indige­nous women” (Angeleti), but this is under­stand­able as his work has not been about trans­lat­ing past wrongs. Rather, as the analy­sis here shows, Monkman’s tal­ent for trans­la­tion involves find­ing ade­quate images from the past to repur­pose for the present, and doing so has the poten­tial to rel­e­gate King’s “Dead Indi­an” image to the past, where it belongs.

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Mil­roy, Sarah. “His­toric Drag: Kent Monkman’s New Show Redress­es Colo­nial Art.” The Wal­rus. 22 April 2014, https://​the​wal​rus​.ca/​h​i​s​t​o​r​i​c​-​d​r​ag/. Accessed 14 July 2020.

Monkman, Kent. “Han­ky Panky Apol­o­gy.” Insta­gram, 18 May 2020, https://​www​.insta​gram​.com/​p​/​C​A​W​u​v​6​u​g​z​V​N​/​?​i​g​s​h​i​d​=​1​x​9​v​b​9​v​4​j​l​aoc. Accessed 15 July 2020.

—. “Anoth­er Feath­er in her Bon­net.” Online video clip. YouTube, 24 Jan­u­ary 2019. https://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​8​g​M​w​w​f​1​x​F​p​c​&​a​b​_​c​h​a​n​n​e​l​=​K​e​n​t​M​o​n​k​m​a​n​S​t​u​dio. Accessed 20 July 2020.

Mor­gensen, Scott Lau­ria. Spaces between Us: Queer Set­tler Colo­nial­ism and Indige­nous Decol­o­niza­tion. U of Min­neso­ta P, 2011.

Porter, Cather­ine. “‘Genius’ or ‘Amoral’? Artist’s Lat­est Angers Indige­nous Cana­di­ans.” The New York Times, 28 May 2020, https://​www​.nytimes​.com/​2​0​2​0​/​0​5​/​2​8​/​w​o​r​l​d​/​c​a​n​a​d​a​/​p​a​i​n​t​i​n​g​-​c​a​n​a​d​a​-​m​o​n​k​m​a​n​-​t​r​u​d​e​a​u​-​i​n​d​i​g​e​n​o​u​s​.​h​tml. Accessed 22 July 2020.

Rosen­thal, Tom. “George Stubbs, Painter, by Judy Egerton.” The Inde­pen­dent, 27 Novem­ber 2007, https://​www​.inde​pen​dent​.co​.uk/​a​r​t​s​-​e​n​t​e​r​t​a​i​n​m​e​n​t​/​b​o​o​k​s​/​r​e​v​i​e​w​s​/​g​e​o​r​g​e​-​s​t​u​b​b​s​-​p​a​i​n​t​e​r​-​b​y​-​j​u​d​y​-​e​g​e​r​t​o​n​-​7​6​0​0​3​0​.​h​tml. Accessed 22 July 2020.

Simp­son, Audra. Mohawk Interup­tus: Polit­i­cal Life Across the Bor­ders of Set­tler States. Duke UP, 2014.

Simp­son, Audra, and Andrea Smith, edi­tors. The­o­riz­ing Native Stud­ies. Duke UP, 2014.

Simp­son, Leanne Betasamosake. As We Have Always Done: Indige­nous Free­dom through Rad­i­cal Resis­tance. U of Min­neso­ta P, 2017.

State­ment from the Wash­ing­ton Foot­ball Team.” Red­skins, 13 July 2020, https://​www​.red​skins​.com/​n​e​w​s​/​w​a​s​h​i​n​g​t​o​n​-​r​e​d​s​k​i​n​s​-​r​e​t​i​r​i​n​g​-​n​a​m​e​-​l​o​g​o​-​f​o​l​l​o​w​i​n​g​-​r​e​v​iew. Accessed 22 July 2020.

Timm, Jor­dan. “Land­scape with Sexy Trans­ves­tite.” Maclean’s, 31 Decem­ber 2007, https://​archive​.macleans​.ca/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​/​2​0​0​7​/​1​2​/​3​1​/​l​a​n​d​s​c​a​p​e​-​w​i​t​h​-​s​e​x​y​-​t​r​a​n​s​v​e​s​t​ite. Accessed 12 July 2020.

Vizenor, Ger­ald. “Trick­ster Dis­course.” Nar­ra­tive Chance: Post­mod­ern Dis­course on Native Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture, edit­ed by Ger­ald Vizenor. U of Okla­homa P, 1993, pp.187-212.

—, ed. Nar­ra­tive Chance: Post­mod­ern Dis­course on Native Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture. U of Okla­homa P, 1993.

—. Man­i­fest Man­ners: Postin­di­an War­riors of Sur­vivance. Wes­leyan UP, 1994.

—. Fugi­tive Pos­es: Native Amer­i­can Indi­an Scenes of Absence and Pres­ence. U of Nebras­ka P, 1998.

— and Lee, A. Robert. Postin­di­an Con­ver­sa­tions. U of Nebras­ka P, 1999.

Image Notes

Fig. 1: Bier­stadt, Albert. Among the Sier­ra Neva­da, Cal­i­for­nia. 1868. Oil on can­vas. Smith­son­ian Amer­i­can Art Muse­um, Wash­ing­ton, DC. https://​amer​i​ca​nart​.si​.edu/​a​r​t​w​o​r​k​/​a​m​o​n​g​-​s​i​e​r​r​a​-​n​e​v​a​d​a​-​c​a​l​i​f​o​r​n​i​a​-​2​059. Accessed Decem­ber 21, 2020.

Fig. 2: Bier­stadt, Albert. The Last of the Buf­fa­lo. 1888. Oil on can­vas. Nation­al Gallery of Art, Wash­ing­ton, DC. https://​www​.nga​.gov/​c​o​l​l​e​c​t​i​o​n​/​a​r​t​-​o​b​j​e​c​t​-​p​a​g​e​.​1​2​4​5​2​5​.​h​tml. Accessed Decem­ber 21, 2020.

Notes


  1. Monkman issued an apol­o­gy on his Insta­gram account, acknowl­edg­ing that he did not make the ele­ments of con­sent clear enough. He removed any ref­er­ence to the oki­hc­itâwiskwêwak from his paint­ing (Monkman).

  2. Two of the most recent exam­ples, aside from Han­ky Panky, are from his Great Hall com­mis­sion “mist­ikôsi­wak Wood­en Boat Peo­ple” at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art in New York, NY, Wel­com­ing the New­com­ers (2019) and Resur­gence of the Peo­ple (2019).

  3. The evo­lu­tion of Miss Chief has been accom­pa­nied by mul­ti­ple labels and terms such as berdache, two-spir­it, and most recent­ly gen­der flu­id to expose the inac­cu­ra­cies of dif­fer­ent Indige­nous his­to­ries found in the dom­i­nant dis­course. Berdache, for exam­ple, is a prob­lem­at­ic term that Indige­nous activists towards the end of the 1980s called “an erro­neous colo­nial term that rep­re­sent­ed Native peo­ples in pri­mor­dial and gen­er­al­iz­ing terms, while pro­ject­ing mas­culin­ism and sex­u­al­i­sa­tion onto them” (Mor­gensen 81). Painters such as George Catlin often chose to ignore two-spir­it fig­ures as they were in strik­ing con­trast to the het­ero­nor­ma­tive par­a­digm of Chris­t­ian cul­ture, and so they tried to write, or in Catlin’s case, paint them out of his­to­ry.

  4. Yank­ton­ais is one of three lan­guage groups that make up Sioux.

  5. The Hudson’s Bay point blan­ket was the Hudson’s Bay Company’s most trad­ed good when it was at the height of its pow­er in North Amer­i­ca. As the HBC expand­ed west, the blan­kets were often trad­ed with Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties and con­tributed direct­ly to the expo­sure to dis­eases such as small pox, from which Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties were not immune (Gis­mon­di).