College of Arts and Science


Art History

Faculty Mentor

Ken Allan, PhD

Faculty Editor

Ken Allan, PhD

Student Editor

Michael Pazen


In recent decades, post-colonial theory has allowed for scholars to re-contextualize American history, challenging the mythic narrative of the founding and settlement of the United States. This awareness of settler colonialism’s effect on every aspect of society calls for widespread accountability towards dismantling colonial legacies within the Americas. Such a shift in understanding has inherent consequences for the arts, raising the question: how do visual arts and their institutions function within the settler-colonial context of North America? As the subjects of ongoing settler-colonialism, Native American artists are uniquely positioned to participate in the dismantlement of the colonial legacy of art museums. Accordingly, this essay examines how contemporary indigenous artists lead the post-colonial interrogation of the art museum by challenging Western art conventions, the colonial legacy of North America, and the assumptions of non-Native viewers through their art. I argue that indigenous modes of self-representation are instrumental in creating an effective post-colonial art rhetoric, and that Native artists achieve this representation by imbuing their art with a sense of self-determination that can be understood through indigenous survivance. Through an examination of Jeffery Gibson’s recent exhibition, Like A Hammer, I explore how survivance is used to interrogate, re-appropriate, dismantle, and then rebuild the (re)presentations of indigeneity beyond the mythologized “Indian.” As a result, this essay carefully considers how indigenous survivance interrupts settler-colonial narratives and museum spaces.