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Thinking, Making, Writing: Indigenous Studies and Art History in the Museum, Classroom, and Community

April 29, 2021
11:30 – 2:30 pm

Schedule for the Day (Central Standard Time):
  • 11:30 am-12:30 pm: Keynote Lecture by Philip J. Deloria, Leverett Saltonstall Professor of History, Harvard University
  • 12:30-1 pm: Break
  • 1-2:30 pm: Roundtable

Keynote Lecture, Phil Deloria:

Art/History, Spirit/Aura: The Work of Culture in the Age of Museal Production

The museum is a psychological and cultural play-space, always toying with the distinctions between universalism, similarity, and aesthetics, on the one hand and, on the other, differentiation, context, and history. Products of historical continuity and contingency in their own right, museums crystallize longstanding relations of coloniality and Indigenousness. Inevitably, they become key sites for considering decolonization, survivance, and alternative temporalities and epistemologies. All the while, the museum remains haunted, not only by history, but by the objects and images it contains.


This roundtable brings together an artist, two curators, and three scholars to reflect on the relation between Indigenous Studies and art history in their own work. The conversation may address the following questions (among others): What methods employed within Indigenous Studies might critically reshape art history? What might scholars of Indigenous visual and material culture draw from methods in art history? How are scholars and curators interweaving the approaches associated with both disciplines within museum exhibitions, university classrooms, and communities? How are artists guiding and responding to this work? Are certain tools more appropriate than others in specific cases and contexts? In what ways are issues of access, power, relationality, equity, and sovereignty reconfigured in one’s thinking, making, and writing, depending on the approach taken?


There are many excellent resources on this topic. Where available, links to open source articles and videos are included in the bibliography:

  • Benjamin, Walter, “Theses on the Philosophy of History” in Illuminations, ed., Hannah Arendt (NY: Schocken Books, 1969), 253-64.
  • Deloria, Philip J., “Face to the face with the past: At their best, museums invite us to extraordinary encounters” in Infinity of Nations: Art and History in the Collections of The National Museum of the American Indian, ed. Cécile R. Ganteaume (HarperCollins in association with the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 2010).
  • Deloria, Philip J., Becoming Mary Sully: Toward an American Indian Abstract (University of Washington Press, 2020).
  • Lonetree, Amy, “A Heritage of Resilience: Ho-Chunk Family Photographs in the Visual Archive” The Public Historian 41: 1 (February 2019): 34-50.
  • Lonetree, Amy, Decolonizing Museums: Representing Native America in National and Tribal Museums (University of North Carolina Press, 2012), selections.
  • Nanibush, Wanda, and others, “Shared Authority: Art in America asks five specialists to discuss practices and policies for decolonizing museums,” Art in America (October 2017).
  • Regan, Sheila, “Dyani White Hawk: Speaking to Relatives,” MN Artists, 4-12-2021.
  • Scott, Sascha, “Ana-Ethnographic Representation: Early Modern Pueblo Painters, Scientific Colonialism, and Tactics of Refusal,” Arts (2020).
  • Scott, Sascha, “Georgia O’Keeffe’s Hawai’i?: Decolonizing the History of American Modernism,” American Art 34: 2 (Summer 2020): 26-53.
  • Scott, Sascha, and Amy Lonetree, “The Past and the Future are Now,” Arts, special issue, “Native Survivance and Visual Sovereignty: Indigenous Visual and Material Culture in the 19th and 20th Centuries,” 2020, co-edited by Scott and Lonetree.
  • White Hawk Polk, Dyani, “The Long Game,” Arts, special issue, “Native Survivance and Visual Sovereignty: Indigenous Visual and Material Culture in the 19th and 20th Centuries,” 2020, co-edited by Sascha Scott and Amy Lonetree.
  • White Hawk Polk, Dyani, website.
  • Williamson Bathory, Laakkuluk. I am the light of happiness. Video of the performance at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and, Art Gallery of Ontario, Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak exhibition website.

Participant Biographies

Philip J. Deloria headshot
Philip J. Deloria

Philip J. Deloria is Leverett Saltonstall Professor of History at Harvard University, where his research and teaching focus on the social, cultural and political histories of the relations among American Indian peoples and the United States, as well as the comparative and connective histories of indigenous peoples in a global context. His first book, Playing Indian (1998), traced the tradition of white “Indian play” from the Boston Tea Party to the New Age movement, while his 2004 book Indians in Unexpected Places examined the ideologies surrounding Indian people in the early twentieth century and the ways Native Americans challenged them through sports, travel, automobility, and film and musical performance. His most recent book is Becoming Mary Sully: Toward an American Indian Abstract (2019), which recovers in Sully’s work a move toward an anti-colonial aesthetic that claimed a critical role for Indigenous women in American Indian futures—within and distinct from American modernity and modernism. Deloria is the co-author of American Studies: A User’s Guide (with Alexander Olson) and co-editor of The Blackwell Companion to American Indian History (with Neal Salisbury) and C.G. Jung and the Sioux Traditions by Vine Deloria (with Jerome Bernstein). He is currently coediting (with Beth Piatote) I Heart Nixon: Essays on the Indigenous Everyday. Deloria is a trustee of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, where he chairs the Repatriation Committee. He is former president of the American Studies Association, an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the recipient of numerous prizes and recognitions. Along with Erika Doss, he is the series editor of CultureAmerica, a University Press of Kansas series focused on American cultural history.



Dyani White Hawk Polk headshot
Dyani White Hawk Polk

Dyani White Hawk (Sičáŋǧu Lakota) is a visual artist and independent curator based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. White Hawk earned a MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2011) and BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico (2008). She served as Gallery Director and Curator for the All My Relations Gallery in Minneapolis from 2011-2015. Support for White Hawk’s work has included 2020 Carolyn Glasoe Bailey Foundation Minnesota Art Prize, 2019 United States Artists Fellowship in Visual Art, 2019 Eiteljorg Fellowship for Contemporary Art, 2019 Jerome Hill Artists Fellowship, 2019 Forecast for Public Art Mid-Career Development Grant, 2018 Nancy Graves Grant for Visual Artists, 2017 and 2015 Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Fellowships and 2014 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant. She has participated in residencies in Australia and Russia and Germany. Her work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Walker Art Center, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum, Denver Art Museum, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Tweed Museum of Art, IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Akta Lakota Museum among other public and private collections. She is represented by Bockley Gallery in Minneapolis.


Wanda Nanibush headshot
Wanda Nanibush

Wanda Nanibush (Anishinaabe-kwe) is Curator, Indigenous Art, and co-lead of the Indigenous + Canadian Art Department at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada. Her curatorial projects include: Karoo Ashevak (AGO, 2019); Rebecca Belmore Facing the Monumental (AGO, 2018); JS McLean Centre for Indigenous and Canadian Art (2018); Rita Letendre: Fire & Light (AGO, 2017); Toronto: Tributes + Tributaries, 1971-1989 (AGO, 2016); Sovereign Acts II (Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, 2017); and the award winning KWE: The work of Rebecca Belmore (Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, 2014). Nanibush has held various curatorial and academic roles across Canada since 2001. In addition to independent curation, Nanibush held the post of Aboriginal Arts Officer at the Ontario Arts Council, Executive Director of ANDPVA and strategic planning for CCA. She holds a Master’s Degree in visual studies from the University of Toronto, where she has also taught graduate courses. Nanibush has published widely in magazines, books, and journals, including the book Violence No More: The Rise of Indigenous Women.


Georgiana Uhlyarik headshot
Georgiana Uhlyarik

Georgiana Uhlyarik is Fredrik S. Eaton Curator, Canadian Art, and co-lead of the Indigenous + Canadian Art Department at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada. Her recent collaborations include exhibitions and publications: Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak, the J.S. McLean Centre for Indigenous + Canadian ArtGeorgia O’Keeffe (Tate Modern), Florine Stettheimer: Painting Poetry (Jewish Museum, NY); Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic (Terra Foundation for American Art and Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo); Introducing Suzy Lake and The Passion of Kathleen Munn. Uhlyarik is currently an adjunct faculty member in Art History departments at York University and University of Toronto, and research associate, Modern Literature & Culture, Ryerson University. Originally from Romania, she lives in Toronto with her twin sons.


Amy Lonetree headshot
Amy Lonetree

Amy Lonetree is an enrolled citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation and an Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She received her PhD in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Her scholarly research focuses on Indigenous history, visual culture studies, and museum studies, and she has received fellowships in support of this work from the School for Advanced Research, the Newberry Library, the Bard Graduate Center, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center, the Institute of American Cultures at UCLA, and the University of California, Berkeley Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program. Her publications include, Decolonizing Museums: Representing Native America in National and Tribal Museums (University of North Carolina Press, 2012); a co-edited book with Amanda J. Cobb, The National Museum of the American Indian: Critical Conversations (University of Nebraska Press, 2008); and a co-authored volume, People of the Big Voice: Photographs of Ho-Chunk Families by Charles Van Schaick, 1879-1942 (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2011)Amy is currently working on two new projects. The first is a visual history of the Ho-Chunk Nation. This research explores family history, tourism, settler colonialism, and Ho-Chunk survivance through an examination of two exceptional collections of studio portraits and tourist images of Ho-Chunk people taken between 1879-1960. The second research project is a historical study documenting the adoption of Indigenous children throughout the twentieth century.


Sascha Scott headshot
Sascha Scott

Sascha Scott is an Associate Professor of Art History in the Department of Art and Music Histories at Syracuse University. She also is part of the core faculty for the Native American and Indigenous Studies Program. Scott specializes in nineteenth and twentieth-century American and Native American art, with particular attention to the art and politics of the colonization of Indigenous lands and Native resistance against US imperialism. Scott’s publications include the book A Strange Mixture: The Art and Politics of Painting Pueblo Indians (2015) and numerous academic essays, including a 2013 Art Bulletin essay on San Ildefonso Pueblo painter Awa Tsireh, which won the College Art Association’s Arthur Kingsley Porter Prize. In 2020, she co-edited, with Amy Lonetree, a special issue of Arts on “Native Survivance and Visual Sovereignty: Indigenous Visual and Material Culture in the 19th and 20th Centuries.” Scott is currently working on two book projects, O’Keeffe Interrupted and Modern Pueblo Painting: Art, Colonization, and Indigenous Visual Sovereignty. The latter has been supported by a NEH summer grant, a Syracuse University Humanities Fellowship, and by a Brown University Howard Foundation Fellowship.