Beyond Survival: ‘Stories of Queer Native Survivance’ in Selected Works by Kent Monkman

by Charlotte Hoelke

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On May 17, 2013, Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art opened at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. The exhibition featured works by over 80 indigenous artists fromacross the globe. Their works certainly expressed what Gerald Vizenor calls native survivance. This article will explore how Sakahàn artist Kent Monkman embodies queer native survivance through his artistic practice, whereby he unmasks, deconstructs and challenges the dominant and oppressive normative structures of power and knowledge that followed the arrival of settlers on Turtle Island (what is now known as North America). Through examining how Monkman challenges the concealment of indigenous genders and sexualities, and the proliferation of western created tropes and stereotypes of the “indian”, it becomes evident that in order to truly challenge the dominant and oppressive structures of power and knowledge that came with colonization, artists such as the ones who took part in Sakahàn, and others (scholars, activists, writers…) must include queer indigenous voices, perspectives and knowledge in their work.


Native survivance; Kent Monkman; Queer native survivance; Sakahàn


Charlotte Hoelke is in her first year of the doctoral program in the School of Canadian Studies at Carleton University. She completed her MA in Canadian Studies in 2013, and a MA in Religion and Public Life in 2012 from Carleton University. Charlotte is interested in how indigenous artists across Turtle Island are incorporating humour and sexuality into their artistic practice.