Artist CANNUPA HANSKA shares his thoughts on racism and why it’s important to talk about it.
Q: How would you explain or describe racism in the United States?
Truth is difficult to manifest. And to be as accurate as possible, first one must show the lies. Racism is abundant for Native peoples. One of the main projections of racism is portrayed through stereotypes which exist in the ether, ideas that float from one mind to the next. The entertainment industry has helped to develop and reinforces these stereotypes for the Indigenous peoples of America. These projections from Hollywood and pop-culture precede Native people. The greatest destruction towards a culture is that these ideas become the icon and future generations pull from these facsimiles as truth. As we compartmentalize identity to the lowest common denominators, stereotypes perpetuate racism through cultural genocide, prejudice and discrimination; instilling into popular culture the Native American as savage, other, less than or even non-existent. Society is trained in this form of racism projected onto Natives, specifically through stereotypes, which dismiss the many current and diverse populations by reducing our unique stories, languages and traditions into a collective fantasy known simply as ‘The Native American’. However, with over 500 Nations, the Indigenous population of the United States is as diverse as the clouds in the sky, ever changing forms built of the same matter. Native American is an umbrella term, and like the clouds, to describe them as simply water you would lose the diversity, beauty and power the clouds contain.