This Is A Stereotype

This is a Stereotype is a film project motivated from an art exhibition by Cannupa Hanska Luger, further inspired by the vision of filmmaker Dylan McLaughlin and collaborator Ginger Dunnill. The film features dialogue with Migizi Pensoneau, April Youpee-Roll, Douglas Miles, Adrienne Keene, Courtney Leonard, Karl Duncan, Frank Buffalo Hyde, Wendy Red Star and Bentley Spang.

Cannupa Hanska Luger's body of work, Stereotype: Misconceptions of the Native American exhibited at the MoCNA from Aug. 15- Dec. 31 2013. The exhibition addressed several preconceived notions about Native people supported by popular culture that have been invented, imagined and rooted within the American public's social conscience. Highlighted in this exhibition was a performance, Destroying the Stereotype, where Hanska let go of the stereotypes embodying his sculptures and invited the community to witness their destruction. The remains of the destroyed ceramic sculptures were then placed on view for the duration of the exhibition. McLaughlin documented this process and together they felt this conversation needed to go deeper than this exhibition. There were more questions; the explanation and understanding needed further attention. 

This film allows for the continuation of this dialogue. The exhibition/performance, was just the spark. It pushed artist Cannupa Hanska, filmmaker Dylan McLaughlin and collaborator Ginger Dunnill to ask why? Where do these stereotypes come from? Are all stereotypes negative? Do they come from some level of truth? Is there a place to blame? How can we break down these ways of thinking into something positive and useful? Can stereotypes become empowering? How has history influenced the way Native Americans themselves today, and how do non-Natives and popular culture perceives Native Americans? What are the economic parallels of stereotyping? How do you let go of stereotypes? The questions kept coming. The more they talked about it, the more there was a need to dig deeper, to look at many stories of past and present, of ordinary and esteemed, in order to have the proper tools to address the idea of the stereotype.

This is a Stereotype is made from archival footage juxtaposed with modern interviews, and woven together with an artistic response. We have gathered historical footage from the Institute of American Indian Arts Archive (Native American Videotape Archive - 1976) along side more current documentation, allowing a broader approach to addressing the subject matter. We have pulled from a wide range of sources for interviews including artists, scholars, and political activists representing nations from across the United States. We have documented many perspectives, creating a multi faceted dialogue, which will enrich the theme of the film and allow for the audience to build their own interpretation around the misconceptions of the Native American.  

Stereotype: Misconceptions of the Native American

Exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts from Aug. 15 - Dec. 31 2013. The exhibition addressed several preconceived notions about Native people supported by popular culture that have been invented, imagined and rooted within the American public's social conscience.

Stereotype n.

1. a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing. The stereotype is simple and does not require facts or experience but just has to be believed in.


Destroying the Stereotype

Highlighted in this exhibition was a performance where the stereotypes embodying the sculptures were let go and the community was invited to witness their destruction. The remains of the destroyed ceramic sculptures were then placed on view for the duration of the exhibition.


Acknowledging The Stereotype

The Luger

I, Cannupa Hanska Luger am but one filter understanding culture. If I am going to point the finger, I must point it back at myself. There is no way all of the layers of the Native American can be summed up in a single art piece. We as human being are multi-faceted as the interpretation of the star pattern depicts. Who we are is like a cut stone, each plane has an opportunity to reflect the light. However, it is the whole of the faceted stone that shines brilliant in the eye of the observer. I choose to recognize the splendor of the variety, the beauty of where we are now. Shining at every point between the romanticized‘noble savage’ and the marginalized economic bastard. I recognize the value of tradition and the importance of adaptation. There is not separation between our art and ourselves. Each line is a song, each shape a story, every color is absorbed from the place that we stand. And the place that we stand remains sacred and holy.

Stereotype: The Luger

Stereotype: The Luger


Responding To The Stereotype 

Sound Installation. Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer

Sound Installation. Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer

Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer

Truth is difficult to manifest. And to be accurate as possible first one must show the lies. Stereotypes are abundant for native people. They exist in the ether, ideas that float from one mind to the next. The entertainment industry helped to develop and reinforces these stereotypes. These projections from Hollywood and pop-culture precede Native people. The greatest fear is that these ideas become the icon and future generations pull from these facsimiles as truth. But to bind the Native American stereotypes to objects solidifies them, makes them venerable to destruction. Stereotypes surround every person on the planet as we compartmentalize identity to the lowest common denominators. Society is trained in this form dissection. Society has taken the route of science to contextualize our surroundings. All of the stereotypes are simply found on the surface, and not of the individuals, but the group as a whole. 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.

As a response to the stereotypes that surround native people four pieces were built; Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer. These pieces maintain the original color of the clay bodies they were built from. These colors have been and continue to be used to represent the four cardinal directions. These directions are used in navigation, to know where one is; one must understand where one has been. The pieces are titled after the four seasons, to represent time, a dimension that is in constant flux and binds them to the moment of now. They also represent the elements; earth, fire, wind and water. These elements are not found as such on the periodic table and yet they are forces that all things are subjected to. It also takes equal parts of all these elements to work in clay. And these elements can be found in every living being. And like every living being each of the pieces are flawed. These flaws are proof of life, because only the moment of creation is perfect beyond that all things exist in a state of entropy. How one adapts is how one survives, and how one survives is how one truly lives. A sound installation is projected from within these forms. The sound is a symbol of, not that which is seen from the outside but what one is willing to feel internally. Sound is closer bound to emotional response, and this is what is needed to truly understand anything. Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer exist as an honest description of native people. The more they are described the further from the truth they become.