By Dayna McLeod
Miss Chief Eagle Testickle is the muse and alter ego of Kent Monkman, a Cree artist who confronts the violent and systemic consequences of colonialism on Indigenous peoples in North America, with attention to Canada and Quebec. He often uses Miss Chief to playfully subvert dominant discourses of this history in painting, photography, moving-image works, installation, and performance. Miss Chief’s name speaks to (mis)representations of indigeneity, gender, and sexuality and disrupts all three. Inspired by We’wha, a Zuni Two-Spirit1 Native American leader, Monkman crafted Miss Chief to “honour the tradition of Two-Spirit culture in North America by creating someone that could really represent that acceptance of gender and sexuality that was present before the European missionaries arrived and started to suppress it.”2 With a touch of Cher flare, Miss Chief guides us and stars in a counter-colonial narrative in which she performs gender and indigeneity by living her best life and staging its various incarnations.
In the faux-daguerreotype photo series The Emergence of a Legend (2006), Miss Chief is figured as a performer for George Catlin’s nineteenth-century European touring art gallery, a 1920s vaudeville performer, a silent film starlet, a movie director, and a performer in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Her impersonations of these epochs, styles, and stereotypes are seamless. Here, she haunts performance and film history by inserting herself into it. She pays homage to Indigenous stage and screen stars of these eras and their original occupation of these spaces while drawing attention to how they performed amplified and exaggerated exoticism and indigeneity for white audiences under the direction of handlers such as Catlin and Buffalo Bill…
[See the printed or digital version of the magazine for the complete article.]
2 Kent Monkman, “Monkman Lecture Transcription,” Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen’s,6Feb.2018, agnes.queensu.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Monkman-Lecture-Transcription.pdf.