Karalyn Reuben is an urban mixed Oji-Cree German-British artist, from Dishpan Ziibiing (London, Ontario). Reuben is recovering their Oji-Cree identity through learning process and knowledge, embedded in Indigenous art and material culture and history. In furthering their knowledge based in their recent education and ongoing research, and in receiving teachings from their father, they have come to understand concepts of Anishinaabe traditional knowledge. In creating art and beading, Reuben is expressing their traditional knowledge and connections to the practices of their peoples and ancestors.
Not Your Vanishing Indian, Not Your Mascot speaks to the power of the negative stereotypes that have affected Indigenous peoples throughout history to this day. This work references the photographic style of Edward Curtis, an ethnographic photographer of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Curtis was commissioned to document the “vanishing Indian,” a rhetoric used throughout Western expansion propaganda rendering the representation of Indigenous peoples as stoic, docile, or invisible. We continue to recognize the use of similarly homogenous representations in contemporary visual culture associated with professional sport. The imagery used does not represent any specific peioapn or nation. Rather, it marks a more simplified umbrella stereotype minimizing Indigenous identity to a single representation – a racist classification that only represents an imagined colonial ideal of what and who an indigenous person is. By using the Cleveland Indians’ mascot Chief Wahoo’s face across their own, Reuben reveals how these negative stereotypes harm Indigenous peoples’ views of themselves, and how members of the settler states see them in return.
Not Your Vanishing Indian, Not Your Mascot