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The Noble Savage Was a Drag Queen: Hybridity and Transformation in Kent Monkman's Performance and ... - page 10 / 19





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trickster storytellers, writes, "[t]he truth about stories is that that's all we are".16 While we

cannot change history, we can change, subvert, and dismantle the stories we tell

ourselves, and the stories that are told about us. By affirming the Two-Spirit identity in a

historical context, Monkman's performances retell the story of colonization and create a

worldview that pays homage – albeit cheekily – to the traditional values of accepting and

honouring sexual diversity, which will be discussed in greater detail further in this paper.

(Re)Constructing Sexuality and Culture

Foucault argues that sexuality is a not a "natural given," but rather a historical construct

in which physical stimulation and pleasure are controlled and manipulated according to

the dominant power structures and ideologies.17 In the tradition of Foucault, Monkman

approaches his examination of native sexuality by examining the existing power relations

of colonial North America. Native North Americans are still living in a colonial world in

which their traditional lands, cultures, and identities remain colonized; therefore,

Monkman makes no clear differentiation between past and present, as Native lives and

identities continue to be shaped by the colonial power structure as it existed in the 19th

century. Monkman's work addresses and bridges the ongoing relationship between the

colonial past and the colonial present, and also confronts the significant lack of discourse

and knowledge regarding the history of Two-Spirited people and their suppression

through Christian indoctrination. Prior to colonization, many of the North American

tribes including the Cree, Ojibwe, Mohave, Navajo, Lakota, and Winnebago, honoured

16 King, Thomas. The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. Toronto: House of Anansi, 2004, p. 1.

King, also of mixed heritage, is one of Canada's foremost Native authors, writing trickster narratives and texts asserting the importance of storytelling and the need to revisit history from the perspective of Native worldviews.


Foucault, 1990:106.


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