By Shayler Richmond
For eras art has been a catalyst for storytelling, a space for ideas to gain momentum and a medium which continues to set the stage; Indigenous American artist, Gregg Deal, is authentically incorporating art and activism to provoke thought and foster a space which challenges people to think outside the lines.
There are over 5 million Indigenous people living in the United States. Indigenous people make up 2 percent of the population. The term Indigenous and Native American are interchangeable because Native and Indigenous has the same meaning. Throughout American history there have been sacrifices made knowingly and unknowingly so that everything after can exist.
“Technically everything was built on Native American land, so there should always be representation of Indigenous people,” said Deal.
All American soil was once Indigenous land that we are now stewards over, so the inclusion and representation of Indigenous people is imperative. Native American people and their heritage are not relics that once existed. Majority of Indigenous people are modern living people that vary in looks, tradition, language, and education.
“I can listen to pow wow music then I can listen to Kendrick Lamar there is no difference in my existence between those places. I live in the same country you do and have access to the same things you do. There might be economic differences. There might be cultural differences. There might be community differences, but we’re all in the same place,” said Deal.
Deal is a member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe. His work focuses on Indigenous representation; showcasing how these identities navigate society and are impacted by the world. The representation of Native Americans is growing in film, photography, art, literature and other places.
“It’s important to have representation of minority and disadvantaged groups. It’s important to see yourself because it contributes to education and growth. If you can’t find someone that can represent Indigenous people in any capacity then you’re not trying hard enough,” said Deal.
Deal attended Eastern Michigan University to speak on the accessibility of art as a tool for self-expression, Nov. 28th.
He keeps his view fresh through the incorporation of pop culture, while remaining impactful through activism and addressing social issues in creative ways, which allows for diverse audiences to absorb his content and engage.
“I’m an artist, and I happen to be Native, that’s my voice, but the struggle of being human is something we all can understand on some level. It’s about representing our humanity and having that recognized and included in our human experiences,” said Deal.
It’s important to recognize that Indigenous Americans are working in higher education to better the circumstances of others, there are Indigenous Americans serving the community, and there are more Indigenous Americans doing various other things to impact themselves and society.
“The issues that affect us affect everyone and we can use art to bring us together to enact change. For many artists, art is our medicine; these are stories and ideas that we carry with us,” said Deal.
Native artist such as deal pride themselves on getting in touch with people whether they are Native or non-Native and showing them what’s possible through art; showcasing the ability for art and communication to enact change.
“Our struggles aren’t pieces of pie. We are all in this together. Our struggle is your struggle. Your struggle is our struggle. We can all relate to the struggle of being human,” said Deal.
Recently the story and work of Gregg Deal was featured in the National Geographic, and below is a Washington Post article from 2014.
"'Last American Indian’ finds challenges in performance art," By Kris Coronado