Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Art History

Second Department



My art historical and sociological thesis will take Cheyenne-Arapaho artist Edgar Heap of Birds’ Defend Sacred Mountains print series as the point of departure for examining the interventions of Native artists and grassroots activists in their decolonizing campaigns. Heap of Birds’ exhibition of sixty-four mono-prints, to be exhibited at Pitzer College Art Galleries in January 2018, calls attention to the ongoing injustices committed against four indigenous sacred sites across the United States: Bear Butte, South Dakota; Bear’s Lodge, Wyoming; San Francisco Peaks, Arizona; and Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Heap of Birds’ monoprints address and allude to indigenous struggles to undermine insensitive development, non-Native encroachment, and environmental despoliation on their sacred mountains. Consequently, one chapter will pay special focus to the case studies of contemporary legal and social battles occurring at these sites to counter land dispossession and reinforce tribal sovereignty. How tribal leaders and grassroots activists employ claims to these lands based on their sacred value and/or based on treaty rights will be explored on a case-to-case basis and guided by the theories of decolonization, survivance, and tribal sovereignty. Two other chapters will address Heap of Birds as a decolonial actor, one grounding his career in the theories of spatial politics and historical remembrance explored by other American Indian Movement era (AIM) indigenous artists such as George Longfish, Kay WalkingStick, Rebecca Belmore, and Demian DinéYazhi´; the second will consider the implications of Defend Sacred Mountains in relation to his wider oeuvre. In highlighting both grassroots and artistic responses to indigenous claims to these four sacred sites, this thesis hopes to explore the concrete and diverse interventions made in decolonial campaigns to reclaim tribal sovereignty and support cultural survivance.