Date of Award

Summer 8-19-2022

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)




Susan Smith

Second Committee Member

Darren Ranco

Third Committee Member

Libby Bischof


With this paper, I map a proposal for performance as a practice of recognition and repair, specifically following an inquiry toward “performance as rematriative practice” from within settler colonial perspective. Rematriation is a term emphasized by many Indigenous communities as a set of practices that focus on long-term repair of relationships between people and places, and specifically on restoring access to stewardship roles for Indigenous people in care relationships with their ancestral territories. How might settler performance support and uphold these efforts by intervening in settler colonial narratives? I center my inquiry to follow the leadership of Indigenous thinkers and makers, placing my own performance practice in conversation with the works of Native artists who are addressing Indigenous sovereignty, cultural continuance, healing, and futurities through performance. Positioning my thesis performance work, To The First White Woman Here, as an offering in dialogue with the works of Rebecca Belmore, Ursula Johnson, and Emily Johnson, I hope to complicate the gaze of the settler artist-scholar in witnessing, and writing about, Indigenous performance art. As I consider performance-based interventions in settler story, I foreground the narrative element of cultural origins and their particular employment in the world-making myths of the colonial project in New England. I ground this consideration in Jean O’Brien’s articulations of “firsting”, in which settlers construct histories that reinforce our desires to replace Indigenous people within the places we colonize. Looking at performances of white settler womanhood as they manifest in public spaces, I investigate “pioneer mother monuments” as a site of intervention in settler colonial narrative. I seek to disrupt internalized ideas about white settler women’s identities as “brave”, “strong”, “pure and loving” “bearers of civilization”, while acknowledging the very real implications of these romanticized depictions. I close with an orientation toward futurities, again following Indigenous thinkers and makers, now into practices of speculation. Asking how the works I make might function as reparative acts requires a commitment to the idea that other worlds, and specifically decolonial worlds, are possible. Kyle Whyte reminds me that the world we currently share is a manifestation of the speculative future world dreaming of my colonial ancestors. I am called to consider the consequences of dreaming from settler perspective and my personal responsibilities in thought, action, and speech. Part of my responsibility must be to center Indigenous guidance within practices of performance intervention and speculations of futureworld visioning.

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