In 1988, artist and activist Jimmie Durham (b. 1940) wrote, “I feel fairly sure
that I could address the entire world if only I had a place to stand. But you
(white Americans) have made everything your turf. In every field, on every
issue, the ground has already been covered.”1 He voiced an impasse shared by
many indigenous peoples across the Americas in the wake of the American
Indian Movement (aim): colonial nations continued to occupy not only their
lands, but the very ground of their representation.2 Modernity, from this per-
spective, named a process of displacement and dispossession with no end in
sight. Durham’s haunting essay “The Ground Has Been Covered” appeared
in Artforum around the time he permanently left the United States and cre-
ated his first major installation in London. Although he initially responded
to settler colonialism with postmodern parody from the margins, Durham’s
practice abroad doubled back, digging into the past to piece the ground back
together.3 Other artists shaped by aim, such as Kay WalkingStick (b. 1935),
Robert Houle (b. 1947), James Luna (b. 1950), and Edgar Heap of Birds (b.
1954), were likewise challenged to reconfigure the terms of indigenous spatial
struggles that reached a deadlock in the final decades of the twentieth cen-
tury.4 Consequently they took an unusual approach to accelerating conditions
of artistic mobility, setting out to remap the spatial, temporal, and material
coordinates of a violently divided earth.
This book is the first to explore lessons from aim as they were taken up by
a generation of artists searching for new places to stand. Upending a frequent
assumption that all Native Americans who came to prominence in the 1980s
were primarily concerned with identity politics in a national framework, the
creative projects I’ve gathered reposition displaced indigenous people, art,
and knowledge at the center of an unfinished story of modernity that rightly
concerns the entirety of our shared world. My chapters follow artists across
the Atlantic and back in time as they retraced the grooves of Native diplo-
mats, scholars, and performers who reversed the paths of Europeans since the
earliest moment of contact. The installations, performances, drawings, and
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