A Native Deal Open Access
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In a nation where the indigenous population has been largely removed, corralled, or otherwise exterminated, expressions of cultural identity are increasingly important for Native Americans, as survivors of genocide. As such, rituals and customs become emphatic declarations of ancestral heritage. For Gregg Deal, member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and a Native American mixed-media artist from Culpeper, Virginia, that inter-generational link has been broken. Because a white family in Utah adopted Gregg's mother, his tribal membership was out of reach until the age of 30. This denial of selfhood informs Gregg's artistic practice in a performance piece he calls "The Last American Indian on Earth." In it, Deal styles himself as a provocative pan-Indian mascot traveling to public places. His performance is part protest, part teachable moment, and part artistic expression, but completely a journey of self-discovery--expressing his complex identity, and informing Americans of a painful past.