Paintings line the History Colorado Center mezzanine in Downtown Denver. At first glance, some of the images play into stereotypes of Indigenous people. There are vintage cartoons and black-and-white photos of folks in regalia. But Gregg Deal draws on those stereotypes to break them down. The title of the exhibition, “Merciless Indian Savages,” comes straight from a line in the Declaration of Independence.
The founding document reads, “The Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.”
Deal’s work challenges romanticism about American history and erasure of Indigenous people. Ultimately, he brings past and present together as his art celebrates younger generations he sees embracing their history and culture in a modern context.
“There’s policies in this country that were meant to eradicate Indigenous people,” said Deal. “These things were meant to eliminate our culture, our language, our traditions, our people, and it didn’t work. We’re still here. We’re still thriving. We’re still moving forward.”
"Merciless Indian Savages" runs through July 18 at the History Colorado Center in Denver, CO.