Date of Award

Fall 12-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art History and Visual Culture

First Advisor

Jeanette Nicewinter

Second Advisor

Khristin Landry-Montes

Third Advisor

Sarah Cantor


This thesis focuses on a specific work by Cannupa Hanska Luger called This is Not a Snake. This project examines the materiality of the artwork, including beads, crochet, sewing, ceramics, and non-traditional materials. The materials used in this work address 21st-century indigenous issues while also promoting activism from the Water is Life movement, which is centered at Standing Rock Reservation, North Dakota. The materials of this work are relative to Luger’s 21st-century contemporary style. The use of repurposed heavily merchandized inorganic materials refers to the protests in Standing Rock. This is Not a Snake was inspired by these events, activism that transpired and kept the construction materials at bay. Luger is an interdisciplinary artist raised on the Standing Rock Reservation, North Dakota and he combines statements and cultural legends that persist with the characteristics of this particular installation. This essay discusses the fundamental aspects and how the Water is Life Movement inspired Luger’s installation, This is Not a Snake. The characteristics shown in This is Not a Snake also have spiked other cultural influences regarding climate change and environmental injustices worldwide. Through these materials, Luger uses artistic activism to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline and assert the agency of indigenous groups.