Cannupa Hanska Luger to Visit SFUAD

“Old Dominion” Art by Cannupa Hanska Luger.

In January of 2016, Dakota Access LLC announced that it had received approval on its permit to build the Dakota Access Pipeline. More than a year later, Standing Rock water protectors are still fighting to keep their water and sacred land safe. One of these water protectors is artist Cannupa Hanska Luger, a member of the Standing Rock tribe who has used his art to inspire action against the pipeline construction and empower fellow water protectors. On Feb. 24, Luger will be giving a talk as part of an event called “Our Existence is Resistance” at Santa Fe University of Art and Design.

Luger is best known for his mirror shields of which hundreds have been used at the Standing Rock camp. These mirror shields are built out of lightweight wood and mirror adhesive foil and aim to make the reflections of opposing police and security forces a part of the movement. Luger even created a video tutorial for people to make their own shields to be shipped out to water protectors at the camp. “Now [water protectors] have a shield to protect themselves from [opposing] aggressive forces, as well as utilize [opposers’] image of this oppressive violent force to be on our side,” says Luger in his video.

SFUAD contributing faculty member Caroline Haughton organized the event as part of SFUAD’s Artists for Positive Social Change series. Luger was recommended to her by former faculty member Willy Bo Richardson, who was at Standing Rock in October when he crowdsourced supplies and $1,000 donations over Facebook to bring to the tribe.

“I was there when that first round of big arrests was being made. The night I showed up, 140 people had been arrested that day and then over the weekend another hundred-something people had been arrested,” Richardson explained. “The water protectors used a bus to block off the highway… We built this camp. It was kind of a last stand camp.” This is a cause that Richardson continues to fight for. “There’s a feeling that ‘we have won’ and today, as we speak, the camp is being cleared out by HUMVees and actual, not just rubber bullets, but riffles… I know that’s happening right now and there’s a lot to have a heavy heart about, but the feeling I have and the feeling most people have is that our work was not wasted. What we put out there is growing.”

Richardson recommended Luger for SFUAD’s series because “he’s a local artist and he’s from Standing Rock,” he says. “That’s a pretty unique combination right there… I thought the shields he made were a really good symbol that he came up with.”

Caroline Haughton, Liberal Arts Department contributing faculty. organized Luger’s visit. Photo by Sasha Hill

The Artists for Positive Social Change series connects social justice with art. “I think it’s important for our students to be connected to artists who are being the change in the world,” Haughton explained. “I think that [Luger’s] work matters. I think that it reaches out from beyond the self, the little self, and touches the lives of all of us. Water is important, equality is important, human rights are important and play is important and I think his work incorporates all of these things.”

Haughton urges those interested in the event to show up early in order to secure a spot. Her event last semester “Power to the People” reached capacity and she expects this event to fill up fast as well. “It’s going to be packed,” she tells Jackalope. “Our Existence is Resistance” is a free event on campus. It will take place on Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. in Tipton Hall.