This article considers the artistic career of self-identified Osage painter Yeffe Kimball (1906–1978). Following the stylistic trends of modern American Indian painting as largely defined by non-Native critics and a male-dominated art world, Kimball’s works were accepted into major exhibits. How Kimball was able to “pass” as an American Indian artist is the core of a larger narrative—one that demonstrates and provokes critique of how her fraud took advantage of, but also contributed to strengthening, an exclusionary, devaluative settler-colonial dynamic of expropriation that continues into the present. This article critiques the manner in which museums and art schools defined societal values of “Indianness” that marginalized Native artists. Examining Yeffe Kimball’s successful ethnic fraud affirms a patriarchal, assimilationist narrative and the extent to which European-American identities, institutions, and art practices control American Indian imagery.

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