A display of star quilts in the Prairie Star Gallery (Photo PrairieStar.com)
The Associated Press offers this story from Beth Wischmeyer of the Argus-Leader in Sioux Falls, S.D., on the Prairie Star Gallery, which has featured Native American art for 15 years:
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The retirement plans of the owners of Prairie Star Gallery in Sioux Falls could stifle a vital outlet for Native American artists in South Dakota.
But the possible closure is creating opportunity at the Washington Pavilion, where officials are in talks with Prairie Star owners Linda and John Boyd to set up a museum and gallery for Native American goods.
The Pavilion already has plans to create a permanent Native American gallery collection this fall and a store could be included in the mix, said Pavilion Executive Director Larry Toll. His organization has applied for a grant from the South Dakota Community Foundation to hire a museum store expert to help set up that enterprise.
That would come as a relief to artists like Marty Two Bulls.
“(Linda is) really a definite resource there. She’s really an asset to the community and to the artists,” Two Bulls – who sells his artwork almost exclusively to the gallery – tells Wischmeyer.
“All too often in this field, the Native American artist is taken advantage of. Even people who spend 20 hours on a piece are forced to sell it for $20 to $30. Linda’s gallery, she pays well, pays what the work is worth. It’s kind of a rarity around South Dakota.”
Not to start your weekend on a downer, but here’s the entire story from the Bismarck Tribune’s Kay Kemmett via Associated Press:
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The broken pieces of the Rising Eagle sculpture are finally back together, almost a year after vandals reduced the American Indian art to rubble last July.
Just north of the Pioneer Park sand volleyball courts, the Rising Eagle seating area is fixed but the space for the sculpture is bare. The sculpture, created by United Tribes Technical College students, will be restored within the next couple of weeks.
Steve White Mountain - or Heska, as he prefers to be called - stands in front of a sculpture in Bismarck, N.D.'s Pioneer Park that needs to be repaired. (AP Photo/Bismarck Tribune, Tom Stromme)
“It is scary when you think that someone would want to do something like that,” said Paul Quist, president of the Bismarck Park Board, about the vandalism.
Heska, a former student of UTTC, approached the Bismarck Parks and Recreation District about reconstructing the art and has been a staple in the UTTC maintenance shop working to recreate Rising Eagle since August.
“I think it’s important that someone step up and try to rectify a wrong,” Heska said.
Heska, of the Standing Rock Reservation, prefers to be called by his American Indian name rather than Steven White Mountain.
“It’s important to me that I’m known by Heska,” he said.
The Flagstaff Daily Sun’s Betsey Bruner takes a look, here, at the Coconino Center for the Arts’ Native American Contemporary Art Exhibit. (Shown above: Bruner’s photo of two paintings by W.B. Franklin, “Man of the People,” left, and “The Return of the Male and Female.”)
The exhibit, which opened over Memorial Day weekend, features 66 pieces by 22 Native artists from the Four Corners area of Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona. As Bruner writes:
The symbols are a mix of old and new: A white galloping horse, a snowy owl cut from marble, locals holding playing cards at a second-night ceremony, two elders creating a sacred sand painting on the ground, a man eating an ice cream cone of orange sherbet and even Barack Obama, standing behind an Indian chief who is holding a cell phone.
The center’s executive director, John Tannous, says it has featured a Native art exhibit every since it opened in 1981. But this year, there’s a difference.
It’s the first time we’ve juried this show,” Tannous tells Bruner. “The work speaks for itself; there is just some high-quality work in this show. I also appreciated that we have really well-established artists like Shonto Begay and Baje Whitethorne Sr., and then we have up-and-coming artists who deserve to be recognized and their work to be seen.”
Illustrating the contemporary aspect are “Our Chiefs,” the painting of Obama and the chief, by Begay, and a large collage of magazine clippings by Franklin, “End of the Trail — The Past, the Present, the Future,” with its images of guns, A-bomb blasts, a gorilla, John Wayne in a 10-gallon hat and even Superman.
Some of the other master artists being shown are silversmith Robert Lomadafkie, painters Joe Maktima, Elbert Dayzie and Elton Manygoats.
Younger artists include Jeremy Singer, whose portrait of a man with orange sherbet draws laughs, Maurice Baje, whose “Sacred Artists” painting is a realistic as a photograph, and Mondrian P. Chee, who made a name for himself at Coconino Community College.
Here‘s another book review, this time from Michael Upchurch, the Seattle Times’ arts writer.
Kwakwaka'wakw artist Ellen Neel at work on a miniature totem pole in 1948.
“The Totem Pole: An Intercultural History” by Aldona Jonaitis and Aaron Glass traces the totem pole over 200-some years.
Upchurch writes that the authors “weigh questions of authenticity, misinterpretation, appropriation, denigration and, ultimately, transformation at the hands of contemporary Native artists.”
The book, he writes, “largely steers clear of academic jargon, tackling its subject from all angles — poles’ origins as literal pillars of their community, broadcasting the background and status of their owners; their spread across the whole North American continent as tourist and advertising kitsch; their decades of being viewed by outsiders chiefly in an anthropological light; their emergence as a fine-arts form open to innovation in the hands of both Native and non-Native artists.”
The book looks at the ways the totem pole went from being viewed by Caucasian settlers and primitive and fearsome, to an object of kitsch, to something that is now proudly displayed in many non-Native communities:
Jonaitis and Glass see the 1960s as the turning point. Northwest Coast tribes began to assert their land rights, with claims partly based on totem-pole records with their family crests. Government-supported preservation projects gave young carvers — including Bill Reid, who became a world-renowned artist — a chance to hone their craft.
Kwakwaka’wakw artist Ellen Neel took another route. Her souvenir carving led in 1950 to a commission to create a “Totemland Pole” as the “official emblem” of British Columbia. In it, she slipped Western content — a globe supported by an Atlas-like figure — into a Northwest Coast format, suggesting a precarious balance between the two.
Navajo comedian Vincent “Muttonman” Craig dies
Family members posted a note on Vincent Craig’s Facebook page thanking friends and family for their support as the legendary Dine comedian and singer-songwriter battled cancer, according to the Navajo Times, here. He was only 59. The note was posted late last night and the Times promises updates.
Supreme Court nominee Kagan falls short on Native issues
That’s the assessment by the legal experts quoted in this story by Indian Country Today’s Rob Capriccioso. He writes that “her positions on tribal and Indian legal issues are unknown, and she has lacked engagement on some major Native topics.” And, he reports, that when Kagan was dean of Harvard Law School, she failed to hire a permanent scholar to fill the Harvard Law School’s Oneida chair, largely funded by the Oneida Indian Nation of New York.
Tohono O’odham police arrest 10 in huge bust of alleged coke smuggling ring
Anonymous law enforcement photo of law enforcement officers from Tohono O'odham Police, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the FBI executing warrants at homes in Sells on Saturday morning that resulted in the arrest of 10 people in connection with a cocaine smuggling ring.
It was, according to this Tucson Arizona Star report, the largest drug enforcement operation in the history of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Nine tribal members and one other person were arrested yesterday in an early-morning sweep in Sells, Ariz.
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle tells the Star that the arrests marked the culmination of a five-month, multi-agency investigation led by the Tohono O’odham Police Department.
And, it marked the first time tribal police officers have executed federal warrants on the Tohono O’odham Nation. It was part of an effort that saw tribal officers trained by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Bureau of Indian Affairs so they could makes arrest on federal charges, which carry more severe penalties than tribal ones.
Pine Ridge principal on tap for Obama administration post
Robert Cook, an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who is principal of Pine Ridge High School, is expected to be appointed to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education, according to this Rapid City Journal story. Cook recently completed a term as president of the National Indian Education Association.
POPcorn No. 5 by Stephen Wood (Heard Museum photo)
Native pop art in new Heard Museum show
Not just niche art is how the Heard Museum is describing its new exhibit by Native American and other pop artists. ” ‘Pop! Popular Culture in American Indian Art,’ ” reminds us, if we need reminding, that Indians also are participants in the culture at large, and that Native American art is not merely a niche art: It is part of the global art conversation,” writes Richard Nilson of the (Phoenix) Arizona Republic, here.
The show features work by iconic pop artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, but also works by Native artists such as Fritz Scholder and T.C. Cannon.
In fact, Ryan Singer has a riff on Warhol’s famous Campbell’s Soup can, with is painting, “Sheep Is Good Food,” of a mutton stew can.
As painter Jaune Quick-to-See Smith says in the exhibit, “I appropriate Pop Art because it is symbolic of the American mainstream culture.”
Report – Indigenous languages at serious risk on Canada’s Pacific Coast
Only a few people still speak the indigenous languages of the First Nations on the Pacific Coast of Canada. As detailed in this story, and the video above, a report by The First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Council says eight of the 32 languages of British Columbia are endangered and 22 nearly extinct. Only about 5 percent of the indigenous population is considered fluent, and most of those people are older than 65.
Federal judge rules Wyoming county voting system hurts Indians
A federal judge in Wyoming has ruled that the system of electing county commissioners in Fremont County dilutes American Indian votes and must be changed. This Casper (Wyo.) Star Tribune reports says U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson gave the county until June 30 to submit a new plan. The county is home to the Wind River Indian Reservation, with its Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes. The Star Tribune praises the ruling in this editorial, which says that Johnson’s strongly worded ruling should lead to fairer representation for voters on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Tucson Symphony Orchestra performs at Tohono O’odham Nation
Tohono O'odham elder Lucyann Joaquin watches the Tucson Symphony Orchestra String Quartet perform at Archie Hendricks Sr. Skilled Nursing Facility on the Tohono O'oodham reservation near Sells, Ariz., Saturday May 1, 2010. (Greg Bryan/Arizona Daily Star)
The strains of Dvorák’s String Quartet wafted through the Archie Hendricks skilled Nursing Facility on the Tohono O’odham Nation yesterday, thank to members of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. The group traveled there to perform for the center’s two dozen elders, a performance that nearly brought Gordon Francisco to tears.
It was the first time he and the majority of those attending the recital – the first of three the TSO performed on the nation Saturday – had ever seen an orchestra concert, the Greg Bryan of the Arizona Daily Star writes here.
“As far as the adults, it feels like their lives are just (about) working, and they never seek it out,” said Allison Francisco, the Tohono O’odham Nation Cultural Center & Museum artist liaison. She was responsible for bringing the TSO to the nation for three concerts.
Denver Art Museum to renovate historic American Indian, Northwest Coast galleries
The Denver Art Museum opened in 1925, becoming the first American museum to collect Native American objects as art rather than artifact. This summer, the museum reports here, it’s renovating and reinstalling its American Indian and Northwest Coast art galleries. They’ll be open to the public through June 13, then will close until early 2011, when they’ll reopen in a 23,000-square-foot gallery that includes new interactive, artist-centric displays.
New book contrasts Sitting Bull and Custer
Just when you think nothing new can possibly be written about the Little Bighorn, along comes “The Last Stand,” by Nathaniel Philbrick. The Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger says of it, here, that “the latest retelling of the iconic confrontation between whites and Native Americans is written not so much for battle buffs as it is for a more general audience interested in learning about clashing cultures and warring ways of life.” And, he says, it contrasts the “womanizing, publicity-seeking George Armstrong Custer against Sitting Bull, the stoic and contemplative leader of the Hunkpapa Lakota.”
Navajo heroine Ellen Tsosie returns in new book aimed at young readers
Arizona author Seth Muller has written a new book featuring a young Navajo girl, Ellie Tsosie, who made her debut in “The Mockingbird’s Manual,” a 2009 novel about how she learns to talk to birds. Now, according to this Arizona Daily Sun report, Ellie Tsosie is back in “The Day of Storms.” It’s all part of the “Keepers of the Windclaw Chronicles” series aimed at readers ages 8 to 12.
Pieces of contemporary Native American pottery now grace the Oval Office. (AP photo/Susan Walsh)
Detail of some of the pieces of art. (AP photo/Susan Walsh)
You don’t get much closer to power than the Oval Office. So, the fact that President Barack Obama has accented what is perhaps the most famous workspace in the world with Native American art is telling. We’ve written about this before, but now there are photos to show the art in its new setting. This Associated Press story details the president’s choices. Let’s hope they’re more than symbolic.
By Nancy Benac of the Associated Pres
WASHINGTON – The decorative china plates are long gone. Historic metal gadgets and Native American pottery now stand in their stead. Resting on a bookshelf is a framed program from the 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech.
President Barack Obama gradually has made the Oval Office his own.
To varying degrees, each president puts his own imprint on this celebrated workspace. Even the smallest change — Obama’s penholder, for example — is closely watched for symbolism.
While recent presidents have each done a big overhaul upon taking office, Obama decided against major redecorating. It would have struck a sour note in a time of economic distress.
But over his first year in the White House, the office has come to reflect his tastes.
Joe Yazzie, a Vietnam veteran, is the artist-in-residence at the Trickster Gallery, the only Indian-operated art institute in Illinois. (Chicago Tribune photo)
Earlier today, we blogged about the objections to a memorial honoring Medal of Honor winners that unfortunately was erected on the site of a Native American village. Some groups would like to see the memorial moved to a different part of Los Angeles.
From the Chicago area comes a much more upbeat story, about the recently opened Native American Wall of Honor at Trickster Gallery.
As this Chicago Tribune story reports, it’s the second memorial to American Indian veterans in the Midwest. And, Trickster is the only arts institute in Illinois operated by Native Americans.
Joe Yazzie is the artist-in-residence this year. His stint as the gallery is fitting, given his military background: Yazzie, who grew up in New Mexico, is an Army veteran, while his brother Harold served in the Marines.
“It’s just in our blood,” he tells the Tribune. “We want to be warriors, and we tend to join the military.”
In fact, some of Yazzie’s family members are on the Wall of Honor.
“Right here, this guy, he’s my grandfather,” he tells the Tribune’s Dan Simmons, pointing to a framed photo of 37 Navajo scouts who served as military police alongside Army forces during the late-1800s campaign against Geronimo.
“And this guy here, that’s my uncle Frank,” he says, pointing to another photo on the wall of Navajo code talkers.
Some of Yazzie’s paintings feature veterans and military themes.
“They could have been doctors or lawyers,” he says of those killed in various wars. “They could have discovered things to improve our lives. But they sacrificed. Ever since, I’ve had this guilty feeling. Why them and not me?”
Lakota beaded hide coat, ca. 1890 (National Museum of the American Indian)
The wonderfully named exhibit opens Saturday at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York City. The exhibition of 98 artifacts relating to Native American horse cultures was organized by museum curator Emil Her Many Horses. It includes saddles, riding blankets, clothing and beaded bags adorned with equine imagery, according to this New York Times Story.
Historian Herman J. Viola, a curator emeritus of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, tells of the rise and fall of American Indian horse culture, which thrived for only about 100 years, writes the Times’ Ken Johnson.
That culture succumbed, as Viola says, to “too many white people and too few buffalo.”
The exhibit includes rifles that belonged to the Apache leader Geronimo, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce and Chief Rain-in-the-Face of the Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux; as well as objects such a wooden Hunkpapa Lakota dance club from about 1899, with one end carved in the shape of a horse head.
Johnson’s review includes this comment: “Captivating as the exhibition’s contents are, hardly anything in it is spectacular in the sense that European art and artifacts produced with elaborate refinement and expensive materials can be. There is an exceptionally appealing modesty and subtlety to many of the objects.”
The paper also criticizes the show’s ambience as “regrettably aggressive,” saying that “the show looks as if it were conceived with an audience of attention-challenged children in mind.”
“A Song for the Horse Nation” runs through July 7, 2011, at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center, One Bowling Green, Lower Manhattan; (212) 514-3700, nmai.si.edu.