The author at age 18.
I received a letter from Ann Marie Donoghue from the Buffalo Bill Historical Center about this painting, A Young Oglala Sioux, painted by the artist James Bama. I was the subject in the painting, which is currently on view in the Coe Auditorium Gallery. Prior to that, it was displayed in the Kriendler Gallery of Contemporary Art, a gallery inside the Whitney Gallery of Western Art at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.
Seeing this painting again after so many years reminds me that from adolescence to young adulthood, a person is coming into his own. He is learning about who he is, how he fits into the world, what talents the creator has gifted him with, and how he can contribute those gifts to the world.
Chrysalis is a word derived from Latin for the gold-colored pupa of butterflies, denoted as the “sheltered stage of being or growth.” When I look back on this painting, I think of the golden years of youth.
Sadly, for many of our young Indian people, there is no sheltered golden time to learn, grow, or determine what their gifts might be. They are often responsible for young children or family members, and the grinding demand of providing food and shelter for their families and themselves engulf their days. Young Indian people live in some of the poorest areas of the country, and the opportunity to go to college for higher intellectual and spiritual growth is a luxury that few can afford.
As we enter the season of giving, my fervent wish is that all of our young Indian people can fulfill the purpose that the creator intended.
All young people should have the luxury of holding dear and nurturing a dream, giving birth to that dream as it emerges from the chrysalis to fly, spreading beauty and hope. I hope that you will help spread the gift of hope this holiday season.