This Native American Heritage Month, five of our scholarship recipients are sharing thought-provoking and emotional works of art that hold special importance to them. Each recommendation shares the depth and breadth of modern American Indian artistry, what shaped us to be who we are today, and how we are moving into the future.
We are proud to share our culture with you and we hope you will spend some time with each piece, either through this special webpage or in person, and celebrate this important month with us. Carry our dreams and hopes with you and help keep them alive.
Overlooking the dance circle at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico is a 15-foot-tall bronze sculpture called Raven the Creator by Aleut artist John Hoover.The whole campus is covered with beautiful art lovingly made and cared for by beautiful people. Arriving there as a new student in 2008, I felt a connection to the campus that reminded me of home.
So, imagine my surprise when I later traveled to Anchorage, Alaska and discovered the sculpture in Santa Fe was cast from the original that watches over the Alaska Native Heritage Center’s entry. Hoover’s creation can carry so much meaning for each and every visitor. For me, it wonderfully embodied a truth I’ve come to know and appreciate: wherever there are Indian people, I’m home.
A collection of artworks that means a lot to me can be found along the Missouri River walking path, just below the historic Mandan Indian Village. Each beautiful and original piece was created by various Native American artists at my college, United Tribes Technical College. They depict thunder beings and eagles.
This collection of artworks is important to me because it is a public presence in Bismarck, N.D. and an acknowledgment of our culture’s artistic representation.
I love the story behind Blue Bear painted by Boseman, Mont. artist DG House. DG House was very ill and practically on her death bed when she received life-saving surgery. The following day, she painted Blue Bear.
I admire DG’s strength and the story behind the piece—it’s so amazing and it gives me hope. It taught me that no matter what happens, it’s up to us to decide how and what we are going to do with our experience.
My people didn’t want to leave their ancestral places and did not allow foreigners to have a share in the territory. This resulted in the government removing Native Americans from their ancestral places to ensure other people could live in that territory. In 1864, the Navajo (Diné) Tribe was expelled from Dinétah (Navajo land) in what is now Arizona and was forced to march the “Long Walk” to Fort Sumner in New Mexico.
They left behind a vast mosaic of sacred mountains, spectacular canyons, colorful desert plains, scattered pasturelands, pure streams, and significant game. They took up a new life on an overcrowded and gloomy prairie with no building materials, short grass, few trees, minimal firewood, water, and little game.
I’ve always had an interest in the Navajo Long Walk and I listened to stories from my elders and Navajo historians. Then I stumbled across this piece of art that gives viewers a visual perspective of this tumultuous event.
When I looked at it, I had an instant emotional connection. Feeling and seeing the expressions of the fear on my ancestor’s faces pained me. But when I feel my emotions, I remember that pain is only temporary. This was a temporary situation that we, as Navajos’, encountered centuries ago. We prevailed through our strength and prayers and came back home to Dinétah.
I’m proud to be Navajo and Native American. The Long Walk shows we are strong, and we’ll continue to be strong. We are still here.
The painted centerpieces were done by my late Nani (Auntie) Fern. She was my favorite artist; she could paint, bead, and sew anything. She made the centerpieces into earrings and gave them to me when I was 10. Recently, the earrings broke so I added my touch to them by beading around them.
I used to sit and watch her create all these beautiful pieces when I was younger, and I remember thinking, “I wish I could do that.” Having this piece of art by my Nani still helps me feel close to her— she passed away in 2011 from cancer. I thank her for all the art I create. While I can’t do everything she did, I love beading and sewing to this day.