From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
2011 Red Earth Festival schedule
The 25th Annual Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival is Friday-Sunday at the Cox Convention Center and surrounding downtown Oklahoma City area.
One-day admission is $10 for adults, $7.50 for senior citizens 60 and older and for children ages 6-17, and free for children 5 and younger.
Three-day weekend passes are $20 for Adults, $15 for senior citizens 60 and older and for children ages 6-17, and free for children 5 and younger.
For more information, call 427-5228 or go to www.redearth.org.
8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Dancer registration – South Lobby, Cox Convention Center.
8 a.m. to 5 p.m.: 10K and 5K Red Earth Run pre-registration – South Lobby.
10 a.m.: Parade – Sheridan and E.K. Gaylord, Downtown Oklahoma City.
11 a.m. to 7 p.m.: Art Market, Native Exchange Market, Youth Art Gallery, Children’s Activities, Cultural Performance Stage open – Exhibit Halls, Cox Convention Center.
Noon: Grand Entry and Ambassador of the Year Presentation – Cox Convention Center Arena.
1 to 6 p.m.: Dance Competition – Arena.
7 a.m.: Registration for 10K and 5K Red Earth Run – Regatta Park, 725 S Lincoln Blvd.
8 a.m.: Start of 10K and 5K Red Earth Run – Regatta Park.
10 a.m. to noon: Dancer registration – South Lobby, Cox Convention Center.
10 a.m. to 7 p.m.: Art Market, Native Exchange Market, Youth Art Gallery, Children’s Activities, Cultural Performance Stage open – Exhibit Halls, Cox Convention Center.
10 to 11 a.m.: Stickball Exhibition (Choctaw Nation) – Cox Convention Center.
Noon: Grand Entry – Arena.
1 to 5 p.m.: Dance Competition – Arena.
7 p.m.: Grand Entry – Arena.
8 to 10 p.m. Dance Competition and Veterans Honor Dance – Arena.
11 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Art Market, Native Exchange Market, Children’s Activities, Cultural Performance Stage open – Exhibit Halls, Cox Convention Center.
Noon: Grand Entry and Honored One recognition – Cox Convention Center Arena.
11 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Youth Art Gallery open – Cox Convention Center.
1 to 5 p.m.: Dance Competition, Spotlight Dance – Men’s War Dance, Special Tiny Tot Grand Entry and Competition – Arena.
2 to 3 p.m.: Youth Art Awards Ceremony – Cultural Performance Stage, Exhibit Hall 3, Cox Convention Center.
5 to 6 p.m.: Dance Competition Awards – Arena.
From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman. To see the Red Earth Festival schedule, click here.
Red Earth goes silver
The Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary Friday-Sunday at Cox Convention Center in downtown OKC.
The Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival is going silver as it celebrates 25 years of showcasing American Indian dance, arts and culture in Oklahoma City.
“We have some of our elders that have come to this dance since they were youngsters; they were not quite our tiny tots but they … have grown up with us literally. We’ve got beautiful stories of people that have met each other at the festival at the dance and have developed relationships and have gone on to marry,” said longtime volunteer Teri Stanek. “We’ve got children that have been born …
“… Well, we had one we thought was gonna deliver right there. She did wait ‘til after the festival and then she came back the next year with the baby,” she added with a laugh. “We just have wonderful stories like that out there to be shared.”
The 25th Annual Red Earth Festival will again enliven the Cox Convention Center and downtown Oklahoma City Friday-Saturday with its famed dance competition, art market, youth activities and an improved Red Earth Run that will add a 10K course along with the 5K event. This year’s festival also will mark a quarter-century of celebrating American Indian culture with special activities such as a birthday party, spotlight war dance and added star power in the parade.
“We’ve kind of envisioned it to be a homecoming for a quarter-century of Red Earth,” said Red Earth Inc. Deputy Director Eric Oesch. “We’re recognizing all our previous award winners … and we’ve invited back all our past ambassadors.”
Organizers are anticipating the silver-anniversary parade to shine extra brightly as it marches through downtown at 10 a.m. Friday to officially launch the festival. Several former Red Earth Ambassadors are expected to appear in the parade, including actor Wes Studi, astronaut John Herrington and Olympic track star Billy Mills.
The parade also will feature hundreds of American Indian dancers dressed in full regalia, drum groups, floats, tribal princesses and leaders. About 100 volunteers will carry an enormous American flag that will blanket the entire street, Oesch said.
From the time the parade starts until the final dance awards are handed out, organizers expect nearly 600 dancers, close to 200 artists and vendors and about 30,000 festival-goers to take part in Red Earth.
“We’re seeing artists that haven’t been able to come to Red Earth for the past couple of years are returning,” Oesch said. “It’s so uniquely Oklahoma, with the native dance and art. We have more tribal headquarters than any other state, so we have such a wealth of talent … and that talent pool is so varied.”
Muskogee painter Ruthe Blalock Jones, a master visual artist named the 2011 Red Earth Honored One, has competed at the festival since its inception. Oklahoma City artist Benjamin Harjo Jr., who crafted the Red Earth logo 25 years ago, designed this year’s festival T-shirt.
For the artists, dancers, volunteers and their families who have faithfully brought their creativity to the event, a private birthday party — complete with cake and ice cream, of course — is planned for Friday evening after the dance competition.
“It’s to honor them. Without them, we wouldn’t be who we are,” Oesch said.
Past champions in the men’s fancy dance competition have been invited to contend in a special men’s war dance contest that will literally put them in the spotlight in the darkened arena.
“We’ve never done that before. The men’s fancy war dance is probably the most popular dance; it’s definitely the most athletic dance,” Oesch said. “It’s very colorful with lots of spinning and jumping … so that will be a real crowd pleaser.”
Dance coordinator Randy Frazier said the 2011 festival also will introduce the Ladies Eastern Cloth category, a grand entry and competition just for tiny tots younger than 6 and a comical clown contest.
Known as “the Mother of Red Earth,” Yvonne Kauger, an Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice and co-founder the festival, is the 2011 Red Earth Ambassador. She is pleased to see the event marking its 25th year.
“You get to see your legacy do well and watch my grandchildren enjoy it,” said Kauger, whose daughter Jonna Kauger Kirschner is past president of the Red Earth board of directors. “They’re great shoppers. They have favorites that they go back and see every year.”
Those are the kinds of stories Stanek likes to hear. For the second year, the festival’s 25th anniversary chairwoman will be operating a booth where people can share their favorite Red Earth memories for the festival archives.
“We’ve got youth art kids that won awards and then have grown up to be some of our favorite artists,” she said. “It’s been a labor of love for a lot of people … and it’s been a good 25 years.”
For more information, call 427-5228 or go to www.redearth.org.
A version of this story appears in Wednesday’s The Oklahoman.
Red Earth readies for silver anniversary celebration
The 25th annual festival is set for June 3-5 at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City.
While Oklahoma’s five American Indian ballerinas struck their perpetually graceful poses overhead, a new generation of dancers stomped, spun and strutted, sending fringed shawls flapping, jingle bells chiming and feathered bustles bouncing to a pounding drumbeat.
Dressed in their vibrant regalia, the Soaring Eagles dance troupe, representing Shawnee Public Schools, performed Tuesday at the annual Red Earth media day in the fourth-floor rotunda of the state Capitol. Fittingly, they heralded the 25th anniversary of the Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival under “Flight of Spirit,” Mike Larsen’s mural of the world-renowned ballet dancers.
“Mike Larsen got his start at Red Earth in 1987, 25 years ago,” said Red Earth Inc. Deputy Director Eric Oesch. “He’s grown so much as an artist … and we’ve had so many artists that have gotten their start with us.”
The silver anniversary edition of Red Earth is set for June 3-5 at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City. The event will feature the famed dance competition, art market, youth activities and a 10K run in addition to the 5K event. This year’s festival also will mark a quarter-century of celebrating American Indian culture with an array of special activities, including a June 2 gala, a birthday party and spotlight war dance.
“Everything we’re doing is centered around being a homecoming, inviting people from the past 25 years to come back,” Oesch said. “We’ve invited all our past ambassadors, Honored Ones, Spirit Award (for volunteer service) winners, all our previous board members, our fancy dance champions.”
Known as “the Mother of Red Earth,” Yvonne Kauger, an Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice and co-founder the festival, has been named the 2011 Red Earth Ambassador of the Year. She is excited but not surprised to see the event marking its 25th year.
“It was meant to be, and the support of the tribes has been critical,” she said. “I hope that we have shown the legacy, the history and the tradition, provided some education for the community and inspired young Native Americans to be very proud of their heritage.”
She noted that many dancers, artists and volunteers have participated in the event year after year. Muskogee painter Ruthe Blalock Jones, a master visual artist named the 2011 Red Earth Honored One, has competed at the festival since its inception. Oklahoma City artist Benjamin Harjo Jr., who crafted the Red Earth logo 25 years ago, designed this year’s festival T-shirt.
Actor Wes Studi, astronaut John Herrington, and Olympic track star Billy Mills are among the VIPs planning to attend the June 2 silver anniversary gala that will precede the festival. For the dancers, artists and their families who have faithfully brought their creativity to the event, a birthday party is planned for June 3 after the dance competition.
“For 25 years, the artists and the dancers have been the center of what we do,” Oesch said. “It will be like a big family reunion.”
Past champions in the men’s fancy dance competition have been invited to contend in a special men’s war dance contest that will literally put them in the spotlight in the darkened arena. Dance coordinator Randy Frazier said the 2011 festival also will introduce the Ladies Eastern Cloth competition, a clown contest and a grand entry and competition just for tiny tots younger than 6.
G. Calvin Sharpe, Red Earth board president, said the festival has an annual economic impact of nearly $9 million, while Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb noted that last year’s event drew more than 12,000 participants and 27,000 attendees. The festival was recently named one of the country’s top 10 powwows by USA Today.
“It’s the largest event of its kind in the entire world,” Lamb said. “What a wonderful thing for Oklahoma to brag about and showcase in our great state.”
25th Annual Red Earth Festival
When: June 3-5.
Where: Cox Convention Center, downtown Oklahoma City.
Information: 427-5228 or www.redearth.org.
As part of Downtown Thursdays in December, the Red Earth Museum and Gallery is staying open until 7 tonight and every Thursday this month.
The event will give art lovers added time to see the newest exhibit at the museum, 6 Santa Fe Plaza.
Twenty original paintings and select historical artifacts from the permanent Red Earth Museum collection are currently on display in the exhibit “The Indian Pony.”
The North American Plains Indians acquired their first horses, and the knowledge of how to handle them, through trade with the Indians of the Southwest who interacted with Spanish explorers in the 17th Century.
The lives of Plains Indians were transformed as horses gave them an advantage when hunting; especially buffalo, the main staple of life in the area bounded by the Rockies and the Mississippi River. For generations Indian ponies have captured the imagination of artists, authors and screenwriters.
“The Indian Pony” at the Red Earth Museum showcases American Indian artists from Oklahoma, and their visions of the horse in Indian culture.
Nine American Indian fine artists, including 2010 Red Earth Festival Grand Award winner Gary Montgomery (Seminole), are featured in the exhibition. Other artists showcased include Frank Sheridan (Cheyenne), Johnny Tiger, Jr (Creek/Seminole), Ron Geionety (Comanche), Whitebuffalo (Kiowa), Tartsah (Kiowa), Jerome Tiger (Creek/Seminole), Doc Tate Nevequaya (Comanche) and Virginia Stroud (Cherokee).
“The Indian Pony” is on view, free to the public, through Feb. 28 at the Red Earth Museum and Gallery at 6 Santa Fe Plaza located next to the Skirvin Hilton Hotel in Oklahoma City.
The Red Earth Museum hosts a diverse and changing schedule of art and historical exhibitions and is custodian of a permanent collection of more than 1,400 items of fine art, pottery, basketry, textiles and beadwork. For information visit www.redearth.org.
During Downtown Thursdays in December, the museum will offer refreshments, special drawings and holiday gift ideas. Evening visitors also will get the chance to meet Red Earth artists and OKC’s Indian princesses.
Other businesses participating in Downtown Thursdays in December include the Nonna’s and the Painted Door, BC Clark Jewelers, Floral and Hardy and many more. For more information, go to www.downtownokc.com.
Red Earth, Inc is currently accepting applications from American Indian artists for the Silver Anniversary Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival scheduled for June 3-5, 2011, at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City.
The Red Earth Festival is considered the world’s largest event of its kind, drawing thousands of art enthusiasts to a three-day weekend celebrating Native American visual art and dance. The Red Earth juried art market annually showcases more than 200 artists representing American Indian tribes and nations from throughout North America.
The event has been named a Top 100 Event in North America and is recipient of numerous awards and honors including “Outstanding Event” from the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department and “Outstanding Cultural Tourism Event” from Central Oklahoma’s Frontier Country Marketing Association.
The juried art competition features works in five categories including Cultural Items, Clothing and Textiles; Painting, Drawings, Graphics and Photography; Sculpture; Jewelry; and Pottery. Each category is divided into subdivisions.
Seminole painter Gary Montgomery from Shawnee received the 2010 Red Earth Grand Award for Best of Show with his oil on canvas painting entitled “Eagle Dog.” Gordon Tonips, a Comanche sculptor from Forth Worth, Texas, was recipient of the 2010 Red Earth President’s Award for a piece he called “Square Tower House,” and Anita Caldwell Jackson, an Echota Cherokee painter from McAlester, received the 2010 Red Earth Kathleen Everett Upshaw Award for her mixed media painting entitled “Peyote Pony.”
Applicants must be able to provide documents of proof of membership in a federally or state-recognized tribal entity or documents of proof of certification as Indian Artisans by an Indian tribe. Applications can be downloaded from www.redearth.org or obtained by calling (405) 427-5228.
For more than 30 years, the nonprofit Red Earth, Inc has been dedicated to its mission to promote the rich traditions of American Indian arts and cultures through education, a premier festival, museum and fine art markets.
The organization is recognized as the region’s premier organization for advancing the understanding and continuation of Native American traditional and contemporary culture and arts. The Red Earth Museum & Gallery, located in downtown Oklahoma City, presents a diverse and changing exhibition schedule and is custodian of a permanent collection of more than 1,400 items of fine art, pottery, basketry, textiles and beadwork – including the Deupree Cradleboard Collection, one of the finest individual collections of its kind in North America.
The Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival has been selected to be featured in the 2011 Rand McNally Road Atlas and Festival Guide, representing the best of Oklahoma events.
Other events included in the 2011 guide include the 89er’s Celebration in Guthrie, the Azalea Festival in Muskogee, Fried Onion Burger Day Festival in El Reno, Ponca City Herb Festival and Festival of the Arts in Oklahoma City.
In 2011, the Red Earth Festival will celebrate its 25th anniversary. Organizers are preparing this year by inviting festival-goers to stop at a special booth and share their stories about Red Earth.
The 2010 Red Earth Festival closes today with American Indian dancing, a juried art market, children’s activities and more from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City. For more information, go to www.redearth.org.
Today’s featured event:
Take in American Indian dancing, a juried art market, children’s activities and more during the final day of the Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival from 11 a.m to 6 p.m. today at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City.
For more information, go to www.redearth.org.
For more events, go to www.wimgo.com.
From Saturday’s The Oklahoman.
Red Earth Festival honoring veterans, reservists and active duty military
Face suitably solemn, shiny mace gripped firmly in his gloved hand, Staff Sgt. Jay Tiger smartly marched the Oklahoma National Guard’s 145th Army Band down E.K. Gaylord Avenue Friday morning.
Behind the band, feathers, beads and bells fluttered in the wind as American Indian dancers showed off their elaborate regalia and tribal princesses waved from top-down convertibles.
Despite the oppressive heat, hundreds of spectators crowded outside the Cox Convention Center to watch the 24th annual Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival open with its annual parade. Viewers clapped, cheered and bobbed to the patriotic music as the National Guard band made its first Red Earth parade appearance.
The band’s position at the front of the parade was no accident: Along with celebrating American Indian culture, this year’s festival is honoring military veterans, reservists and active servicemen and women.
“Those two kind of go hand in hand because a lot of American Indians are veterans,” said Tiger, an Oklahoma City resident who is half
Kiowa and half Muscogee (Creek). “American Indians always do (honor veterans); there’s never a time when they don’t do that.”
Since military service is so widespread and veterans revered among American Indians, Festival organizers are doing more to recognize American Indians who have fought and sacrificed to protect the United States, said Red Earth Deputy Director Eric Oesch.
“We want to expand the military presence in the festival since it’s so appropriate,” he said. “Military service has always been very important in Indian culture. They have one of the highest percentages of any race as far as military service.”
Throughout the weekend, veterans, reservists and active service members will receive discounted admission to Red Earth with military identification. Discounted tickets will cost $7.50 for general admission and $5 for seniors.
In addition, all U.S. military members — Indian and non-Indian — are invited to participate at 7 tonight in the grand entry leading into the evening dance competition.
The festival’s first grand entry Friday ended with veterans among the dancers and from the audience taking the Cox arena floor to accompany the three color guards in a special victory dance.
“I’m glad they’ve done that this year. … I think it’s the greatest thing they could do,” said Darrell Moore, a Pawnee native who now lives in Dallas. “If it wasn’t for the veterans, they wouldn’t be able to have this.”
American Indians’ love of liberty often prompts them to join the military, said Moore, who served four years in the Army.
“They fought for something they believed in,” he said. “This was our land, and what we got of it, we wanted to keep it.”
Moore, who is of Pawnee and Otoe-Missouria descent, wears a red, white and blue ribbon on his black and green regalia when he competes in the golden age men division of the Southern Straight Dance.
“They have so much pride in America,” Oesch said of the dance competitors with military experience. “On their regalia … many times you’ll see people beadwork on American flags. That’s just amazing to me because just think how that flag treated them 100 years ago, yet they’re so loyal to it today.”
The Oklahoma Intertribal Veterans Association Buddy Bond Chapter Color Guard has been loyally marching in Red Earth grand entries and parades for many years.
“We come every year because it’s tradition,” said Stewart Cady, a retired Marine of Chippewa and Sioux descent. “We like to do it because … it’s for the veterans and so many of the dancers and singers are veterans.”
“In the Native tradition, it’s one important thing to honor our veterans and to remember those who have gone on before us,” said fellow color guard member Blas Flores Jr., an Air Force veteran of Navajo heritage.
For Tiger, who served three years in the Army and has been in the National Guard for 17 years, leading the Red Earth parade in front of so many flag-saluting veterans was a privilege.
“I’ve done this for awhile, and it never gets old,” he said of serving as the band’s drum major. “It’s always been a great thing to be a part of.”
Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival
When: Through Sunday.
Where: Cox Convention Center.
One-day passes: Adults, $10; 60 and older, $7.50; children ages 6-17, $7.50; children 5 and younger admitted free. Group rates available.
Information: 427-5228 or www.redearth.org.
Here is a list of events happening around Oklahoma this weekend (June 18-20), which includes Father’s Day on Sunday. For more activities, go to www.wimgo.com.
- See the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and other thrilling aerial and static displays, live music and more at the free Star Spangled Salute Air Show Saturday and Sunday at Tinker Air Force Base. Gates open at 9 a.m. both days. Information: www.aerospaceokc.com.
- Kick-off your summer at “Hootenanny at the Harn” from 5:30 to 10:30 tonight at Harn Homestead, 1721 N Lincoln Blvd. The musical event under the stars will feature performances by the Stringents and Reverb Brothers, food from Rococo’s and Deep Fork Grill, and games for the kids. Information: www.harnhomestead.com.
- Recognize the state’s diverse culture heritage with live music, traditional dance, craft demonstrations and more at the free Oklahoma Folklife Festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive. Information: 522-5207 or www.okhistory.org.
- TULSA – Hear Drive-By Truckers with Mayola at 7 p.m. Saturday at Cain’s Ballroom, 423 N Main. Information: www.cainsballroom.com.
- CONCHO — Hear Morris Day and The Time at 8 tonight at Lucky Star Casino, 7777 N U.S. 81, El Reno. Information: 262-7612 or www.luckystarcasino.org.
- BARTLESVILLE — Celebrate the music of Mozart at the OK Mozart Festival today and Saturday. The 26th annual festival will close at 8 p.m. Saturday at Bartlesville Community Center, 300 SE Adams Blvd., with “An Evening of Gershwin,” featuring the Amici New York Orchestra performing “American in Paris,” “Rhapsody in Blue” and more. Information: (918) 336-9800 or www.okmozart.com.
- Take Dad to the Oklahoma City Zoo, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, American Banjo Museum, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman or another attraction offering free admission for dads Sunday, which is Father’s Day. Information: www.wimgo.com, search “Father’s Day.”
- Celebrate American Indian culture at the 24th annual Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival today-Sunday at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City. Information: 427-5228 or www.redearth.org.
-Watch Jewel Box Theatre’s production of “Annie” at 8:30 tonight and Saturday at the Jewel Box’s outdoor amphitheatre, 3700 N Walker. Information: www.jewelboxtheatre.org.
- NORMAN – Watch the 1955 Rodgers and Hammerstein movie musical “Oklahoma!” for free Saturday evening on the giant video screen at OU’s Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, 180 W Brooks. Gates 1, 5, 7 and 11 will open at 5 p.m., with pre-movie programming scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. followed by the movie at 6:30 p.m. Patrons may sit in the stands or bring a blanket and sit on the Owen Field turf. No lawn chairs or other types of seating will be permitted on the field. Information: www.wimgo.com.
- NORMAN – Take your kids, along with their pillows and sleeping bags, to the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History tonight for the monthly Movie Night at the Museum. This month’s movie will be “Alice in Wonderland.” People can come dressed as their favorite “Alice” character for the Mad Mad Costume Contest; winners will be chosen by audience response at 8:15 p.m. Museum galleries are open from 7 to 8:30 tonight, and the movie begins at 8:30. The museum is at 2401 Chautauqua Ave. on the University of Oklahoma campus.
- TULSA – See the new exhibit “To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum,” opening Sunday at the Philbrook Museum of Art, 727 S Rockford Road. Information: www.philbrook.org.
- NORMAN – See the premiere of Oklahoma filmmaker Mickey Reece’s mockumentary “Country Singer” at 9 p.m. Saturday at The Opolis, 113 N Crawford. The event will feature performances by Ali Harter, Kenny Wayne and Roy Mason. To read my colleague Nathan Poppe’s story on the film, click here. Information: www.starlightmints.com/opolis.html.
- Hear Austin, Texas, guitarist/singer/songwriter Ian Moore at 9:30 tonight at VZD’s, 4203 N Western. Information: www.vzds.com.
- NORMAN — Listen to Grammy-winning country star Ronnie Milsap at 8 p.m. at Riverwind Casino, 1544 W State Highway 9. Information: 322-6464 or www.riverwind.com.
From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Red Earth Honored One dedicated to preserving tribal culture
Gordon Yellowman Sr. becomes the fifth Cheyenne & Arapaho artist to be named the Honored One.
Growing up, Gordon Yellowman Sr. always knew what he was getting in his Christmas presents.
“Every Christmas, I’d get art supplies. I never got toys. I already knew what I’d get for Christmas. Later on, you know, it was ‘Why don’t I get toys?’ And it was my parents’ way to … support my art. Today, I thank them for it because if it wasn’t for that, I probably wouldn’t have pursued my art,” he said.
A member of the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, Yellowman, 52, of El Reno, will be recognized as the 2010 Red Earth Festival Honored One this weekend during the 24th annual Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival at the Cox Convention Center.
Each year, the Red Earth board of directors selects an American Indian master visual artist as the Honored One based on nominations from fellow artists. Past recipients include such acclaimed artists as Allan Houser, Mike Larsen and Doc Tate Nevaquaya.
“Gordon is an outstanding artist, citizen, and an Oklahoma role model for all people,” Mary Jo Watson, director of the University of Oklahoma’s School of Art and Art History, wrote in nominating Yellowman. “One of the most important aspects of his life is his service to his tribe and the greater Oklahoma Indian community.”
His late father, Everett H. Yellowman, was principal chief of the traditional peacemakers of the Cheyenne known as the Council of Forty-Four. At age 16, the younger Yellowman was named a Cheyenne Peace Chief. He now serves as one of the four principal chiefs of his tribe.
He becomes the fifth Cheyenne & Arapaho Honored One, following Archie Blackowl, Dick West, Charles Pratt and Harvey Pratt. Yellowman remembers West visiting his father and going over his paintings to get the accurate history and stories behind what he was depicting in his work.
“I think of those gentlemen of caliber as artists who were extraordinary and made many contributions not only to the state of Oklahoma but to this world as well with their art. … Those men were true artists, true masters, and for me to be recognized with their name is certainly an honor,” Yellowman said.
“The gift that we have as artists, we share that through education and we share that through our media and our form of art. Not only are we sharing it, we’re preserving true stories of the cultural ways of our lives.”
Preserving his heritage is a driving passion in Yellowman’s life. He works as the language coordinator for Cheyenne & Arapaho education department, helping teach the tribal language through children’s programs and college courses. He teaches as an adjunct professor in the art department at the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribal College at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford. He also is working on a bachelor’s degree in art history through OU’s Native American Studies program.
“You can’t have language without culture, you can’t have art without culture, you can’t have traditions without culture. The art is a very
significant part of the culture, and through that, it’s evolving into the whole representation of the people, of the nation. That art reflects the beauty of that nation,” Yellowman said.
As an artist, he depicts traditional Cheyenne scenes in a flat ledger art style, so called because ledger books were a common source of paper for Plains Indian artists in the 19th century. But he incorporates modern hues of teal, purple and pink into his work.
“My art I think is very unique because I do a lot of research. I research Cheyenne ledger art and Arapaho ledger art because I know that back then, those artists were actually developing Polaroids of what was happening at that time period, from about the late 1870s on to the 1900s,” he said. “I incorporate the old-style ledger art into the contemporary style that I use, and I create my own ledger style. … I appreciate the colors that we have now because colors are a representation of our culture, our ways of life.”
Red Earth President Jonna Kauger Kirschner said Yellowman’s great artistic talent and dedication to mentoring other artists makes him a wonderful selection as Honored One
“He brings the tradition and the contemporary together. We sometimes have a stereotypical image of what Native American art is. Yes, while it may have started out as flat and more into ledger drawings, I think Gordon shows how you take that traditional art and you bring it into a contemporary visual image. He’s just very talented,” she said.