The Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School Plans Community-influenced Art Project Focusing on Connection to the Horse Nation

posted March 19, 2015 

The Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School opened as a cultural center in 1982, offering an outstanding collection of Native American fine arts and Lakota tribal arts. One of the few Native, fine arts galleries located on an Indian reservation, The Heritage Center endeavours to foster creative opportunities for, and understanding about Native artists and art, focusing on Lakota artists and their communities.

Today, The Heritage Center is taking that mission to the next level with the announcement of their community-influenced art project focusing on the connection between the Šúŋkawakȟaŋ Oyáte (the Horse Nation) and Native peoples of the northern plains.

“This project, which will develop through an artist-led, community-influenced process, will provide a platform for Native artists to express themselves and their culture in an authentic voice,” says Jose Rivera, director of The Heritage Center.

Rivera says that the major influence for the project is local artist Keith BraveHeart’s documentary film We Are a Horse Nation, which looks at the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ and their relationship with the horse. The Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, or Seven Council Fires, is the collective group of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Nations of the northern plains.

“The Heritage Center has been looking for an opportunity to create a new model for curating; to transform the model from a top-down, institution-led process to a grassroots, community-influenced practice,” continues Rivera. “Too many stereotypes of Native people and culture exist in our society, and this project will advance the work of rectifying that.”

Keith BraveHeart, the Oglala Lakota artist and filmmaker whose work inspired the project, believes the project will expand upon the work of his documentary, further highlighting the Šúŋkawakȟaŋ Oyáte as a common thread that links the nations together.

To explore this common thread, BraveHeart and The Heritage Center’s curator are hoping to visit each nation of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ to hold gatherings for local artists and community members to discuss each their relationship with the Šúŋkawakȟaŋ Oyáte. Through this effort, they will explore the possibility of local artists creating new works of art to be exhibited on behalf of their nations.

“I want our [nation] to take a look at ourselves and recognize that we still exist, and that we are beautiful and strong,” says BraveHeart. “I believe that the strength of a combined effort of artists and community can elevate the culture of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ.”

Rivera anticipates the project will culminate in an exhibit of contemporary art, songs, and stories, alongside historic pieces from The Heritage Center’s vast collection that will explore the cultural continuum of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ from their own perspective and celebrate the tremendous talents of their artists.

The first of the community meetings took place in Rapid City, South Dakota at the Dahl Arts Center in December 2014.

The next community meeting will take place at The Heritage Center on March 26, 2015 following a screening of We Are a Horse Nation. Subsequent meetings will take place throughout Očhéthi Šakówiŋ communities in the spring and summer of 2015.

For more information on the project and to get involved, attend the meeting and film screening on March 26 or contact The Heritage Center’s curator, Mary Maxon at 605-867-8257.

Art: Eagle Catcher Returns - Denton Fast Whirlwind - Mixed Media - 2014