Groundbreaking “Horse Nation” Exhibition to Open at The Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School on September 22

posted September 21, 2016

Over a year ago, The Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School and artist and filmmaker Keith BraveHeart began creating a new exhibition celebrating the bond between horses and Native peoples on the Great Plains. On September 22, Horse Nation of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ will open to the public for the first time in The Heritage Center’s gallery. This groundbreaking exhibit explores how horses have shaped the history, spirituality, and culture of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people of the Seven Council Fires (or Očhéthi Šakówiŋ).

The Horse Nation exhibition will feature over 80 works—including paintings, sculpture, beadwork, and more—by Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota artists. During the opening celebration, BraveHeart will speak about the innovative community-influenced process that inspired the show’s development. Artists Donald F. Montileaux and James Star Comes Out will be on hand to discuss their works on display. The opening event begins at 4:00 pm at The Heritage Center and all are invited to attend.

Yellow Horses by Roger Broer

“We are so thrilled to open the Horse Nation exhibition—because we believe it truly presents a shared vision of the horse held by many people across the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ,” said Mary Maxon, The Heritage Center’s director. “Over the last year we traveled hundreds of miles to speak with tribal members about the role horses played in their lives and in the lives of their ancestors. And we learned that, for people of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, horses continue to be revered as spiritual relatives with the power to heal. Through this exhibit, we are telling their story—and we hope everyone will come be a part of it.”

The exhibition has its roots in BraveHeart’s documentary film We Are a Horse Nation. To create the film, BraveHeart and co-director Jim Cortez interviewed hundreds of tribal members—including many Native artists—to gather personal stories about the influence of horses in their lives. Those conversations—and a series of community gatherings facilitated by BraveHeart and Maxon—provided the foundation for this visual art exhibition.

Mary Maxon, Director of The Heritage Center, visits with South Dakota Arts Council Director Michael Pangburn at the 47th Annual Red Cloud Indian Art Show

“Over the last century and a half, the people of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ have withstood attacks on their culture and spirituality—but their connection to the Horse Nation has remained unbroken,” said BraveHeart. “In our history, horses helped us to hunt, to travel, and to survive in the midst of conflict. Today, reconnecting with horses is helping us to renew and rebuild tribal identity—and celebrate our culture and spirituality. This exhibition honors the Horse Nation for protecting and strengthening our people.”

Horse Nation of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ opens on September 22 and will run through December 3 at The Heritage Center, located at Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, SD. It will then travel to the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City in the winter of 2016/2017 and then on to the South Dakota Art Museum in Brookings through August 2017. Generous funding for the exhibition and catalog was provided by: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Black Hills Community Foundation, and the South Dakota Humanities Council.

Untitled by Sam Two Bulls


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Photos © Red Cloud Indian School