- THE RACELESSNESS OF BEAUTY -
While resting from working my art, I often reflect on the thing every Nor'Wester Voyageur of yore sooner than later discovered: the racelessness of beauty. Then when I look at a photograph, piece of art or artifact collected over the years during my many trips throughout Indian America that has found a home in my studio, with sentimentality and a certain nostalgia I allow the past, like a finger, to reach out and touch me.
A canoe paddle hand carved the traditional way with a crooked knife by my Cree guide leans against a wall next to a photo of our family plot of red earth with its stand of cottonwood trees down along the bank at the bend of Lame Deer Creek in the center of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana.
On top of a chest filled with old slides and photos taken during my wilderness canoe trips in the 1960s and 1970s rest the leather working tools given me the Fall of 1984 by my friend and mentor, the late Northern Cheyenne artist Frederick Dale Seminole. Above the chest hangs the framed certificate signed by W. Richard West, Jr., the museums director, announcing the completion of the inscription of Freddies and my name joined together on the Wall of Honor of The National Museum of the American Indian, the National Mall, Washington, D.C. [ http://www.nmai.si.edu/
On a bookshelf in its rightful place interleaved among the pages of a volumn about Sand Creek is a letter of appreciation I recieved from Rick West for the copies I sent him of Cape Cod Chronicle YOU GUEST IT articles prompted by the opening of the museum [ A triumphant Moment - Oct. 7, 2004 and An American Idol - March 31, 2005 ] . Five unnamed victims of the 1864 Sand Creek massacre hold a place of honer among the thousands of us that contributed to the Grand Opening of the NMAI September 21, 2004. Opposition to the creation of the museum reached a turning point when hearts were melted by the resurfacing in the Smithsonian of a cache of unnamed human remains of the massacre.
Sharing the top of the list with few others of " studio props " that touch my heart-strings is the Navajo wedding vase given to my wife Sharon and me as a wedding gift by the director of the Navajo Nation Health Foundation, the first Indian managed health care system in America. The vase is so fragile Sharon had to carry it in a shoebox on her lap all the way from Canado, Arizona to Cape Cod.
Near the vase lies open an album of thank you letters given to me in 1992 by Chatham school children. The album also contains the Proclaimation by the President of the United States designating 1992 as The Year of the American Indian. Signed by George H. W. Bush and complete with the Presidential seal in gold leaf, the proclamation arrived from the White House in time for the program I put on that year at the Eldredge Public Library in Chatham.
Now as I write and gaze on the white paper in front of me, in a kind of cinematic overlay, I watch the bus loads of Chatham school children file into the Forgeron Room in the library to view the art of my Indian friends, listen to a talk and read the proclamation - "...In virtually every realm of our national life, the contributions of Americas original inhabitants and their descendants continues. " Looking through the vision I " see " the people and places I have come to know and love throughout Indian America. Then the images dissolve and it is as if I can hear once again President George W. Bush greeting those gathered in the East Room for the Presidential reception honoring the Grand Opening of the NMAI, " Like many Indian dwelings the new museum faces east, toward the rising sun. And as we celebrate this new museum and look to the future, we can say that the sun is rising on Indian Country. " [ http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/09/20040923-2.html
It is a good thing now there is also a Native American Day. The 4th Friday of each September has been set aside to honor and celebrate Native Americans, the first Americans to live in the United States.