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George Paul Horse Capture, former NMAI official, passes away

Filed Under: National
More on: fort belknap, george horse capture, montana, obituaries

George Paul Horse Capture Sr. (1937-2013)

GREAT FALLS, MONTANA -- The Creator has called George Paul Horse Capture Sr., “Nay Gyagya Nee” (Spotted Otter), 75, to the Big Sands on April 16, 2013. He was born and raised in Montana, a proud member of the A’aninin (Gros Ventre) tribe. He passed away from acute renal failure, complications of diabetes and congestive heart failure at his home in Great Falls, Montana surrounded by family.

A family wake will be held at Mark and Elizabeth Azure's home at Fort Belknap Agency on Friday April 19 at 5 PM. The community wake will be held at the Red Whip Center, Fort Belknap Agency, Montana on Saturday April 20th at 5 PM and his funeral service will be held at the same location on Sunday April 21 at 11 AM. Burial will follow at the Fort Belknap Agency Cemetery. A feed will follow the burial.

George was born in a log cabin in Little Chicago on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation on Oct. 20, 1937. He lived there with his grandmother and cousins, attending school in Harlem, and then continuing his education in Butte while living with his mother. He served in the U.S. Navy as a Ship-fitter for 4 years and after being honorably discharged he enrolled in welding school in the San Francisco Bay area.

After working as a welder’s helper for 5 years he applied for and became the youngest State Steel Inspector and only minority person at that time for the State of California. Indian activism was a strong topic in the late 1960’s and George participated in the Alcatraz occupation. That experience prompted his enrollment at the University of California-Berkeley where he obtained his Bachelors in Anthropology.

After graduating from Berkeley, he moved to Montana and taught at the College of Great Falls from 1974-77, attending Montana State University-Bozeman from 1977-79; where he received his Masters of History degree.

He became one of the first Native American curators in the country when he accepted the position of Curator of the Plains Indian Museum at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center Cody, Wyoming in 1979. During his tenure, George organized important exhibitions like "Wounded Knee: Lest We Forget" and "PowWow."

He also organized the Plains Indian Seminars that allowed Indian people and Anglos to exchange ideas and present new scholarly material. George worked closely with Indian tribes throughout the Northern Plains insuring that their voice was heard in a museum setting. He founded the first powwow grounds associated with a museum in the country. Annual celebrations continue to be held at the Joe Robbie Powwow Gardens.

In 1994, he became the Deputy Assistant Director for Cultural Resources at the National Museum of the American Indian-Smithsonian Institution, and later, Senior Counselor to the Director. During his ten years at NMAI, he was instrumental in the organizing and presentation of the new facility on the Mall in Washington, D.C. He was also an advocate for repatriation that resulted in the returning of many sacred objects to the appropriate tribes. He retired in 2004 but continued to consult for many museums, lecture, publish, and powwow.

He has received numerous awards and honors for his work, including: Honorary Doctorate of Letters, Montana State University-Bozeman; Humanities Award, Montana Committee of the Humanities; Presidential Appointee to the National Museum Services Board; and a member of the Montana Committee for the Humanities.

He is widely published and known as an international expert on Native American art, culture, and history. He also produced a film and television program. His work includes "I'd Rather Be Powwowing" and "Indian Country." He took great pride in completing his life-long work of creating the Tribal Archive Project, a database that includes information from worldwide museum sources about the A'aninin.

Throughout his career, he firmly believed in empowering Indian people. He was close to the A'aninin's tribal brothers, the Northern Arapaho. He was a keeper of tradition and knowledge in the Horse Capture family, and fulfilled his Sundance vows. He was a mentor to many. He was also a man of dichotomies. He loved to travel as long as he didn't have to walk too far. He loved great simple Native American food and French cuisine.

George has four children from previous marriages, George Jr. (Theresa), Joseph (Lisa), Daylight (Mike), and Peter. He married the love of his life, Kay-Karol, on March 28, 1984. His was known as "Grandpa Braids" by his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His grandchildren include Elizabeth (Mark), William, Sage, Valerie, Etanan, Dasah, White Bird, Singer, Cameron, and Red Willow. His surviving sisters include Carol Chandler, Caroline Yellowrobe, and many other loved ones. He made many great friends over the years.

George was preceded in death by his father and mother, Joseph Horse Capture and Carmen Falcon Deane; stepfather, Peter Deane; brothers, Joseph Rael Horse Capture, Gary Horse Capture, Emery Gray; sister Carmen-Jean Falcon; and grandfather and grandmother, Paul and Clementine Horse Capture.

Powwowing was in his soul. He truly loved to powwow and danced as much as he could. He enjoyed eating snow cones, greasy hamburgers, and Indian tacos. He loved to visit friends and relatives at celebrations. His emotions would swell when he heard the emcee announce during the Grand Entry, "All the dancers have entered the arena."

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