Dave Archambault: Yanktonai artist Oscar Howe recorded history

“Fool Soldiers” by Dakota artist Oscar Howe is displayed in the Shear Howe Arena in Mobridge, South Dakota. It depicts a true incident that occurred after the 1862 Sioux Uprising.

Indian perspective illustrated by Oscar Howe Mural
By Dave Archambault

The murals which are displayed on the walls of the Shear Howe arena in Mobridge, South Dakota, reveal an invaluable perspective of American Indian life shortly after contact with the Wasicus or European kind of people for the Crow Creek Dakota Sioux. They were created by Oscar Howe in 1942.

The murals give the viewer a look into the heart and soul of this period by portraying the Sioux customs, values, and traditions that were still operating in the people. On one hand Oscar’s drawings simply show the overriding social nuances that came at these semi-nomadic people, who were transplanted onto the prairie of South Dakota from Minnesota. His genuine Indian art allows us to see the way the Sioux understood living on Mother Earth by illustrating a few of the ceremonies that put rhyme and reason to all that is.

In order to fully appreciate the story in the murals, a background of the artist and his ancestry must be shared for authenticity purposes.

Oscar Howe was born, May 13, 1915 on the Crow Creek Sioux reservation. As a young boy, he grew up among his Yanktonai Sioux people, who were still living according to their formal social organization that was developed over centuries of time. This gave him the wonderful opportunity to internalize this world view at the very beginning of an imposed reservation life. From this perspective, and his world acclaimed artistic talent, a story is captured forever on the walls of the Shear/Howe auditorium.

Oscar Howe was a fluent speaker of his Dakota language. His parents, grandparents, and Dakota Sioux people were forcibly removed from their ancestral Minnesota homeland that was in the general area where the Shakopee Indian reservation is now sitting. His people were unjustifiably identified as partakers in the Sioux Uprising of 1862, which took place up and down the Minnesota River - some 100 miles to the south and west of their aboriginal homeland.

In spite of pleas from local area White friends, who attested to their helpful and peaceful behavior, and factual information that they were not involved in the conflict, without cause Oscar Howe’s relatives and villages were gathered up in the Spring of 1863 and taken to Fort Snelling near Minneapolis. They were kept there as prisoners of war for months before they were put on ferry boats and sent down the Mississippi River to St. Louis.

Read the rest of the story on the all new Native Sun News website: Indian perspective illustrated by Oscar Howe Mural

(Dave Archambault can be reached at joebuckinghorse@gmail.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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