Members of the Texas Tech community and the general public recently enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about Native American arts and cultures. The Native American Artist Lecture Series featured three award winning artists whose presentations explored the specific ways in which their Native American heritage and identity influence their art. The lecture series was organized by Dr. Michael Paul Jordan, a sociocultural anthropologist who recently joined the Texas Tech faculty. The program garnered broad support. In addition to the College of Arts and Sciences, sponsors included the Cross-Cultural Academic Advancement Center; the Texas Tech Museum; the Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work Department, and the History Department.
The lecture series featured an impressive line-up of artists. Gordon Yellowman, Sr. is a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. He is an award winning painter who finds inspiration in drawings created by Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors during the late 1800s. In addition, Mr. Yellowman has extensive experience dealing with issues related to cultural heritage. In 2009, he was the recipient of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Preservation Award and he was recently appointed Chair of the Smithsonian Institution’s Repatriation Review Committee.
The second presenter was Vanessa Paukeigope Jennings. Mrs. Jennings is a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma and a master bead worker. In 1989, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded her a National Heritage Fellowship, recognizing her as a “living American treasure.” She is renowned for her fully beaded cradles. In addition, Mrs. Jennings also creates beaded buckskin dresses and other traditional Kiowa clothing worn during dances and ceremonies.
The final lecture in the series was presented by Jeraldine Redcorn, pictured. Mrs. Redcorn is a Caddo and Potawatomie potter. She is widely recognized as responsible for reviving the Caddo pottery tradition. Her work is inspired by the designs found on pottery shards and vessels recovered from prehistoric and historic Caddo archaeological sites in Texas and surrounding states. Mrs. Redcorn’s intensive study of these objects combined with her intimate knowledge of Caddo culture provides her with a unique perspective on this art form. One of her pieces is currently on display in the Oval Office.
The lecture series is the most recent expression of the College of Arts and Science’s desire to engage Native American communities. In the past, a number of faculty members in the College have participated in the Native American Summer Bridge Institute and observances related to Native American Heritage Month. Through events like the lecture series the College hopes to forge relationships with Native American tribes and lay the foundation for future collaborative endeavors. For example, Jordan is already planning to hold an ethnographic field school in Oklahoma during the summer of 2013. The field school will allow students from the College to gain firsthand experience in conducting ethnographic research, while contributing to several Native American communities’ ongoing cultural preservation efforts.