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24 x 30"

acrylic on canvas

Sioux Empire Arts Council, Sioux Falls, SD


Blackfoot legend has it that the land, now known as Glacier National Park, was created during a battle between the sun (Old Father) and the moon (Old Mother). Rocks were thrown in their struggle, forming the pitted landscape below. We stop to experience this land of retreating glaciers and magnificent lakes. Melting ice has exposed sharp mountain peaks, steeply rising from the forest floor. On our drive out, a tired coyote walks beside us on the roadside, and is oblivious to the attention received from onlookers.

On the capital lawn, in Helena, a peaceful anti-war display catches our attention. Thousands of boots are lined up in an emotional representation of each American serviceman/woman killed in Iraq. Names and photos of each soldier are attached to the laces, and while I support the silent representation of our soldiers’ great sacrifice, I am smothered by anxiety. I think of our good friend, a Captain in the U.S. Army, who is in Iraq. He is like a brother to Alfonso, and is near completion of his one-year tour. I am reassured by thoughts of meeting him this August, for his homecoming in Alaska. 

After touring the capital city, Alfonso and I drive to Livingston, MT to visit The House Of Fine Art. Penny Ronning owns the gallery, but also works in LA as a film producer. Thanks to her, we not only have a home for the Washington-inspired painting, but also an interested gallery in Anchorage. Even greater is that Penny turns out to be one of those amazing people whose immediate warmth makes others feel important. It is hard to believe that someone photographed with Peter Fonda, Jeff Bridges and Michael Keaton could be so down to earth, yet we talk to her for over four hours before moving on. 

The next day, we explore Little Bighorn Battlefield, also known as “Custer’s Last Stand.” Headstones dot the landscape, placed where each soldier fell during the 1876 battle. The United States Lt. Colonel George Custer and Major Marcus Reno led 7th Calvary. They were sent to force Sioux and Cheyenne tribes back to government reservations. As the Calvary approached a village of men, women and children, Sioux warriors, Crazy horse and Sitting Bull, became aware of the oncoming threat. When the two forces collided, the result was a bloody battle ending in 268 U.S. casualties, including the infamous Colonel Custer. According to Yellow Horse, Red Horse and Little Buck Elk, 200 Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho were killed, however the National Park service only recognizes 40 Native American casualties.

The Battle of the Little Bighorn symbolizes one of the many instances where Native Americans fought to preserve their way of life. Their victory was short-lived, as it would ignite a fierce response from the U.S. government, forever ending the free and nomadic life of native tribes. It is said that after forcing him onto a specific block of land, a white man asked Crazy Horse,” Where is your land now?” The chief simply replied with, “My lands are where my dead lie buried.”