Category Archives: Creative Connections

Auasini: The Place That Feeds You

Charles M. Russell, When Blackfeet and Sioux Meet, 1908, Oil on canvas, 20 1/2 x 29 7/8 inches

In our ongoing efforts to learn more about the various American Indian cultures represented in our collection – like the Blackfeet depicted in many of Charlie Russell’s paintings – The Sid recently hosted a training for our docent volunteers led by Dr. Michael Wise, an Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Texas, where he specializes in the history of the American West.

Dr. Wise has studied many aspects of the food histories and cultural environments of the American West, including the 2016 publication Producing Predators: Wolves, Work, and Conquest in the Northern Rockies, a book about the history of wolf eradication and the cattle industry. In addition, he is the editor of the recently completed volume, The Routledge History of American Foodways, a twenty-five-chapter compendium on the environmental and cultural histories of food in the United States. Dr. Wise is currently working on a historical account of food and colonialism in Native North America spanning the last five centuries. More specific to our collection is his chapter, “The Place that Feeds You: Allotment and the Struggle for Blackfeet Food Sovereignty,” in the 2017 book titled Food Across Borders. During our training, Dr. Wise talked with us about the Blackfeet and their evolving relationship with food.

The Blackfoot Confederacy is the collective name for the four bands that make up the Blackfeet (or Blackfoot) people. Three of the four bands live in Canada, but our discussion centered primarily on the Southern Piegan/Blackfeet (or Amskapi Pikuni) who reside in Montana. Historically, the Blackfeet are frequently represented as “hunters” in Euro-American art and literature. However, they subsisted on more than just bison, trading a substantial amount of meat for corn, squash, and other agricultural products with the neighboring Mandan, Crow, and other indigenous people. Likewise, the Blackfeet followed their own form of horticultural practices, though these practices may not resemble our traditional ideas of agricultural systems.

Blackfoot Season Round from Dr. Michael Wise

Prior to life on reservations, the Blackfeet based their foodways on a seasonal round, with families traveling 1-2,000 miles annually to as many as 15 campsites across an approximately 10,000 square-mile area. Despite moving to various locations throughout the year, the term nomad is not wholly accurate in describing the Blackfeet, as they never wandered, but instead knew to where they were traveling, often returning to the same place. (The Blackfoot word for “home” is auasini, which translates to “the place that feeds you.”) At some of these locations, the Blackfeet would remove non-edible plants to allow for the growth of selective wild vegetables in that area. Likewise, they practiced seasonal burning of plains grasses to better direct bison near buffalo jumps, or pishkun (a practice in which the hunters would drive a herd of bison over a cliff).

Alfred Jacob Miller, Hunting Buffalo, 1858-60, The Walters Art Museum, 37.1940.190

The Blackfeet didn’t just survive off the land; they thrived! They developed specifics tastes, knowing which season produced the bison meat they preferred, for example. And with that bison, they created ingenious ways to use every part of the animal. The Blackfeet also discovered how to make food that was long lasting and calorically dense. A food product like pemmican – made from bison flesh, Saskatoon berries, and tallow – was a necessity for their intense, calorie-burning travelling lifestyle.

By the 1870s, most of the Blackfeet had moved onto a reservation, the boundaries from which they were not allowed leave in order to hunt. Instead, the federal government allocated herds of cattle turning the Blackfeet Reservation into a ranch that would feed into the national industrial meat system. A slaughterhouse was erected and employed Blackfeet men, paying them not in cash but ration tickets. Prior to reservation life, it was traditionally the role of the Blackfeet women to slaughter and butcher the bison. On The Blackfeet Reservation, the women transformed from butchers into bakers, whose products helped feed the reservation agents.

Eventually, tribal ranchers adapted traditional cooperative livestock raising practices with the creation of the Piegan Farming and Livestock Affiliation (PFLA) in order to fend off the ongoing redistribution of land since the implementation of the Dawes Act, which had divided tribal land into allotments for individual Blackfeet. PFLA recast the individualizing imperatives of allotment with communal farming, which allowed the Blackfeet to regain a bit of control over their foodways once again.

Bronze Or Bust

If you took an art class in school or just for fun, you’ve probably had the opportunity to make some kind of sculpture, whether with clay, plaster, play-doh, or other materials. But how many of us have experienced casting a sculpture out of bronze?

Bronze is the most popular metal for casting sculptures, and was a material with which both Charlie Russell and Frederic Remington cast their many bronze pieces, including those currently on display in our galleries. How does one cast a bronze sculpture?

Photo credit: OKFoundryCompany

When casting metal, there are a lot of challenges you must overcome. First of all, you’re working at very high temperatures. Bronze melts at around 950 °C (1,742 °F). You must choose a material to make your mold that can handle the heat. Some common mold making materials include sand, plaster, or silicone. Also, metal shrinks as it cools. If your object is too thick, it is going to cool unevenly, and you could have cracks.

Photo credit: Nic McPhee

When Remington first began working in bronze, he worked with the Henry-Bonnard Bronze Co., a foundry that used the sand casting method. At the time, Henry-Bonnard was likely the finest sand casting foundry in the US during the late 19th century. The establishment of the company coincided with an influx in production of public monuments during that period to memorialize the early leaders of the nation. Because sand casting results in a denser metal, it was the preferred method for casting outdoor monuments that didn’t involve complicated surface details.

George Washington statue in the Boston Public Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Sculptor: Thomas Ball.

When Remington switched to the little known foundry Roman Bronze Works in 1900, he began working with the lost wax casting method. (Fun Fact: SRM artist Charles Schreyvogel also cast his sculptures at Roman Bronze Works.) Lost wax casting is as versatile as sand casting is limited. The possibilities seem almost endless by comparison. Remington took advantage of the lost wax process in such works as Dragoons 1850. Remington was a stickler for detail and perfect, writing Riccardo Bertelli, founder of Roman Bronze Works, that he, “better not put Dragoons in fire until I see it again…Those big groups have got to be just so…”[1] A bronze of such complexity required Remington to oversee its production to guarantee quality of the casting.

Frederic Remington | Dragoons 1850 | 1917 | Bronze | Private Collection

Likewise, the lost wax method allowed more diversity in detailing with works like The Cheyenne. In addition, the lost wax method enabled Remington to make significant changes to the sculpture. After the first eight castings of The Cheyenne, the artist lowered the warrior’s shield, adding feathers to it, as well as adorning the warrior with earrings. Remington also turned the Cheyenne’s face slightly to the left. This bronze was Remington’s first model to be cast in one piece.

Frederic Remington | The Cheyenne | ca. 1904 | Bronze | Private Collection

There are many steps to the lost wax casting method. The basic steps of lost wax casting are to take your original sculpture and first make a mold of this, which will be cast in wax with a solid core. A second mold will be made around the wax. The wax will be melted out, hence lost, and then molten metal will be poured in. For a more in-depth outline of the entire process, check out this silent animated video produced by the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2LTsD8IE_s

 

 

[1] Undated letter, Owen D. Young Collection, St. Lawrence University

Millie Ringgold and “Coal Oil Johnny”

In 1907, Charlie Russell paid tribute to Montana resident, Millie Ringgold, in his painting “Utica.” A musical person, Millie often played songs while drumming her empty five-gallon coal oil can, which can be scene prominently in Russell’s painting. In honor of Black History Month, join us as we follow the story of a freed slave, her favorite song, and the first great cautionary tale of the oil age. The following article was researched and written by SRM docent, S. Mark Clardy.

Millie Ringgold

Millie Ringgold was born a slave in Maryland in about 1845.  After the Emancipation Proclamation, she went to Washington, D.C., at age 20 to work as a nurse and servant, and then went west with an army general.  When he was transferred back east, she stayed in Montana, bought a pair of condemned army mules and a wagon, loaded up with supplies and a barrel of whiskey at Fort Benton, and then headed for a boom town called Yogo with $1,600.  She established a hotel, restaurant and saloon and began working her two mining claims.  Like most gold mine claims, it didn’t turn out very well.

She was known as being very musical, using whatever she had – mouthharp, hand saw, wash­board, dish­pans.  The miners bragged that she could make more music with an empty five–gallon can, than most people could playing a piano.[1]  Her favorite songs were “Coming Thro’ the Rye” and “Coal Oil[2] Johnny on a Bum Bum Solree,”[3] undoubtedly accompanied by vigorous drumming on her 5-gallon can.

That’s where the story starts getting interesting musically.  I suspect the story would also interest Sid Richardson, Amon Carter, and the other oil tycoons of the 20th century.

In 1868, shortly after the Civil War, an Irish actor named John Brougham wrote a play, published in San Francisco, called “The Lottery of Life.”  (The phrase apparently meant that to be born British was to “win the lottery of life,” i.e., to be born at the top of the international heap.)  One of the characters in the play was a man who struck it rich with an oil well and became a profligate spender.  Most likely, this was the character in the play who had won “the lottery of life.”  His name was “Coal Oil Tommy,” and he sang a song of the same name:[4]

“Coal Oil Tommy”  by John Brougham

I’ve come from Pennsylvania, some city life to see,

And you may bet your boots, I’ll have the biggest kind of spree.

With my pockets stuffed with greenbacks and a skin full of old rye,

Amongst the oyster cellar swells a jolly boy am I.

 

Chorus:   And Coal Oil Tommy is my name, Coal Oil Tommy is my name,

               Good for any game tonight my boys,   Good for any game tonight my boys,

               Coal Oil Tommy is my name, Coal Oil Tommy is my name,

               Good for any game tonight my boys,   Hi!  Ten strike set ‘em up again.

 

Upon the road I drive the very spiciest of drags

Behind a pair of thoroughbred four thousand dollar nags

That didn’t allow me never to take no one else’s dust.

I’ll sell them both for oat meal if they weren’t always first.

 

In the doings of the fancy, I’m up to everything,

And I’d go a thousand miles to see the heroes of the ring.

If you want to bet your money, you’ll find I’ve been to school,

And for any sum you like I’ll go my pile on Mike McCool.

“The Lottery of Life” was first shown on June 8, 1868, at Wallack’s Theater in New York.[5]  One of the actors was named B. T. Ringgold[6].  Could the newly freed Millie have seen or heard of the play be­fore moving to Washington?  It’s unknown whether B. T. Ringgold played the role of Coal Oil Tommy, but supposing he did, could a recently freed slave, possibly in need of a surname, have “bor­rowed” the last name of the actor portraying a character whose lifestyle she could only dream about?

It appears that Millie’s lyrics got a bit jumbled phonetically.  The phrase “bum bum solree” (“soiree”?) could be a corruption of the line “biggest kind of spree.”  After all, when lyrics are forgotten or misunderstood, people usually make something up to fit the tune.

There was also a popular tendency to change the song name from “Tommy” to “Johnny” because the public immediately identified the “Coal Oil Tommy” character in the song and play with a real life person who had been making East coast headlines for a year or two, and not in a good way.  In fact, the two stories are so similar that the real “Coal Oil Johnny” probably inspired Brougham’s play, earning it the designation of a “contemporaneous play,” i.e., reflecting contemporary events.  This modern fable, complete with a “moral of the story,” began to unfold after the end of the Civil War.

John Washington Steele

Being born in 1843, John Steele was a contemporary of Millie Ringgold. He was adopted from a poor­house by a farmer and his wife at Oil Creek, Venango co., Pennsylvania, the site of the country’s first oil boom.  But the farmer died, leaving elderly “Widow McClintock” with their adopted son.  In 1864, she burned to death in a wood stove conflagration, when a splash of coal oil went awry.  So at age 21, Johnny (by now with a wife and two children) inherited the farm, and its couple of pro­du­cing oil wells.  He had never made more than $40 per month, but immediately began raking in $3000 a day as a coal oil ty­coon.  Unfortunately, he got tangled up with a gold-digger companion who con­vinced him to spend wildly.  Within three years, he lost his entire fortune when the wells stopped producing.  A proverbial prodigal Johnny returned to his family, and ended up as a teamster making $50 a month.

His sprees between 1864 and 1867 were the stuff of legend, and filled many newspaper columns, e­ven after his death in 1921.  The public appears to have quickly fused John Brougham’s 1868 character “Coal Oil Tommy” and the legendary “Coal Oil Johnny” that they read about in the newspapers.  By 1881, the fabled name of “Coal Oil Johnny” had become the common term to mean anyone who inherited or rapidly acquired vast wealth, spent it foolishly, and ended up penniless.  In 1884, there were two race horses, one named “Coal Oil Tommy” and the other named “Coal Oil Johnny.”[7]  After that, it appears that “Coal Oil Johnny” reigned supreme as the preferred term for a profligate spender.[8]

Sadly, Millie Ringgold’s life followed the path of “Coal Oil Johnny” on a smaller scale.  She went broke in her various endeavors, thinking that her gold claims would eventually make it big.  Instead of gold, she kept finding little blue rocks which were tossed back into the mining stream.  Many years later, these blue rocks became known the best sapphires in the world.  Millie was finally reduced to subsisting on frozen rutabagas until the Sheriff got her some jobs working for local families.  He intended to take her to a poor house, but independent minded Millie fought that.

She died December 2, 1906.  The following year, Charlie Russell painted “A Quiet Day in Utica.”  As a tribute to Millie, he placed her standing once again on the boardwalk in front of Lehman’s General Store, along with other recognized locals.  They’re all watching a bucking horse, spooked by a dog darting across the dusty street.  Both horse and dog are terrified by the clanging and drumming of cans tied to the dog’s tail, prominent among them, Millie’s empty five-gallon coal oil can.

Charles M. Russell | Utica (A Quiet day in Utica) | 1907 | Oil on canvas | 24 1/8 inches x 36 1/8 inches

[1] Moser,  Cathy.  “Yogo City or Bust”  Big Sky Journal.  Spring-Summer 2009.

[2] “Coal oil” was the term used for kerosene, which lit the night in the days before Edison.

[3] “Millie Ringgold’s Fascinating Story” 31 December 2009.  See web link in References.

[4] Brougham, John (lyrics), and Alfred Lee (music).  “Coal Oil Tommy.”  No date; play performed in NY in 1868.

[5] “Amusements:  Dramatic, Wallack’s Theatre”  New York Times, June 9, 1868.

[6] “Amusements this Evening:  Wallack’s Theatre”  New York Times, July 20, 1868.

[7] Chester, Walter T.  Complete Trotting and Pacing Record of 1884, p 844, col 3.

[8] Numerous New York Times articles 1881 to 1896.

The Tangled Tales of Barbed Wire

Three of the often cited reasons for the closing of the frontier of the American West typically include the telegraph, the transcontinental railroad, and barbed wire.

Display of different types of barbed wire. Cattle Raisers Museum. Fort Worth, TX.

So you may be surprised to learn that large scale manufacturing of barbed wire began first in the Mid-West in central Illinois (1874-75) before expanding to the American West.

The invention of barbs also made its way into other preventative products, such as calf weaners, cattle yokes & pokes, and even into poison bottle designs.

Joel Horn Breachy Cattle Yoke

1890 Ad Hoosier Automatic Calf Weaner

Barbed wire was invented mostly for cattle, but was also a means to deter other animals and humans from crossing over or through the fencing. It was certainly effective. However, accounts of the harmful effects of barbed wire on livestock resulted in an outcry from not only agriculturalists and stockmen but the public at large, including local chapters of the early formation of the Humane Society. Stories spreading the cruel and inhumane nature of barbed wire fences circulated in the press. Some such stories included rather graphic accounts of cows & their calves or horses & their colts running into barbed fences.

Safety Barb Wire Advertisement Circa 1895

Cochliomyia hominivorax or screwworm fly

As production of barbed wire grew, so too did its opponents, who called for legislative action. States like Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Texas proposed bills to restrict or outlaw use of barbed wire. Court hearings recorded testimony of those for and against. Some farmers and their advocates claimed barbed fencing was “one of the greatest inventions of the age.” Many opponents of these anti-barbed wire bills argued that barbed wire fencing saved more animals than it hurt and would do “nothing more than scratch any stock.” However, there was growing evidence to the contrary in the Great Plains. In Texas, harmless scratches developed into nesting grounds for the screwworm fly, which embedded its eggs into the animal’s flesh, eating its tissue and sometimes resulting in death. The parasitic fly was native to the tropical Americas and appeared in the southwest US in the 1840s, eventually growing into an epidemic problem in the 20th century. Large herd loss was also a result of a combination of barbed wire fencing with severe storms & blizzards of the 1880s, as cattle trampled those trapped in the fencing during a drift or stampede.

In addition to court hearing accounts and other published stories, evidence of the rise in injuries as a result of animal and human contact with barbed wire fencing is seen in the upsurge of medicines designed specifically for barbed wire injuries, such as Silver Pine Healing Oil.

“Silver Pine Healing Oil, International Stock Food Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota,” DPLA Omeka, accessed November 10, 2017, https://dp.la/exhibitions/items/show/811815.

Despite these concerns, there was a drastic increase in the amount of barbed wire made, with 120 million pounds sold in 1881 and an estimated 250,000 miles of barbed wire fences across the country within the same year. Today there are over 115,000 miles of old, unused barbed wire fencing that kills over 92,500 animals annually due to collisions. Unfortunately, it is expensive and time consuming to track all of this fencing. However, technologies such as geographic information system (GIS) are helping. Just as researchers in Canada are using GIS to track black bears & wolves to determine where they intersect with roads, efforts to map all the old barbed wire fencing in the American West are being pursued. The good news is that in addition to regulations making new barbed wire fencing less harmful, where they are cutting down outdated and idle barbed fencing is helping to reduce the percentage of animal deaths.

Of course, there’s much more to the fascinating story of barbed wire. I recommend checking out the newly published book from Texas A&M Press, The Perfect Fence: Untangling the Meanings of Barbed Wire by Lyn Ellen Bennett and Scott Abbott.

Viva el vaquero!

From September 15 – October 15, as a nation we observe and celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month. This time is an opportunity to recognize and honor the histories, cultures, and contributions of fellow Americans whose families and ancestors immigrated from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central & South America.

By Doerr & Jacobson — Photographer – Original source: Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views. / United States. / States / Texas. / Stereoscopic views of San Antonio, Texas. (Approx. 72,000 stereoscopic views : 10 x 18 cm. or smaller.) digital record. This image is available from the New York Public Library’s Digital Library under the digital ID G92F039_034F: digitalgallery.nypl.org → digitalcollections.nypl.org Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10083425

In the American West, Hispanic culture, particularly the tradition of the vaquero, helped establish the foundation for much of cowboy life as we know it today. Working alongside the vaqueros, Anglo cowboys learned and adopted their tools and techniques. Adoption of the vaquero practices was so widespread, especially in the Lone Star state, that many of the terms used have become practically “Texan.”

Here’s just a handful of the Spanish words commonly used in Texas:

Armadillo (literally, “the little armed one”)

Bronco (means “wild” or “rough” or “rude”)

Burrito (literally “little donkey”)

Chaps (from Mexican Spanish chaparreras)

Hammock (from jamaca, Caribbean Spanish word)

Lariat (from la reata, braided rawhide rope)

Lasso (from lazo)

Mustang (from mesteñas, – a wild horse)

Patio (In Spanish, an inner garden or courtyard.)

Remuda (regionalism for a relay of horses)

Rodeo (roundup / show of skills – verb to encircle)

Sombrero (sombra, “shade,” – any kind of hat)

Wrangler (caballerano, one who grooms horses)

Frederic Remington | The Cow Puncher | 1901 | Oil (black & white) on canvas | 28 7/8 inches x 19 inches

Frederic Remington was well aware of the vaquero and its influence on the Anglo cowboys. He once chided his friend and Western writer Owen Wister for having claimed Anglo-Saxon origin of the cowboy in Wister’s article “The Evolution of the Cow-Puncher,” which appeared in Harper’s Monthly in 1895. In fact, Wister traced the genealogy of the Western cowboy to that of the knights of medieval Europe. In a letter to Wister, Remington corrected his friend, noting that the traditions of the cowboy were of Latin origin and evolved from the vaqueros of Mexico and Texas.

Not only did Remington witness the cowboy in action during his journeys out West, but the artist also traveled to Mexico in 1889 and later in 1893. He spent weeks sketching and photographing vaqueros and their horses, providing the artist with an array of firsthand material for his work.

Vaquero de Fort Worth | 2012 |Thomas Bustos and David Newton | Bronze | North Main Street and Central Avenue Plaza | Photo courtesy of Fort Worth Public Art

Fort Worth celebrates its own ties to the vaquero tradition, and in 2012 the city commemorated a part of its Hispanic history with the installation of Vaquero de Fort Worth. The artists David Newton and Tomas Bustos were sensitive to the importance of this piece and paid careful attention to the historical accuracy of each detail of the vaquero. Now a part of the city-wide public art collection, this bronze sculpture overlooks the historic Northside, which is home to the Fort Worth Stockyards district, an area that developed due the success of the cattle business.

Vaquero de Fort Worth, detail

Remington: The College Years

It’s August, and for students in Texas, that means the beginning of another school year. For some students, this month marks the beginning of their college years and will perhaps set the direction of their future careers. For many co-eds, college will be a time to discover their path, as was the case for SRM artist, Frederic Remington.

In the spring of 1878, Remington wrote to his Uncle Horace Sackrider, “I am going to try and get into Cornell College this coming June and if I succeed will be a Journalist. I mean to study for an artist anyhow, whether I ever make a success of it or not.” However, Cornell University did not have a journalism department at that time, so instead Remington enrolled in the newly created School of Fine Arts at Yale. He was one of 7 men, along with 30 other art students, in both the first art school at an American university and the first coeducational school at Yale.

Remington’s art instructors included J. Alden Weir and John Henry Niemeyer, both of whom had studied under French academic painter Jean-Léon Gérôme. Niemeyer, his drawing instructor, had come to Yale as a professor in 1871, just 2 years after the art school was founded and remained for over 30 years. Many considered Niemeyer a great teacher.

While at Yale, Remington successfully published his first illustration in one of the college newspapers, the Yale Courant. The sketch portrayed an injured football lineman recuperating in his room, his right foot elevated and his desk covered with bottles of liniment, or healing ointment. Could this be a self-portrait?

Frederic Remington, “College Riff-Raff,” cartoon, Yale Courant, November 2, 1878, p. 47.

Remington disliked the academic approach of his art school which followed the strict, classical training of the period, like sketching from plaster casts. Instead, Remington preferred to focus his attention on playing football. The young co-ed joined the Yale team as a rusher in the fall of 1879. The team did not fare so well during Remington’s sophomore year, losing the 1879 championships in what became one of the highlights of the Yale-Princeton rivalry.

Remington in the football uniform of the day, canvas jacket and flannel trousers. Internet Archive Book Images.

Yale football team, 1879. Remington front, lower right.

Unfortunately, Remington did not return to college after the holiday break that year due to the death of his father. Although college did not work out for Remington, it did not deter him from pursuing a career in the artist, first as a commercial illustrator, and later as a painter and sculptor, achieving success in all media.

Waffles in the Garden

Happy Summer Solstice! Summer is a time for fun and adventure…in the garden! Vegetable gardens are in full bloom this season. In Texas, gardeners have to remain diligent about watering and protecting their precious plants from the brutal heat. In the Southwest, where it’s dry and arid, people have developed techniques in order to adapt their gardens to the environment. One such technique is practiced by the Zuni (A:shiwi) called Latdekwi:we, or waffle gardening.

Timothy O’Sullivan. Gardens surrounding the Indian pueblo of Zuni, 1873. Stereograph. Source: Stereographs from geographical explorations and surveys west of the 100th meridian, expeditions of 1871, 1872, 1873, and 1874 – 1st. Lieut. Geo. M. Wheeler, Corps of Engineers, commanding. Courtesy Boston Public Library.

Charles Francis Browne, Nai-U-Chi: Chief Of The Bow, Zuni 1895, 1895, Oil on canvas, 18 1/2 x 12 3/4 inches

Members of the Zuni people, like Nai-U-Chi, felt a close connection with the environment and maintained a special relationship with the natural world for centuries. Through their keen observations, the Zuni adapted farming skills to the lands in which they lived. Because New Mexico receives very little rain, the Zuni developed a dry-farming method – Latdekwi:we. The technique earned the nickname waffle garden because from above, the layout of recessed beds resembles the delicious breakfast food.

A waffle garden is typically intended for a single or extended family, like a kitchen garden. Think of the waffle garden as the original “square foot garden.” The garden consists of a grid of squares with each square surrounded by berms, or raised mounds of dirt. The shape helps any water flow directly to the plants.

“Zuni gardens,” c. 1927, by Edward Curtis, via Library of Congress

The summer solstice holds an important place for many Native societies. For the Zuni, their spiritual practice is connected to the life cycle of all plants. Summer is a time for growth. During the summer solstice, the Zuni people perform ceremonies in hopes of a summer rainy season. The design of the waffle gardens help trap and retain what moisture the area does receive.

The Zuni people, along with other residents in arid regions, continue to practice the waffle gardening method today. By employing techniques that are specific to the environment, anyone can grow a healthy vegetable garden, even in the desert. Unfortunately, though, you can’t grow waffles.

Zuni Youth Enrichment Project (ZYEP) Summer Camp

Zuni WIC Community Garden

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

Cultural Awareness

Dr. Laura Evans from UNT leading training on cultivating critical cultural awareness through art.

Dr. David Cross from TCU guides our class through the various stages of child brain development.

Dr. David Cross from TCU guides our class through the various stages of child brain development.

The end of the year is a time for reflection and review. In the education department, much of our attention has been on training a new class of docents at the Sid. Over the course of 13 weeks we have learned so much. Scholars from near and far have taught us about the background of two iconic artists of the American West, Frederic Remington and Charles Russell, as well as the history surrounding the time period in which these two artists lived and worked.

Educators and psychologists have opened our eyes and minds to the experiences of our visitors whether through differences in culture, language, or age. Staff has guided our new teammates through the nuts & bolts of crafting and leading tours, providing an opportunity for each docent in training to practice their new skills. And I’m happy to announce that we have nine talented new docents ready and willing to help share the Sid Richardson Museum with you, our visitor!

New Docent Gayle Massey leading a practice tour presentation.

New Docent Gayle Massey leading a practice tour presentation.

New docent Irene Parker leading a practice tour presentation.

New Docent Irene Parker leading a practice tour presentation.

New Docent Beth Haynes leading a practice tour presentation.

New Docent Beth Haynes leading a practice tour presentation.

We recently celebrated the contributions of all of our docents this year at our Annual Docent Luncheon. Andrea Hassenteuffel, Director of School and Family Programs, took a moment to reflect and share our gratitude and appreciation for this amazing group of people who volunteered countless hours to serving our community and sharing Sid’s great collection with such a wide and diverse audience.

In thinking about each docent individually, Andrea imagined what Sid would think if he were alive today. Then she pondered, what qualities do Sid and our docents have in common? Using Sid W. Richardson’s name as a guide, Andrea found just the right words that not only describe Sid but our docent team.

Self-less

Innovative

Dedicated

Willing

Reliable

Intelligent

Cool & calm

Hospitable

Able

Ready

Diligent

Sincere

Open-minded

Noteworthy

All together, these individual talents create a pretty amazing team. Thank you, docents, for all you do for the Sid Richardson Museum. And congratulations Docent Class of 2016!

Annual Docent Luncheon 2016

Annual Docent Luncheon 2016

For Love of Russell

This month we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of “For Love of Russell,” a one-woman monologue of the life of cowboy artist Charles Russell as told by his wife and business manager, Nancy Cooper Russell. Visitors have an opportunity to experience the performance every Second Saturday of the month.Cowgirl Visit

The role of Nancy Cooper Russell is performed by one of our museum docents, Roberta Atkins. Roberta has been with the museum since the institution first embarked on a docent program in 1999. In 2005, when the museum closed for renovations, Roberta began to conceive and write what became the “For Love of Russell” monologue based on research about Nancy and her relationship with Charles Russell. After the museum re-opened in November 2006, Roberta performed for a museum audience for the first time.

In 2012, Roberta reached her 100th performance, a feat that did not go unnoticed. To celebrate this special milestone, Sid Richardson Foundation president, Pete Geren, surprised Roberta by dressing up as Charles Russell. Nancy and Charlie were reunited at last!Charles & Nancy 2012

The Sid Richardson Museum is blessed to have such a gifted group of docents.  Thank you, Roberta, for sharing your time and talents with our visitors! Happy 10th Anniversary, Nancy Cooper Russell!Roberta1

 

The Ocean of Sunrise

Fall is just around the corner and with it comes a new season of Tea & Talk. This program is geared towards adults who are interested in slowing down their art viewing process and digging a little deeper into our collection (and for those who enjoy a good cup of a tea afterwards!). For our first Tea & Talk of the 2016-2017 season we viewed and discussed a portrait painted by Charles Francis Browne, Nai-U-Chi: Chief of the Bow, Zuni 1895.

Tea & Talk, September 2016, Sid Richardson Museum

Tea & Talk, September 2016, Sid Richardson Museum

Charles Francis Browne, Nai-U-Chi: Chief Of The Bow, Zuni 1895, 1895, Oil on canvas, 18 1/2 x 12 3/4 inches

Charles Francis Browne, Nai-U-Chi: Chief Of The Bow, Zuni 1895, 1895, Oil on canvas, 18 1/2 x 12 3/4 inches

As noted in the title, Nai-U-Chi was part of the Zuni, which are a federally recognized American Indian tribe and one of the Pueblo peoples. Today, most Zuni live in Western New Mexico. Traditionally, the Zuni were an agricultural community.

Studio portrait of a delegation of five Zunis and a Hopi brought to Washington by Frank Hamilton Cushing. Standing, left to right: Naiyutchi (Nai-uchi); Nanahe (Na-na-he), a Hopi adopted by the Zuni; Kiasiwa (Ki-a-si). Seated, left to right: Laiyuahtsailunkya (Lai-yu-ah-tsai-lun-kya); Governor Laiyuaitsailus (Hai-ya-ah-tsai-hi or Pedro Pino); Governor Pah-lo-wah-ti-wa (Patricio Pino). Men are wearing traditional clothing, including leather leggings, beaded necklaces, concha belts, and cloth headbands. 1882. Photo by John K. Hillers. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (P03402)

Studio portrait of a delegation of five Zunis and a Hopi brought to Washington by Frank Hamilton Cushing. Standing, left to right: Naiyutchi (Nai-uchi); Nanahe (Na-na-he), a Hopi adopted by the Zuni; Kiasiwa (Ki-a-si). Seated, left to right: Laiyuahtsailunkya (Lai-yu-ah-tsai-lun-kya); Governor Laiyuaitsailus (Hai-ya-ah-tsai-hi or Pedro Pino); Governor Pah-lo-wah-ti-wa (Patricio Pino). Men are wearing traditional clothing, including leather leggings, beaded necklaces, concha belts, and cloth headbands. 1882. Photo by John K. Hillers. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (P03402)

Nai-U-Chi was a member of the Bow Priesthood, a group that exerted considerable power within Zuni life. During Tea & Talk, many participants commented on the various details they saw in the portrait: the red cloth headband, what appears to be a linen-like top, and a sash decorated with unidentified objects. What are those gray objects adorning the sash? Are they arrowheads? After the program, I consulted some of our knowledgeable museum staff and discovered that the artifacts on Nai-U-Chi’s clothing were shark teeth!

Charles Francis Browne | Nai-U-Chi: Chief Of The Bow, Zuni 1895 | detail

Charles Francis Browne | Nai-U-Chi: Chief Of The Bow, Zuni 1895 | detail

How did a man living in New Mexico in the late 19th century acquire shark teeth? Unfortunately, I have not been able to confirm in print where or how Nai-U-Chi came to possess these items. One must consider a likely possibility that by the time of this portrait, 1895, the Zuni, as with many other native groups, were regularly trading with Americans and other travelers. Another possibility involves a pilgrimage to the Atlantic Ocean.

Most of what we know about Nai-U-Chi is from records of Frank Hamilton Cushing, a pioneering anthropologist associated with the Smithsonian Institution who lived with the Zuni from 1879-1884. Mr. Cushing learned that for many years it had been a dream of some of the Zuni chiefs to visit the East, a land of fable to see “the Ocean of Sunrise.” Living in the dry lands of New Mexico, the Zuni believed their prayers brought clouds from the ocean in the east, clouds that would give them rain.

Many other nearby tribes had had representatives visit Washington, D.C. – the Apaches, the Navajos, but not the Zuni. So Cushing guided a group of Zuni men East, as accounted in an article published in an 1882 issue of The Century Magazine. Eventually, the group made it to their final destination in Boston, selected so as to be as far east as possible.

Upon arriving at the ocean, Nai-U-Chi led the party in a ceremony, scattering sacred meal, which was composed of corn meal and finely ground precious seashells, over the waves. Nai-U-Chi concluded the ceremony with a prayer in which “consideration was asked for the children of the Zunis, of the Americans, and of all men, of the beasts and birds of the world, and of even the creeping and most vile beings of earth, and the most insignificant.”

Portrait of Nai-Uchi (Elder Brother of the Bow Priest) in Native Dress with Squash Blossom Necklace and Ornaments 1879. Photographed by John K. Hillers. National Anthropological Archives. NAA INV 06370200 OPPS NEG 02233 A.

Portrait of Nai-Uchi (Elder Brother of the Bow Priest) in Native Dress with Squash Blossom Necklace and Ornaments 1879. Photographed by John K. Hillers. National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution. NAA INV 06370200 OPPS NEG 02233 A.

During Tea & Talk, I asked the group what they might infer about the sitter or how they would describe the sitter in Charles Browne’s portrait of Nai-U-Chi. Someone said they imagined him to be an important man. Another participant admitted to feeling respect for the man. In one of the few written descriptions I have found of Nai-U-Chi, he was described as having “a genial, contemplative look, a kindly placidity of countenance, and he was full of poetry, telling folk lore stories charmingly.” I like to imagine what stories Nai-U-Chi could have told us had we had the chance to sit with him longer.

Tea & Talk, September 2016, Sid Richardson Museum

Tea & Talk, September 2016, Sid Richardson Museum

Tea & Talk is a free monthly program, offered the 1st Wednesday of every month at noon from September-May. I hope to see you next time!