February 24, 2007

Native icons live on

Bunky Echo-Hawk’s “Living Icons” at Gary Farmer Gallery“The Indian Wars never ended.” says Pawnee/Yakama artist Bunky Echo-Hawk. “The battlefield is just more abstract now and sprawls through every facet of our life. We are still fighting to retain our basic human rights, keep our land, restore our languages and religions, and maintain our identity. Our ancestors may have lost the battle against colonization, but we continue to fight against its effects.”

In “Living ICONS,” Echo-Hawk’s latest series of paintings, he illustrates some of Native America’s living leaders, artists, and innovators. Echo-Hawk reasons that, in general, people conjure up names of leaders who lived 150 years ago when asked to name notable Native Americans. Coincidentally, 150 years ago, killing Indians was public policy. “It’s damaging that the most accepted contemporary view of Native Americans is from this era, and speaks volumes about the American collective mentality.”

“Further, I’ve noticed that a lot of Native people today subscribe to that view. They will either embrace our ancestral war heroes as role models, or completely embrace the mainstream American culture. The minimal regard for our leaders today also comes with heavy criticism; often, if one becomes successful, they are labeled as ‘sell-outs.’”

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