July 26, 2010

Chief Bemidji portrait at tourist center

Chief Bemidji portrait has new home at Tourist Information Center

A familiar face now looks over visitors to the Tourist Information Center at the Lake Bemidji waterfront.

By Laurie Swenson
A familiar face now looks over visitors to the Tourist Information Center at the Lake Bemidji waterfront.

Shay-now-ish-kung, the city’s beloved “Chief Bemidji,” is immortalized in a portrait by Bemidji artist Terry Honstead, who delivered the painting to the TIC last week. The portrait hangs in the lobby near the reception desk.

Honstead’s depiction of Chief Bemidji bears a strong resemblance to photographs of the young Shay-now-ish-kung.
And:The TIC gets a lot of questions about Chief Bemidji, and it’s nice to point to a portrait of the man right in the lobby, Stenberg said.

Shay-now-ish-Kung, whose Ojibwe name means “rattler” or “one who makes a jingling sound,” was born near Inger, Minn., in 1833 or 1834 and lived for many years in the Leech Lake and Cass Lake areas. He and his wife had eight children, including three boys who died at early ages. She died in 1882, and in 1883 a saddened Shay-now-ish-kung put his children and belongings in his birchbark canoe and paddled up the Mississippi River to become the first permanent settler of Bemidji. He was the first to greet early settlers when they arrived in1888 and is remembered as one of the most respected citizens of Bemidji. He died April 20, 1904.
Comment:  This is a good example of what I talk about frequently. People are curious and want to learn. The artist has given them a real chief rather than a stereotypical one. The fact that she's non-Native isn't important because she's done her research. The portrait actually looks like Chief Bemidji.

If everyone from Hollywood producers to schools with Indian mascots took this approach, life would be better for Indians. The factual information would crowd the stereotypical information out of the "marketplace of ideas." In a generation or two, stupid stereotypes might be a thing of the past.

For more on the subject, see Replacing Chief Bemidji Statue.

Below:  "Bemidji artist Terry Honstead has donated her portrait of Chief Bemidji to the Tourist Information Center. She painted it as part of a series of portraits of nine American Indians." (Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper)

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