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Through Oct. 25, the Dittmar gallery at Northwestern University will display the visual history of a tragic and unnecessary event that took place on Nov. 29, 1864, in Sand Creek, Colo.
Early that day U.S. Army cavalry attacked a peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian village and slaughtered more than 200 Native Americans, including many women and children. John Evans, Evanston’s eponym and one of North-western’s founders, who later helped found the University of Denver, was the governor of the Colorado Territory at that time.
“One November Morning – the Sand Creek Massacre,” features the work of three Oklahoma-based Cheyenne and Arapaho artists who work in different mediums in remembrance of their Sand Creek ancestors. The colorful paintings and ledger art (narrative drawings or paintings on paper or cloth) depict the artists’ interpretations of the day of the massacre and memorialize and honor the artists’ ancestors and former tribal elders.
Brent Learned uses bright colors, textures and brush strokes in his impressionistic contemporary acrylic paintings. George Curtis Levi is known for his Cheyenne ledger drawings on historical paper, watercolors and acrylic paintings as well as perforated rawhide work and Cheyenne beadwork.
B.J. Stepp’s “comic book and eclectic style paintings” described in a 2014 article in American Indian magazine, “reflects the irony of a much less than comical subject matter.”
At the Oct. 1 opening, Mr. Learned, Mr. Levi and miniaturist Merlin Little Thunder delivered talks and made presentations on Native American art and culture.
Mr. Learned spoke about the status of Native American contemporary art and gave an onsite demonstration of his current work.
Mr. Levi talked about the process of Cheyenne ledger art and also provided an interactive demonstration.
Mr. Little Thunder, a member of the Southern Cheyenne Tribe, gave a presentation of paintings depicting Cheyenne people and their lifestyles.
According to the National Parks Service website, the treaty of Little Arkansas in October 1865 acknowledged U.S. blame for the massacre, but it also terminated Cheyenne and Arapaho rights to land titles in Colorado.
The massacre disrupted the social, political, economic and traditional structure of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, as they moved or were forced to move onto reservations outside of Colorado. The two universities have reached different results about Governor Evans’ culpability regarding the Sand Creek Massacre.
Additional information on the Sand Creek Massacre may be found as follows: University of Denver report released on Nov. 1, 2014, on the Sand Creek Massacre(https://portfolio.du.edu/evcomm/ University of Denver John Evans Study Report DUJEC Report Nov1-2014.pdf (downloadItem/286858) and how it differs from the findings Northwestern University http://www.northwestern.edu/magazine/fall2014/campuslife/john-evans-and-the-sand-creek-massacre_print.html click on ‘Report of the John Evans Study Committee(PDF) released in May, 2014. Additional information on the Sand Creek Massacre is available in an online 2014 Northwestern Alumni magazine feature at: www.northwestern.edu/magazine/fall2014/campuslife/john-evans-and-the-sand-creek-massacre.html.