Sioux Falls Artist Gives Life To Native American Leaders (2022)

For some time now a Sioux Falls local artist has been doing pencil portraits in color. More than 10 years ago Kurt Holdorf got the idea to do charcoal art when a restoration project was presented to him.

A unique method with charcoal on a textured surface was developed and an upcoming public art show will feature Holdorf's work of twelve Native Americans.

Taking his guidance from local printer Eric Spears, whose Native heritage led them to create a handmade deck of playing cards, Holdorf featured these Native American leaders as Kings, Queens and Jacks.

Sioux Falls Artist Gives Life To Native American Leaders (1)

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Below you will learn more about these 12 leaders that represent the culture of the Sioux Nations of South Dakota as far back as the 1800s.

Holdorf's portraits will be on display August 19-20 during a special showing at 8th & Railroad Center in Sioux Falls. Local storyteller and Native American artist Jerry Fogg will be a guest speaker.

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The collector deck of cards will be available for purchase along with native American music and refreshments.

Kurt Holdorf

Big Foot – Cheyenne River, Tribal Leader (b.~1826 d.1890)
Big Foot and his people lived on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota. Big Foot decided to lead his people away from the possibility of further violence in that area and headed farther south toward the reservation at Pine Ridge, hoping to find safety there. Ill with pneumonia, and no intention of fighting, he was flying a white flag when soldiers patrolling for roving bands of Sitting Bull followers caught up with him on December 28, 1890. That night Big Foot andhis people camped near Wounded Knee Creek, surrounded on all sides by soldiers. The next morning, the soldiers set up several large Hotchkiss guns on a hill overlooking the camp and began confiscating the Indians' weapons. When a gun accidentally went off, they opened fire, and within a few minutes, some 370 Lakota lay dead.

Kurt Holdorf

Zitkala Sa – Yankton, Poet/Writer/Musician/Activist (b.1876 d.1938)
Also known by her missionary and married names Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, was a writer, editor, translator, musician, educator, and political activist. She wrote several works chronicling her struggles with cultural identity, and the pull between the majority culture in which she was educated, and the Dakota culture into which she was born and raised. Her later books were among the first works to bring traditional Native American stories to a widespread white English-speaking readership. Zitkala-Sa has been noted as one of the most influential Native American activists of the 20th century. She co-wrote the libretto and songs for The Sun Dance Opera (1913), the first American Indian opera and was co-founder of the National Council of American Indians in 1926, fighting for Native people’s right to United States citizenship and other civil rights they had long been denied.

Ben Black Elk – Pine Ridge, Interpreter/Spokesman (b.1899 d.1973)
A wičháša wakman, holy man”), heyoka of the Oglala Lakota people, and educator about his culture. Hewas a second cousin of Crazy Horse and fought with him in the Battle of Little Bighorn. He survived the Wounded KneeMassacre in 1890. He toured and performed with Buffalo Bill. Black Elk is best known for sharing his religious views,visions, and life history to poet John Neihardt who published these accounts in his book in 1932. Black Elk SpeaksNear the end of Black Elk’s life, he recorded the seven sacred rites of the Sioux to ethnologist Joseph Epes Brown whichwere published in 1947 in the. Black The Sacred Pipe book Elk converted to Catholicism, becoming a catechist, but healso continued to practice Lakota ceremonies. His grandson, George Looks Twice said, “He was comfortable prayingwith this pipe and his rosary, and participated in Mass and Lakota ceremonies on a regular basis.”

Kurt Holdorf

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Arvol Looking Horse – Cheyenne River, Keeper of the Sacred Pipe (b. 1954)
Growing up in a traditional Lakota family and community, he was immersed in the culture and spirituality. He learned to speak Lakota as his first language, later becoming fluent in English. At twelve years old, Arvol Looking Horse inherited the White Buffalo Calf Pipe and the role of Keeper, becoming a ceremonial leader of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Peoples. He is the current Keeper in a line that goes back for 19 generations. In the 400-year tradition of guardians of the sacred pipe, Looking Horse was the youngest to be entrusted with this responsibility. While attending a government boardingschool he witnessed the suppression of the spiritual traditions of his people, which led to his decision to work for religious freedom, and the preservation and protection of his culture.

Kurt Holdorf

Ella Deloria – Standing Rock, Linguist/Historian/Writer (b.1889 d.1971)
Ella Cara Deloria also called Aŋpétu Wašté Wiŋ (Beautiful Day Woman), was an educator, anthropologist, ethnographer, linguist, and novelist of European American and Native American ancestry. She recorded Native American oral history and legends, and also contributed to the study of Native American languages. Deloria was an expert on D/L/Nakota cultural religious, and linguistic practices. In the 1940s, Deloria wrote Waterlily, which was published in 1988, and republished in 2009. She was educated first at her father’s mission school, St. Elizabeth's Church and Boarding School, and then at All Saints Boarding School in Sioux Falls. After graduation in 1910, she attended Oberlin College, Ohio. After three years at Oberlin, Deloria transferred to Columbia Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, and graduated with a B.Sc. and a special teaching certificate in 1915.

Kurt Holdorf

Sitting Bull – Standing Rock, Spiritual/Tribal Leader (b.1831 d.1890)
Before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull had a vision in which he saw many soldiers, “as thick as grasshoppers,” falling upside down into the Lakota camp, which his people took as a foreshadowing of a major victory in which many soldiers would be killed. About three weeks later, the confederated Lakota tribes with the Northern Cheyenne defeated the 7th Cavalry under Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer on June 25, 1876. After working as a performer with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, Sitting Bull returned to the Standing Rock Agency in South Dakota. Due to fears that he would use his influence to support the Ghost Dance movement, Indian Service agent James McLaughlin at Fort Yates ordered his arrest. During an ensuing struggle between Sitting Bull’s followers and the agency police, Sitting Bull was shot and killed.

Kurt Holdorf

Iron Nation – Lower BruleTribal Leader (b.1815 d.1894)
Principal chief of the Lower Brulé Lakota, he was one of the signers of the September 17, 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie along with people from Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and other tribes. He also signed the October 14, 1865 treaty at Fort Sully with other Lakota chiefs, which established the Lower Brule Indian Reservation. The Black Hills had been guaranteed to the Lakota by the 1868 treaty signed at Ft. Laramie, but this was before gold was found, which resultedin the Black Hills Gold Rush. The South Dakota Department of Tribal Government Relations website notes, “He has been described as a just and noble leader.” He was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2006.

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Kurt Holdorf

Blossom Keeble – Lake TraverseEducator (b.1926 d.2007)
The daughter of Samuel John and Evelyn Cordelia (DuMarce) Crawford, she graduated from Watertown Public School in1945, Huron College in 1949 with a double major in English and Psychology, obtaining her teaching certificate, and the University of South Dakota in 1970, with a Masters's degree in Counseling and Doctorate of Education in 1974. She married Dale Russell Hawkins in 1951. She married Woodrow Wilson Keeble in June 1967 who was a decorated U.S. Army National Guard combat veteran of both World War II and the Korean War.

Rick Two Dogs – Pine Ridge, Spiritual Leader (b.1955 d.2015)
Richard Two Dogs was a spiritual leader and interpreter of the sacred for the Oglala Lakota Sioux of the Porcupine, South Dakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He thought Native people needed to think of themselves holistically, recognizing that all people began as spirits. Rick Two Dogs could trace his medicine-man lineage back at least 250 years. When he received his vision, he was told to stay at Pine Ridge and help his people. “If you are an authentic medicine man, the powers you draw from the Earth are here; the people we are supposed to help are here,” said Two Dogs. “The gift to heal follows the bloodline.”

Kurt Holdorf

Red Cloud – Pine Ridge, Tribal Leader (b.1822 d.1909)
One of the most important leaders of the Oglala Lakota from 1868 to 1909, he was also one of the most capable Native American opponents whom the United States Army faced in the western territories. He defeated the United States during Red Cloud’s War, which was a fight over control of the Powder River Country in northeastern Wyoming and southern Montana. Red Cloud was born close to the forks of the Platte River, near the modern-day city of North Platte, Nebraska. His mother, Walks as She Thinks, was an Oglala Lakota and his father, Lone Man, was a Brulé Lakota leader. They came from two of the seven major Lakota divisions. At a young age, Red Cloud fought against neighboring Pawnee and Crow bands, gaining much war experience.

Kurt Holdorf

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Marcella LeBeau - Cheyenne River, Healer/Politician (b.1919 d.2021)
A Lakota elder, politician, nurse, and military veteran, LeBeau was born Wigmuke Waste’ Win (English: Pretty Rainbow Woman) in October 1919 in Promise, South Dakota. She earned her undergraduate degree in nursing in 1942 from St. Mary’s Hospital in Pierre, South Dakota. After graduation, LeBeau began working as a registered nurse in Pontiac, Michigan. In 1943, she enlisted in the United States Army Nurse Corps to serve in World War II and served in France, England and Belgium under the 76th General Hospital unit, including at the Battle of the Bulge. She left the Army as a First Lieutenant. In 2004, LeBeau was awarded the Legion of Honour for her World War II service. In 2006, she was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame.

Kurt Holdorf

Leonard Crow Dog – Rosebud, Spiritual Leader (b.1942 d.2021)
Medicine man and spiritual leader, he became well known during the Lakota takeover of the town of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1973, known as the Wounded Knee Incident. The takeover of Wounded Knee had special meaning for Crow Dog because his great-grandfather, Jerome Crow Dog, had been a Ghost Dancer. Members of the Ghost Dancer movement were being tracked down sparking the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890. Through his writings and teachings, he sought to unify Indian people of all nations. As a practitioner of traditional herbal medicine and a leader of Sun Dance ceremonies, Crow Dog was also dedicated to keeping Lakota traditions alive which helped shape the Native American Self-Determination and Education Act. This inspired greater respect for cultural traditions.



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