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Keeper of Time and Place- Thunderbird Shield

This contemporary Apsaalooke war shield, crafted by a great-great-grandson of White Man Runs Him, stands as a profound exploration of evolving Indigenous identity and the creation of new forms of 'medicine' within contemporary indigenous communities. White Man Runs Him, known as "Morning Star," was a scout for General Custer during the Plains Indian Wars, a time of significant cultural upheaval for Native Americans. His life was a testament to resilience and adaptability, qualities that resonate in this modern interpretation of traditional Apsaalooke symbols.

Composed of buffalo hide, ermine skins, imitation hawk feathers, brass, wool, earth paint, and integrated with modern elements like an iPad, speaker, and neon light, the shield, approximately 36”x42”x8”, draws inspiration from the sacred Thunderbird medicine teepee of White Man Runs Him. This innovative blend of materials and technologies symbolizes the ongoing evolution of Indigenous practices and beliefs, suggesting new possibilities for 'medicine' in the context of contemporary culture. It speaks to a dynamic reimagining of Indigenous spirituality and knowledge, where tradition and modernity coexist and interact.

Displayed in a major exhibition and featured on the exhibition publication of the same name “Apsaalooke Women & Warriors”, commissioned by the Neubauer Collegium at the University of Chicago, this artwork raises the question: Is there room for redefining what it means to be a 'real Indian' in today's world? It challenges the notion of static cultural identity, suggesting that being Indigenous is not confined to historical parameters but is a living, evolving experience. This piece is a vivid embodiment of the idea that Indigenous communities can create new forms of 'medicine' — physical, spiritual, and cultural — that are rooted in tradition yet reflective of contemporary realities. The shield is not only a tribute to the legacy of White Man Runs Him but also a statement on the vitality and creativity inherent in Indigenous cultural expression, affirming the capacity to forge new paths while honoring ancestral roots.


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