Ricardo Cate’ is an artist who has gained international recognition lately due to his satirical cartoon drawings on Standing Rock and NoDAPL created as part of his “Without Reservation” one-panel comics. Cate’ has been to the NoDAPL Standing Rock camp several times since April and his funny cartoons have been all over Facebook and Twitter. He has also been featured in a Daily Show video and written up in newspapers all over the country.
Most recently, Cate’s work is appearing in Santa Fe at the Vida Loca Gallery in a show titled, DAPL [Dakota Access Pipeline], with painted 8 x 10 canvases and black and white drawings of his Without Reservation comic characters about Standing Rock. The show runs until January 5, 2017, after which Cate' says he may be back at Oceti Sakowin Camp.
Cate’s humor was appreciated at the Oceti Sakowin camp, where he documented what he saw at the frontlines, drew every day in a notebook, and posted drawings on his Facebook page.
He says the early stages of the stand by water protectors were full of doubt, sadness, tension and violence. Cate’s cartoons were a welcome touch of humor that relieved some of the tension and gave a shout-out to the water protectors on social media, in Indian Country and around the world.
One of his most popular cartoons was of water protectors on the hill above the camp (which became unofficially known as Media Hill or Facebook Hill) all raising their hands as if in prayer. On Facebook and Twitter, one comment proclaimed, “Boy they sure are praying hard,” only to find out they were trying to catch a cell tower signal.
In addition to his appearance on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, Cate’s work also received a good account in the Santa Fe New Mexican about a Day-in-the-Life at Standing Rock, and the Museum of New Mexico’s winter issue of El Palacio has a lengthy piece on his book and art career. Indian Country Today ran a piece on him and his cartoon drawings two years ago that was widely shared.
All this press hasn’t changed Cate’ — he’s still hustling around Santa Fe and local market shows, selling his painted panels, black and white drawings, calendars and books. He was driving back from Fort Collins, Colorado, where he had just dropped off his daughter at her college when he decided to drive to Standing Rock the first time.
Now he’s collecting his adventures and drawings and will turn them into a book that he says will most likely will self-publish.
He took a moment to speak to ICMN when he was recently in Santa Fe.
What did you think of Standing Rock and the Oceti Sakowin Camp?
Standing Rock was amazing, I had never seen so many Indians. It was a coming together of tribes, so many tribes in one place. The camp grew from 1,200 to near 10,000 between my trips. After everything that happened, it was like… We are not going to take it anymore. We are standing here. We are not going away.
Give us a day in the life on the frontlines, what you saw?
The night before or that morning they’d tell us about a direct action but only the lead cars would know where we were going and what we were doing, so no details would leak out. Sometimes it was like nobody knew anything. One time we went in a big circle maybe as a diversion as the planes kept following us.
What about after, at the end of the day in the camp?
I would make sketches, with what I had seen fresh in my mind. Then at camp, I would make the final drawings and post them on Facebook. I didn’t want to sensationalize what happened, no exaggerations. Just keep it real.
What has been the response to your NoDAPL and Standing Rock cartoons?
The best thing that really moved me, when I got home and went to schools and these students were asked by their teachers, what sites they would go to for news and stuff. The kids said they went to my Facebook page for the drawings, well that meant a lot. The response has been great, being asked to talk and present just about everywhere. I still have all these videos. And now the book I’m working on.
I heard you taught art to the kids at camp, but what did you learn?
I showed up and said I was a certified teacher so the first day I had 13 students. And the first lesson was how to draw, then how to express themselves, then we all got banners and made posters. It was so cool, the kids had a lot to say. Sometimes on the front-lines, nothing happened and that could be a good thing, people were relieved, nobody got hurt. That was good news. When I first got there, I didn’t know my job. Then I figured out all I had to do was report what I saw and keep it real, for the kids and everybody else. Just keep it real.