PABLO, Mont. - The inaugural Showcase of Montana Indian Artists was held at
the People's Center in Pablo in mid-July. The turnout of artists was less
than hoped but it provided a good learning experience about working with
American Indian artists and finding the best ways of marketing future
events both for visitors and for artists.
The event was hosted by the Montana Tribal Tourism Alliance (MTTA) with
funding from the Circle of Tribal Advisors, a group representing interests
of tribes located along the route taken by Lewis and Clark. Dyani Bingham,
Assiniboine/Blackfeet, coordinates this work for MTTA.
"This gathering of artists came about because art is an important part of
tourism and economic development. It was decided to hold the first show in
Pablo with plans to move it around to other communities in future years. It
will probably be held in Billings next year," Bingham said. Hot weather
likely held down attendance but both Bingham and the artists seemed
satisfied with the turnout and felt it provided information for improvement
and growth in the future.
Jesse Henderson, Chippewa/Cree from Rocky Boy, was one of the better-known
artists present along with Gail Running Wolf Sr., Blackfeet from Billings
and Rabbit Knows Gun, Crow also from Billings. Henderson has recently
completed a major painting he worked on for two years showing the Lewis and
Clark expedition meeting the Flathead Indians at Ross's Hole. This 4' x 7'
oil entitled "Offering At The Great Clearing" will be displayed at the
Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls through 2006. This is the
third in a series he's painting which present the expedition from the
perspective of the various tribes. Henderson was also featured artist at
the Julyamsh Pow Wow of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe where one of his paintings
won both Best of Show and People's Choice awards.
Bingham described the work of MTTA as being "mostly to help the tribes of
Montana in developing and promoting tourism. Representatives from each
reservation are on the board of directors to make a united inter-tribal
effort for tourism planning." They are helping to facilitate training for
package tours with a goal to be offering package tours of each reservation
in Montana within the next couple of summers. MTTA will then serve as a
cooperator in helping market and promote the tours.
The state of Montana is also working closely with MTTA in printing Indian
nations' brochures and keeping its Web site updated with events as provided
by MTTA. The Tribal Tourism Alliance also works with the Lewis and Clark
Bicentennial Commission plus the Interpretive Center, sometimes doing
inter-tribal encampments in conjunction with Lewis and Clark festivals.
Bingham acknowledged that not everyone was enthused about the Lewis and
Clark connection but MTTA decided it offered an opportunity to present the
Indian side of the story. It also gives tribes a chance to express their
own cultural interpretation of their land, arts and history. The
inter-tribal encampments have been very well attended and diverse in the
presentations. Nearly anything goes from playing traditional games to
learning about songs sung in the early 1800s to pow wow dance
demonstrations with stories behind the dances and the regalia worn.
As Bingham said, "the high profile that Montana will receive during the
next two years of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial will create many
opportunities for Native American historians, interpreters, artists and
small business people. We don't look at it as a celebration but as an
avenue to use and we're being pretty successful with it."