Oglala Lakota College features artists at Heritage Center art show


KYLE, S.D. - Diane Comes Out Holy sat at a table in the Oglala Lakota College Heritage Center beading various crafts, including dream catchers and her one-of-a-kind earrings. The dolls and turtles she creates are popular art objects that tourists seek out when they visit the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Comes Out Holy is one of an elite group of artists who were selected to spend at least one week at the Heritage Center to demonstrate her craft and sell her creations as part of the college's annual Artist of the Week art show.

Tourists from foreign countries and students from across the nation visit the Heritage Center by the busload. During their visit, they have the chance to experience the history of the Oglala Nation and watch a local artist at work.

Comes Out Holy is one of only a few artists who create a special bustle-style earring. She said an elderly man from the Cheyenne River Reservation showed her how to create the earring and she does not alter the original design. For this reason, she says, there are no others like them.

Comes Out Holy is a master bead worker and is known throughout the region by Lakota people who seek out her work for gifts and special occasions.

She is a master at beading turtles of all sizes, which are used as gifts for newborn baby girls. She also makes lizards for the boys.

Her barrettes are sought by young pow wow dancers for inclusion as part of their regalia.

Comes Out Holy started her craft by making American Indian dresses for Barbie dolls, something she does not do anymore. Now she makes dolls the traditional way.

Her dolls are filled with buffalo fur and she uses horse hair for their hair. She spends time with each doll and makes decorative decisions after studying the figure. Oftentimes she makes breast plates, pouches and other accessories for the dolls.

''When I pick up the doll and look at it, I get new ideas,'' she said. ''I make them the way they were made in the 1800s.''

One of Comes Out Holy's dolls, and some of her other beadwork, is displayed at the National Museum of the American Indian and at the Smithsonian.

She said a woman from the Smithsonian saw one of her dolls at the Great Plains Art Show in Sioux Falls and purchased it for permanent display at the museum.

Comes Out Holy also taught her husband, Sherman Bear Ribs Jr., how do to beadwork, and he is now making turtles and barrettes. The turtles are completely made from layered deer skin and beaded in a variety of sizes, she said.

Comes Out Holy works hard in the summer trying to keep up with the demand made by gift shops on and off the reservation. Most of her income comes in the summer months during the busy tourist season. They do not have a Web site, as she and her husband are not versed in computers, but one is being constructed and they hope it will be up and running next year. The site will become an online gift shop for Comes Out Holy.

The colors she uses in all of her beadwork are traditional colors, earth tones and Lakota colors of the four directions. She said she now is keeping up with some of the brighter colors that are popular with the younger generation and many tourists.

The work she does is hard to mass-produce, so she spends time year-round trying to build up her inventory. The winter months are especially hard; with no income to speak of, the couple has to rely on general assistance to survive, and the cost of beads and other materials is rising, which complicates keeping the prices down, she said.

Comes Out Holy is a master at detail and perfection and that is what she strives to do.

''Each time I make something I try to do it better,'' she said.