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Sandra Hale Schulman
Special to Indian Country Today

Acclaimed Native artist and poet Bunky Echo-Hawk was injured and his 15-year-old daughter killed in an early morning, head-on crash early Saturday, Oct. 16, as they were driving to the Pawnee Nation for a ceremonial tribal dance in Oklahoma.

Alexie Echo-Hawk died at the scene of the accident on Interstate 70 in western Kansas. Bunky Echo-Hawk sustained injuries to his chest, foot, eye and knee. He was released from the hospital Sunday, Oct. 17, but has multiple surgeries and a long recovery ahead, his family said.

The funeral service for Alexie is set for Thursday, Oct. 21, at the Roam Chief Building at the Pawnee Nation in Pawnee, Oklahoma. A prayer service and wake were set for Wednesday evening. A memorial service is set for 2 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Sangre de Cristo school in Mosca, Colorado.

Alexie Echo-Hawk, Yakama/Pawnee, daughter of Native artist Bunky Echo-Hawk, was killed in a head-on crash on Oct. 16, 2021 while she and her father were driving from Denver to Pawnee, Oklahoma, for a ceremonial dance. Her father was injured in the crash and faces a long recovery. (Photo courtesy of Crystal Echo Hawk)

Bunky Echo-Hawk’s father, Walter Echo-Hawk, president of the Pawnee Nation, said the family is still dealing with the loss.

“We’re all heartbroken,” Walter Echo-Hawk told Indian Country Today. “The family is trying to help lay his daughter to rest ... and going through all the things that we do here in Pawnee. It’s a very difficult time for him and we’re just trying to help him out.”

Walter Echo-Hawk said Bunky and his daughter were very close.

“They had a special bond, those two, his daughter, eldest daughter,” Walter Echo-Hawk said. “And I know he's going to have a lot of healing ahead. So getting over that heartbreak and that trauma and all of his medical injuries that he received, it’s a lot of healing to do.”

The pair, who lived in Mosca, Colorado, were driving from Denver to Pawnee when a driver traveling the wrong way on I-70 struck their vehicle head-on just before 1 a.m. Saturday. The driver of the other vehicle was also killed in the crash, officials said.

Walter Echo-Hawk said Bunky was lucky to have survived.

“It was a miracle he survived because after looking at that, what was left of that vehicle, I just don't know how he managed to survive,” he said. “So, we're very thankful that he was able to survive that.”

Native artist Bunky Echo-Hawk paints a Miccosukee elder for a mural commissioned by the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida for Miami's Wynwood arts district. (Photo by Sandra Hale Schulman)

Crystal Echo-Hawk, director of IllumiNative, a nonprofit initiative designed to increase the visibility of Native nations, said the family is mourning the loss.

“The words don’t come easy and our hearts are broken at the loss of my niece and my cousin Bunky Echo-Hawk’s daughter, Alexie," Crystal Echo-Hawk said in a statement. "She was a beloved daughter, sister and relative. Alexie loved her family and basketball."

Alexie, Yakama/Pawnee, grew up in both Pawnee and Mosca. Her Yakama name is Tikáynút and her Pawnee name is Pahuks.

She is survived by her mother, Crista Newmyer-Olsen; father Bunky Echo-Hawk; step-father Sam Olsen; step-mother Jasha Lyons-Echo-Hawk; siblings Jonathan, Khaiya, Leo and Amelia Olsen, and Rhiannon Elizabeth McCaughey, Ayo Pahaat Lyons Echo-Hawk, Puyvfekcv Tiwaku Lyons Echo-Hawk and Feather Echo-Hawk; maternal grandparents, H. Ray Newmyer and Catherine Rice-Gallegos; and paternal grandparents Walter and Pauline Echo-Hawk; along with many aunts, uncles and cousins.

Bunky Echo-Hawk, Yakama/Pawnee, is an artist and poet, known for his paintings, murals and community-engaged art about Native topics and hip-hop culture. He’s a citizen of the Yakama Nation in Washington.

He attended the Institute of American Indian Arts and has exhibited in major museums and galleries throughout the United States and overseas.

The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida commissioned artwork by Bunky Echo-Hawk in 2019 to honor the tribe and make their presence known in Miami’s popular Wynwood art district three years ago.

The mural covers four walls of a warehouse building at 2600 N. Miami Ave.

The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida commissioned this mural by Native artist Bunky Echo-Hawk for Miami's Wynwood arts district. (Photo by Sandra Hale Schulman)

Tribal leader and secretary Talbert Cypress chose Bunky Echo-Hawk to do the mural “because he’s very thought-provoking with his art and he’s well-known throughout the country. We wanted to pick someone who would do the best job to represent us,” he said, in an interview with the Florida Daily Post.

A statement posted by the family on GoFundMe highlighted his works.

“Bunky’s biggest passions in his life are his children and family, his culture, art and Native peoples,” the statement read. “His work initiates discussions about environmentalism, Native rights, and other major issues impacting Indian Country through his vibrant and provocative work.

"Bunky's art is groundbreaking and challenges toxic stereotypes. false narratives and the erasure of Native peoples." 

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