Spirit Hawk Eye Cultural Season

August 3, 2015 -

Over the past two weeks it has been my privilege to work closely alongside Alan Salazar, Nocona Burgess, and Sarita McGowan, the Native American guests who visited the Museum as part of our Spirit Hawk Eye season.

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Alan, Nocona, and Sarita pose in front of their portraits upon arrival at the Museum

Portraits of Alan, Sarita, and Nocona feature in photographer Heidi Laughton‘s exhibition exploring Native cultures of the American south-west. Beyond this common ground, our three guests came from different tribal backgrounds and different walks of life: Alan is a Chumash-Tataviam educator and storyteller, Nocona is a member of the Comanche tribe and works as a painter and lecturer at the Institute of American Indian Arts, and Sarita is an enrolled member of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska who is studying for a social work degree but also finds time to celebrate her heritage by dancing Women’s Northern Traditional Buckskin and creating handmade traditional regalia.

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Alan and Sarita with the Head Teacher of Holy Rood Primary School

During their first week in Bath, Learning and Events Officer Tammy Calderwood accompanied Alan and Sarita on outreach visits to local primary schools, where teachers commented that it was a wonderful opportunity for pupils to be exposed to and interact with a different set of values and beliefs from their own. Pupils often explore our historic Native American collections on visits to the Museum, so it was great to be able to show them that Native cultures are still alive and well.

Back at the Museum Alan, Sarita, and Nocona delivered a series of talks, practical workshops, storytelling, and dance exhibitions.

Sarita shared insights into Ioway history, as well as explaining to audiences the processes involved in making her regalia. Sarita does all her own beadwork— it took five months to complete her beaded leggings! In the image below she folds an eagle feather fan, bone breastplate, and otter-skin hair wraps.

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Medicine Pouch Workshop Group

Sarita and the participants in her Medicine Bag workshop

As well as giving a fascinating lecture about the history of the Comanche tribe, artist Nocona Burgess shared his painting practice with participants in colour theory workshops for adults and young people. An exhibition of Nocona’s work is currently on display at Rainmaker Gallery in Bristol— do go to see it if you can. Two of his paintings are also displayed alongside his portrait in the Museum. I love the vibrant colours in Nocona’s work, and the way he uses stencil graffiti techniques to add texture.

Nocona Burgess - Samohpu' - Sister

Samohpu Sister, Nocona Burgess, currently on display at Rainmaker Gallery

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Nocona working on a new canvas alongside participants in his Colour Theory workshop

Alan entertained visitors of all ages with his Chumash and Tataviam stories, featuring trickster coyotes, prankster butterflies, and giant swarms of crickets. He also shared some more contemporary tales about his experience of growing up in California, and his adventures building and sailing traditional tomol plank canoes.

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Alan and his coyote

Working with Nocona, Alan, and Sarita has been a wonderful experience for the Museum— we learnt a great deal from them and hope they enjoyed their time with us. As one of the few organisations in the UK which explores Native American history and culture, the Museum is committed to providing a platform for Native people to share their culture with a British audience. We look forward to creating more programmes like Spirit Hawk Eye over the coming years.

For those who were unable to attend the events, we are currently working with local film company Animated Magic to produce a series of short films about Nocona, Alan, and Sarita’s time in Bath. Watch this space!