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Native American Artists Response to Tragedy

Dittmar Gallery hosts exhibition by descendants of Sand Creek Massacre victims
  • Exhibition depicts descendants’ interpretation of mid-19th century massacre
  • Guest artists to give free presentations on Native American art and culture Oct. 1
  • Meet and greet the artists during an opening reception from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2
  • Exhibit is one of many 2015-16 events supporting One Book One Northwestern theme

EVANSTON, Ill. --- A traveling contemporary artwork collection, making a five-week stop at Northwestern University early this fall, captures the visual history of a tragic event that took place on Nov. 29, 1864, in Sand Creek, Colorado. 

Early that day U.S. Army cavalry attacked a peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian village and slaughtered more than 150 Native Americans, including many women and children. John Evans, one of Northwestern’s founders, was the governor of the Colorado Territory at that time.

Read Northwestern magazine's feature on the Sand Creek Massacre.

“One November Morning -- the Sand Creek Massacre,” which features the work of three Oklahoma-based Cheyenne and Arapaho artists who work in different mediums in remembrance of their Sand Creek ancestors, will be on view through Oct. 25, at the Dittmar Memorial Gallery. The gallery is located on the first floor of Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus.

The colorful paintings and ledger art (narrative drawings or paintings on paper or cloth) depict the artists’ interpretations of the day of the massacre and memorialize and honor the artists’ ancestors and former tribal elders.

The exhibition and an opening reception from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2, as well as a special gallery event on Oct. 1, are free and open to the public. 


From 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1, three of the guest artists will deliver talks and make presentations on Native American art and culture:

  • Native American Contemporary Art -- Brent Learned, who uses bright colors, textures and brush strokes in his impressionistic contemporary acrylic paintings, will give a presentation on the status of Native American contemporary art, including an onsite demonstration of his current work.
  • Ledger Art -- George Curtis Levi is known for his Cheyenne ledger drawings on historical paper, watercolors and acrylic paintings as well as perforated rawhide work and Cheyenne beadwork. Levi will talk about the process of Cheyenne ledger art and provide an interactive demonstration. 
  • The Traditional Art of the Cheyenne People -- Miniaturist Merlin Little Thunder, a member of the Southern Cheyenne Tribe, whose work is not included in the exhibition, will give a presentation of paintings depicting Cheyenne people and their lifestyles.

B.J. Stepp’s “comic book and eclectic style paintings” described in a 2014 article in American Indian magazine, “reflects the irony of a much less than comical subject matter.” Stepp’s work will be part of the Sept. 17-Oct. 25 exhibit.

The “One November Morning” exhibition is a partnership with Trickster Gallery, a Native American gallery in Schaumburg. Funding was provided by The Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs at Northwestern.

“One November Morning” also is one of the many 2015-16 scheduled programs supporting the theme of this year’s One Book One Northwestern selection, Thomas King’s “The Inconvenient Indian,” an engaging history and thorough account across centuries of Indian-White relations in North America. 

Read more about Northwestern's Initiative on Native American Inclusion.

One Book One Northwestern is a community-wide reading program hosted by the Office of the President. Launched in 2005, the One Book program engages the Northwestern campus in a common conversation centered on a carefully chosen, thought-provoking book involving students, faculty and staff from all majors and departments.

Complete list of this year’s One Book events.