This month I would like to share with you my latest painting-“Dakota Warrior Spirits” (16x20 Acrylic on Ampersand Aqua Board)
I have been producing my Wanagi Oyate Spirit Men since the early 90’s. My Spirit Men are based on old Dakota images of Spirit men, Heyoka Spirits, and drawings of Holy Men communicating with the spirits. It is difficult to find reference to these spirits, but there are sources that come from drawings, paintings, carvings and even some rock art that still survives.
Part of my Wanagi Oyate (Spirit Nation) series, this is a nice mix of contemporary and traditional northern plains elements.
While most of my spirit images align closely with the oldest sources available, this painting is admittedly leaning a bit towards the contemporary Long Haired Kachina of the southwest.
These Warrior Spirits do keep in line with more traditional northern plains themes however. Their hair styles, earrings and painted war shirts reflect styles common on the northern plains at the time of first contact with the whites.
The feathered headdresses also show the manner of war honors used during that time, complete with porcupine quillwork and ermine skins.Golden eagle feathers, red-tailed hawk, great horned owl, and raven feathers are represented. The use of hawk feathers, even in contemporary times, are a symbol of warrior status, and are currently given to tribal members in the American military.
Owl feathers have been grossly misrepresented in today's belief system as a symbol of bad omens. While some tribes do believe that owls are a bad omen, in the old northern plains traditions they were used much the same way as the hawk feathers current are used, and are more common on headdresses than hawk feathers are. The use of crow and raven feathers, often used interchangeably, were also used as a warrior symbol as the birds were always the first to arrive at the site of anything that had been killed. The split raven feather shown here in the spirits headdress was usually awarded to men who had successfully led a war party as a scout.
The border is also commonly found on painted rawhide parfleche containers that are still being made today.
It has actually been some time since I focused on my Spirit People images and I am feeling inspired to turn some of my old sketches in to new paintings.
I do hope you find these interesting and enjoyable.
The original painting is available here as are T-shirts with the image.
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