Art is in many ways about the communion of man and nature. What we create, and the process of creating it, is about our personal experience of trying to live in this crazy, random, and often violent world we find ourselves in.
In that sense, the art about Yellowstone Park makes sense. There are few places on earth that are more natural and spiritually stimulating. It’s hard to be there and not wonder about your place in the universe.
The park has always inspired great art. Long before it inspired your dad’s favorite TV show, Yellowstone inspired painters like Thomas Moran and Albert His Bierstadt. Their work is typical of the Hudson River School, a painting technique that makes the natural world seem dreamy and forever trapped in golden time.
William Henry Jackson’s photograph of the park cemented it as America’s first national park. Even Frank Jay Haynes captured the view of Yellowstone so iconic that it became a postcard, an inexpensive keepsake for travelers to carry with them once they get home.
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Art helps tell the story of Yellowstone. But something is missing. All those artists were white men from somewhere. Moran was British and Bierstadt was German. Jackson and Haynes were from the East Coast and Midwest. The stories of Yellowstone are often told by visitors, those who pass by, who quickly leave for their next adventure.
That’s what Mountain Time Arts is trying to fix. This Bozeman-based nonprofit has built a reputation over the years as one of the region’s leading purveyors of art. Their specialty is public works that appreciate people and places. It is usually located somewhere in nature and emphasizes storytelling, especially indigenous storytelling.Mountain Time Arts has a particular interest in using art as education. As a way to teach people about the land they are in and the people who have lived there for a long time.
In the past, Mountain Time Arts has done projects at the headwaters of the Missouri River near Three Forks and several multimedia presentations at Bozeman’s Story Mill.
Focusing on the relationship between people and land, they made Yellowstone a natural fit. Mountain Time Arts held a series of events under the banner “Yellowstone Revealed”. The project ran from Wednesday, August 17th through Sunday, August 28th at various locations within the park.
The epicenter of this project was the All Nations Teepee Village in Madison Valley near Madison Junction. This was a teepee exhibit that served as a staging ground for Indigenous cultural ambassadors to share stories about their people’s connection to the park. The site also featured performances by opera singers and Apsaruk his rapper Spaman.
There were other spots around the park. Madison and Old Faithful performed Visual His Art His Set Piece “REMATRIATE” by the drummer and dancers of Pativaldes. More mobile was the project “Revisiting the Cultural Landscape through Narrative”. This was a series of interpretive journeys that branched out from the Norris area and explored spots around the park, led by an indigenous narrator.
The longest running was the Lighted Teepees: Resiliency of the People installation, a series of seven teepees at Gardiner’s Roosevelt Arch, provided by the Pretty Shield Foundation. The teepees were lit in bright technicolor each night of the installation, bringing light to areas of the park that had seen the awful darkness.
The ‘All Nations Teepee Village’ was also originally supposed to be in Gardiner. However, after flooding washed away the park’s north entrance road, plans changed and the venue was moved to the Madison area.
It ended up being a blessing. Madison is usually thought of as a stopover for Yellowstone rather than a destination. His two largest geysers in the park, Norris and Lower Geyser Basin, are roughly equidistant. Madison has a large campground, but not much else. A place to drive past and enjoy more.
Not this time. Destinations like “Teepee Village” became an excuse to stop in Madison, and it was amazing. Madison comes to life when she’s actually on the ground and not just in the car. This is where the Gibbon River flows into the Firehole, meandering through Quake Lake and Beartrap Canyon to form the Madison River, and eventually the other He flows into two rivers to form the mighty Missouri state. Madison Valley is where much of the West begins. It was the perfect staging area for storytelling.
“The river flows gently through it,” said Shane Doyle, an educational and cultural consultant who put together “Teepee Village.”
There are 13 tepees in all, all lined up along the Gibbon bend, just a few feet from where they meet the firehole. There are 27 tribal states officially recognized as having ties to the Yellowstone region. Twelve teepees had signs highlighting their tribe, and 14 others in the area. The last sign on the central teepee represents a tribal state that was not yet recognized by the National Park Service. Even as progress continues, there is still work to be done.
Teepees are not only evocative and beautiful, they are also highly symbolic to the indigenous people.
“When I first came to this park, I didn’t see any trace of Native Americans,” said Apsaluke artist Rose Williamson. “It really hurt me. Especially seeing Yurt. I’m like, ‘What the hell are you doing here?'” These should be tents. And they should be rented by the natives. ”
Williamson represented the Apsaluke people along with Dr. Emerson Bull Chief, an anthropologist who is also Dean of Little Big Horn College at Crow Institute.
The pair joined teams of cultural ambassadors from various tribes and spent the mornings of August 23-26 conversing with visitors. They shared stories of their people, answered questions thoughtfully and concisely, and taught tourists the real, often overlooked history of the land they stood on. rice field.
Doyle recruited all the ambassadors himself. Many of them have been on the project since June 2021, when Doyle and Mountain Time Arts began talking to Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly about the idea.
“It’s not easy,” Doyle said, speaking of the difficulty of not only performing in public, but also having to represent one’s own culture. and knowledgeable people.”
They have imparted that knowledge to many people over the past three days. Doyle heard that the Madison area had twice as many visitors as it normally does for him.
Williamson is a master beadmaker and sells her wares under the name of Madame de Pompadour. She displayed her own work in her ‘teepee village’ and prepared her elocution so that she could teach her visitors about the artistic traditions of the Apsaruk people.
In particular, she wanted to shed light on the artistic techniques used by indigenous peoples before contact with Europe. One of the materials she used was a porcupine quill, softened, dyed and finally woven in a manner similar to glass beadwork. She also explained the process of waterproofing the rawhide. A case made of rawhide was once used as a food store, but she’s using it as a cell phone case, and cultural adaptation is happening in real time.
Williamson wanted visitors to convey a simple but important message.
“We are still here,” she said. “We are not annihilated yet.”
“Before the park was a park, Native Americans used this site a lot,” Bull Chief said. “We are Yellowstone Park.”
Williamson believes the best way to teach people that is through art.
“Art is universal,” she said. “You can connect with anyone through it.”
“Art is not a threat,” he said. “It connects with all the senses.”
Opportunities like these allow Indigenous peoples to “claim our rights and voices in the modern world. We have been here for thousands of years. I have a lot to say and a lot to contribute about wanting to make a presence.”
Thursday night’s musical sequence featured Kate Morton (Cherokee) and Kirsten C. Kunkle (Miss Cork) singing, while Sapphire Ferguson Jetty (Dakota and Chippewa) played traditional Metis music on the fiddle. swam around.
Yellowstone time moves strangely. A trip there never seems to last long, but there is still silence in the place.
For a moment, time seemed to stand still in Madison. Music echoed on the walls of the valley as stories were told within its depths.
“The setting is enough to inspire and awe-inspiring beauty of this natural landscape,” Doyle said. “We add a human touch.”