Museum exhibit features warrior, medicine man
By OLIVIA WEITZ
Feb. 18, 2017
MELBA, Idaho (AP) — The visions of warrior and medicine man Black Elk brought messages of hope and perseverance to Native American tribes in the Great Plains. Now his wisdom is reflected and interpreted at Celebration Park's Canyon Crossroads Museum's inaugural exhibit: "Black Elk: Lakota Warrior, Mighty Visionary."
Through richly researched panels with a timeline, visitors to the museum are introduced to Black Elk's life and key historical 19th century events he lived through, including the Wounded Knee massacre, mass buffalo extermination and life on Native American reservations.
In his later life, Black Elk participated in the Ghost Dance movement — where song and dance were believed to help restore Native American life from oppression — and he traveled to England and across the American West in Buffalo Bill's Wild West traveling show.
Nicki Schwend, outdoor recreation planner who helped create the exhibit panels, explained that Black Elk had revelatory visions before the age of 10. Schwend said he had an optimistic message for Native Americans that were often "thrown onto reservations."
"He had a message of hope in a very uncertain time for his people and carried this ability to adapt through tumultuous times when your cultural is threatened," Schwend said, "and how to make it work and live peacefully."
The theme of life over death — and other messages from Black Elk's visions — can be found in modern interpretations of Black Elk's life at the exhibit. That part of the exhibit is produced by 10 Idaho artists from Hailey to Nampa and one based in California.
One of the life themes represented in the exhibit is a flowering stick with leaves, which Black Elk received from a grandfather in his early vision. The stick can be seen in Garden City artists Samuel Paden's mixed media on canvas piece and Boise artist Melissa "Sasi" Chambers' piece "Great Circle of Life."
Besides the flowering stick, Chambers' piece includes dozens of other images from Black Elk's life. She creates these images with duct tape and sharpie on top of three layers of tarp, explained exhibit curator Betty Mallorca, who helped recruit artists for the show.
Canyon County Parks Director Tom Bicak, who is among the featured artists in the exhibit, said he helped bring this exhibit to Celebration Park because he wanted to share the legendary life of Black Elk with more Idahoans.
"Black Elk's vision and his subsequent life and message to humanity is universal," Bicak said. "He recognized the duality of existence, good and evil, and the choices people make in life."
Information from: Idaho Press-Tribune, http://www.idahopress.com