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Combining the past and present, Native American artist paints tipi honoring veterans

A Rosebud native, Martin Red Bear has painted for decades and now he’s celebrating Native American culture and honoring military service members with a new piece of art that will soon find its home in The Journey Museum & Learning Center.
Published: Feb. 25, 2022 at 10:14 AM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - The Journey Museum & Learning Center is home to relics, replicas, and art that captures the human condition from a midwestern and Native American perspective.

Now, a new addition, combining the past and present, will celebrate 25 years of Native American history and culture in the Black Hills for the museum.

A Rosebud native, Martin Red Bear has painted for decades and now he’s celebrating Native American culture and honoring military service members with a new piece of art that will soon find its home in The Journey Museum & Learning Center.

“What I’m doing is creating riders on horses in which you can see what they may have looked like in the past as warriors, then at the same time, on the shields,” said Martin. “You’ll notice that I put in military insignias.”

Martin was commissioned to adorn the outside of a tipi, choosing to paint 41 horses and warriors. Connecting the past and the present.

“To decorate this tipi with all of these is going to show this and it’ll appear to anyone who comes to see it that they can relate to it in their own way and be honored hopefully by what is being depicted,” continued Martin.

A beautiful work of art with a connection to Martin’s culture and career.

“I was in the military, in the U.S. Army during the ‘60s, during the Vietnam war,” Martin told the reporter. “I served with the 4th and 5th infantry divisions but I was trained as a combat engineer. Right out of the army, I was looking for a job and there happened to be a position open at a museum that’s associated with this one. By working for the museum, and doing all the daily chores that had to be done, I was interviewing other artists and they talked to me about their artwork and how it made them feel and what they got out of it and so as a result of that, it got me thinking, I have a G.I. bill, why not do something with it.”

And do something with it he did.

Martin attended Rocky Mountain School of Art, the Institute of American Indian Arts, and finally the University of New Mexico for a master’s degree. He then returned home, teaching at Little Wound and Oglala Lakota College.

All while creating art when he could, art Martin says holds an important reminder.

“I think that’s important for all of us to know that so we don’t forget about our cultures,” finished Martin. “We need our culture and regardless of if it’s in writing or it’s in language or in art or even in education because it’s important for us to continue on so we can coexist and live together as we all are now.”

The plan is to have the painting finished by April but if you can’t wait, you can visit the museum and see Martin in action.

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