Master sculptor Oreland C. Joe Sr. is world-renowned for his work in stone and bronze sculptures. His works can be found in museum, corporate, and private collections in the United States and abroad. Oreland is a native New Mexican and is of Diné (Navajo) and Ute descent.
The influences in Oreland’s life include family and travels abroad to France, Italy, and Japan. Studying European art and culture, seeing and feeling the impressive artistic works of the masters in Greek, Roman, Renaissance, and Baroque periods were life-changing experiences.
His love for art placed him in an elite class of stone and bronze sculptors. His accomplishments are numerous, but one is being the first Native American admitted as a member of the prestigious CAA organization. In two decades of CAA membership, he won four Gold and four Silver Medals for his sculptures. Oreland was awarded the Gold Medal at the Masters of the American West Fine Art Exhibition and Sale at the Autry National Center in 1999 and again in 2006. In June 2002, the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Committee of Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, commissioned Oreland to create The First Council — five life-size figures and a dog. At the Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition & Sale in 2006, he received the Prix de West Purchase Award for his sculpture Buffalo Sunrise.
“I find strength, faith, and dignity through my heritage — yet I also find these in other cultures — and I derive inspiration and motivation from them as well,” Oreland said. “In my humble opinion, I’m just an artist who happens to be Native American. I find myself in a unique place of receiving blessings from two worlds. My goal and desire is to have more Native American artists to be in this place.”
After the Little Big Horn Battle of 1876 many old warriors came to tell their stories at gatherings; the ones who survived the battles of that era. The Crow are known for their fine looking regalia. Trade beads, ermine skins, brass tacks, and bells. Fine looking breastplates and strips of beadwork on their blankets. Ornaments in their hair, decorated with elaborate featherwork. They are a nation of proud people living south of the Yellowstone River in present day Montana.
When the older veterans of nineteenth battles related their experiences they came out with a song making gestures in their body movements relating their battle story. They would continue to dance, stop, and share more insights then continue with their footsteps to the beat of the drum.
The scene for this sculpture is to emulate an old 1870s Crow warrior telling his story in the northern country. Tied to the warriors head braid is an eagle head accompanied by two tail feathers. His hair style identifies him as a Crow Indian. His shield is of a buffalo hide adorned with many honorary eagle tail feathers. A buffalo bull symbol is his medicine at the center of the shield. The elk robe has a fine strip of beadwork all the way around. Included on the robe are ledger drawings of past events. As in the old days of the past many dressed in their finest as if it was their last day in battle.
Throughout history many tribes sat with government agency officials on sites near forts or open ground to talk of peace or bring about treaty issues. Many of those treaty sites were on the Kansas Smokey Hill River. The non-treaty Cheyenne inhabited that area in the mid 1825-1880. The Dog Soldiers of Tall Bull were always near and observed but never signed or put their mark down on a piece of paper.
This sculpture indicates such an event. The esteemed Dog Soldier is listening to agency officials. As a leader he is trying to stay neutral represented by his left winged eagle fan. He is leader of children, woman, and older folks. Part of his decision is to protect the people. The other half is to be prepared to battle. His presence is calm for the time being. He also knows and feels the twist of false words in translation that favors the Agency. He knows that many of their words and gestures swirl in the wind.
The Pawnee people inhabited areas along the Platte River in now central Nebraska. With the migration of Cheyenne bands from the north, the two tribes clashed around 1825 creating disagreement and sending the pipe to war on each other. At this same period the Cheyenne had divided into the Southern and Northern groups covering a large area of hunting grounds from present day South Dakota and Nebraska.
The scouts of Cheyenne war parties were often called Wolves; wearing actual wolf robes to conceal identity and capturing the talk and medicine of the animal. Each individual Wolf adorned his cape with his own medicine and bird feathers. His personal power contributed to the wishes of the war pipe and its society leader.
It is the end of the spring moon phase (crescent moon). Good strong medicine is in the sky (blue eagle). The pipe is smoked and a raiding party is chosen (pipe). Pawnee horses have been grazing on land disputed by the Cheyenne along the Platte River. Their ponies are fat and it is a good time to raid. It will give an opportunity for the young braves to test their horse stealing skills.
The Cheyenne attack the horse keeping place and rub out many Pawnee. Seasoned warriors will stay some distance behind defending the horse raiders. It would be a good chance to battle and gain some honors against the Pawnee should they choose to fight.
The two Wolves upfront are messaging a nearby Cheyenne war party with a mirror. Signaling…we have the ponies. Move out quickly towards the river.
Spotted Wolf was a leader of a Northern Cheyenne band living on the Powder River in Montana prior to the Rosebud Battle of 1876 in Montana. In this sculpture Spotted Wolf is in full regalia wearing a tailed war bonnet of eagle feathers. He is at a gallop followed by his sons, White Shield and White Elk. They are shuffling through the trees before dawn. The circle behind him suggests the sun coming up minutes after a dawn attack on General Crook and his soldiers. On Spotted Wolf's shield is a kingfisher tied with hawk feathers and bells. In battle the horse and its owner are one; one in thought and one in medicine.
The bravest act a Plains Indian warrior could achieve was to count coup on the enemy. Painted in his medicine colors and his regalia, a warrior rode down and humiliated the enemy with the stick. The coup stick was rather plain, yet it contained the warrior’s personal medicine when whacked on the body of the opposing force.
This painting depicts an Arapahoe warrior taunting the enemy. The warrior is wearing a full tail trailer of eagle feathers. Dragonflies accompany his deed to counting coup. In the four corners are different colored small medicine bags and the indication of beadwork on sides of the hide. The sun represents the dust of many battles along the North Platte River.
According to certain agreements between Darlington Agency officials and the Cheyenne in 1870-1879, weapons had to be seized or confiscated while entering Agency land. The officials feared uprisings by the Indians. With broken treaties and promises to leaders such as Black Horse and Dull Knife, the Cheyenne were quite leery of the white man’s spoken word.
Some Cheyenne groups hid rifles, bows and arrows, and other weaponry miles away along the Canadian River before entering Agency boundaries. On many occasions the Cheyenne had to resort to fighting. They were referred to as hostiles, living on or not far from Agency land and still fought for freedom and the desire to return north to the old hunting grounds across the Arkansas River.