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Shards - May/June 2011

"The Great Treaty of Canadaigua," an oil painting by Robert Griffing.

Photo By Kurt Brownell

In the autumn of 1794, more than 1,000 Native and non-Native dignitaries gathered in Canandaigua, New York to witness the signing of an important peace treaty between the Six Nations (Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk and Tuscarora) and the United States, which recognized the sovereignty of the Six Nations to govern and set laws as individual nations. This key event has been documented in a 6-by-9-foot oil painting, "The Great Treaty of Canandaigua," by artist Robert Griffing, which was unveiled last winter at Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor, New York. Posters of the historic painting and a DVD of its creation and the story behind the painting are available from the Ganondagan Web site at

"Madame butterfly," by de Haven Solimon Chaffins from her latest series of paintings, titled, "Atomic betty." (Courtesy Dehaven Solimon)De Haven Solimon Chaffins (Laguna Pueblo/Zuni Pueblo) is a wonderfully talented artist whose intelligent, restrained and finely executed works adorn many institutions, museums and private homes. Growing up in the village of Paguate on the Laguna Reservation of New Mexico, she was a firsthand witness to the excavation of the adjoining Anaconda Jackpile uranium mine. This experience has now become the raw material for her latest series of paintings, titled "Atomic Betty."She notes, "As a young child, the mine was a big manmade sandbox of different colored sands. At times, it would resemble an ant hill and at other times a huge dragon spewing yellow-colored vapors from deep below the earth. When I heard the siren, I knew they were going to blast. I would run outside and wait. The whole ground would shake, as if the dragon was turning over in his sleep. Then a huge cloud would appear, and depending on the wind direction, would slowly make its way over the village." To learn more about this important series of paintings, visit www. or e-mail the artist at

A handful of Native artists have made it onto the hugely popular home shopping network QVC, including jeweler Fritz Casuse (Dine). The latest to break into this lucrative market is Casuse's wife, Wanesia Misquadace (Ojibwe), born and raised in Minnesota. Her specialty is the unusual field of birch bark arts, including canisters, jewelry, and cutouts and bitings (one-dimensional patterns on bark), but she is also a fine jeweler. On Mother's Day weekend, May 7-8, she will be selling a line of cast-silver earrings and a bracelet adorned with semi-precious stones on QVC in conjunction with Carolyn Pollack. Misquadace, a risingstar, took a first-place ribbon at the 2010 Santa Fe Indian Market for a bracelet and another for a birch bark canister.

The Denver Botanic Gardens (1007 York St.) is currently presenting a number of programs related to Native arts, plants, culture and ethnobotany. From May through mid-October, the gardens will display 25 sculptures by the late Allan Houser (Chiricahua Apache). In the section titled "Sacred Earth," learn about Native uses for plants and their legends, while enjoying a free, monthly indoor film series on Native topics.

Though he is not of Native heritage, composer, philanthropist and author Peter Buffett has spent much of his adult life honoring and celebrating Native arts, culture and people through his collaborative projects with Natives, such as the notable traveling theatrical production Spirit: The Seventh Fire and Emmy-winning album Ojibwe. Buffett has recently released a compilation titled Running Blind of 22 songs, 11 videos and numerous still photos in a unique format--a USB ("data stick") drive. It is available (for $20) at his Web site, www. Also just out in paperback is his best-selling book Life Is What You Make it: Find Your Own Path to Fulfillment (Random House).

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