Red Cloud, Osceola & The Powwow Princess
In 1994, Ghost entered some of his work in an art contest at the annual Spring Break Festival in Pensacola, Florida. They had TV crews from all over take film shots and even talked to him about his art. Then he was disqualified, they said, because the contest was for amateur artists only.
“I have never been trained or taught to do art.” Ghost says, “I just learnt by trial and error.” He thought it was a bit funny that they still used his art as part of the advertisement for the festival in later years.
In this exhibit, Ghost had several museum worthy pieces including actual portraits of Red Cloud and Osceola. Both were done in their correct original tribal colors and authentic clothing they would be wearing. None had ever been done like this before.
Ghost was later approached by some Lakota women who said they were interested in getting the portrait of Red Cloud for the Red Cloud Indian School in South Dakota. They were brought to him by a tribal member living in Florida.
Ghost explains: “These women told me they didn’t have the money they knew this painting was worth, but said it belonged at the school. Now when I did Red Cloud, my model was a tintype image from the Smithsonian Institute. I did him this way to pay respect to a man who fought for his people not so much with violence but with his wits and negotiation skills.
“He was doing what he felt was best for his people and didn’t want any more of them to be killed or suffer from starvation or cold. Now many of his own people and especially other Lakotas, Dakotas and Nakotas did not agree with him. But sometimes it takes a great warrior to be a stronger man than to fight a war he could not win, realizing what war would do to his people. He was preserving all that he could. So to take the insults, ridicule and anger from so many who spoke and felt ill will against him, he showed his true worth as a warrior who gave himself for his people and that is another reason I chose to do him this way in the painting.
“I knew what the women said was right and they received the painting. Sometimes life isn’t all about the money. Now I pray it did go there and I wasn’t lied to about it. But that is what I was told. And yes, I even let it go with the cedar inlaid story frame which took me much longer to do than the painting. I never checked with the Red Cloud School. I was just following my heart. Something that I always do.”
The portrait of Osceola was given away the same way. [No photo available] Ghost was introduced by a local tribal member to some women who said they were great, great granddaughters of Osceola.
“They had come all the way from south Florida and wanted the portrait. Someone had told them about seeing it on TV and contacted them about it. No one had ever done a painting of him like this because no one ever truly knew him, his true history and his beliefs or even how he got his name. Osceola was a red stick Muskogee, therefore I knew his history.
His name is derived from the sound that is made from one who has taken the black drink for purging. Osceola was like me, born a breed and he had to earn his respect and honor. So it was my honor to do this for him and bring him to life again in this painting. It was only fitting that this painting go to his family. Now I took these people at their word and the word of the tribal member who introduced them. After consulting with someone who was actually there, this is what happened as that person remembered it also.”
Now in doing this painting of the powwow baby, to me something needed was for it to show the beauty of life. Our people had been almost totally wiped out. Then we began a comeback in population and in our culture. We have had a long fight for our lives, culture and religious beliefs. This little baby girl is showing the beauty of our return and way of life. Her desire to be in dancing and rhythm of life for her people. When my mother saw this painting, she truly wanted to have it so badly, and she would have had it not already been promised to be donated for a tribal auction/raffle to the highest bidder. Everyone wanted that painting; the little girl touched everyone’s heart. I do not know the person who wound up getting it. I could not be present. I was busy doing other things for this tribal event such as setting up the photographic booth. My job was to help dress up a tourist in authentic tribal clothing and get them photographed with the authentic dwelling, tribal items and animals. We had a professional photographer and I helped design the scene, hair styles, facing painting, and right clothing for each of them with authentic items to accent the scene. This was a big success and we were swarmed. They even got to get their photo with real wolves who were set up with back packs and travois.