Yellowstone Revealed: Honoring America’s Best Idea

From Aug. 23-27, place-based projects honor Indigenous people in the Yellowstone region

Art Beat

Mountain Time Arts (MTA), an organization known for its unique placed-based art installations, presents Yellowstone Revealed Aug. 23-27 at America’s first national park.

An All Nations Teepee Village at Madison Junction honors Indigenous people's connection to the region.
An All Nations Teepee Village honors Indigenous people’s connection to the region.Photo © Jacob W. Frank-NPS

“The world’s first National Park, and what many have called America’s Best Idea, will commemorate its 150th birthday in the spirit of unity and the best idea will get that much better,” writes Dr. Shane Doyle, a participant in the project.

The non-invasive, temporary place-based projects, created by an inter-tribal group of Indigenous artists and scholars, demonstrate the historic and continued presence of Indigenous people in the Yellowstone region. The multidisciplinary artworks coincide with Yellowstone National Park’s 150th anniversary and will seek to put forward Indigenous truths and perspectives, offering “a platform and long-overdue opportunity to envision and co-create the future of the park, say organizers.

Lead artists include Doyle (Apsáalooke), Patti Baldes (Northern Arapaho/Northern Paiute), Dean Nicolai (Bitterroot Salish) and Tim Ryan (Salish). The cultural and artistic co-producers are Ren Freeman (Eastern Shoshone) and MTA co-founder Mary Ellen Strom. Partnering organizations include Mountain Time Arts, Yellowstone National Park, the City of Gardiner, Yellowstone Forever, National Parks Conservation Association, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Pretty Shield Foundation and Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council.

The four components include:

Rematriate by Patti Baldes: Aug. 24-25 at sunset near Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner. Artwork will showcase seven moving buffalo sculptures made of willow branches as 14 dancers and 10 drummers bring the buffalo to life. The focus of Baldes’ project is land rematriation through buffalo restoration.

The artist was born on the Big Pine Paiute Reservation in California and raised on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, where she lives today. She’s the executive director of a tribal non-profit, the Wind River Native Advocacy Center. Her focus is the buffalo – restoring them to tribal lands – and sharing her talents through art, photography and storytelling.

ReVisiting the Stories: Indigenous Environmental Stewardship, coordinated by Dean Nicolai and Tim Ryan: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Aug. 23-27 at various locations such as Sheep Eaters Cliff, Storm Point and Obsidian Cliff. This series of interpretive hikes, demonstrations and storytelling aims to give park visitors insight into Indigenous knowledge, ways of knowing, and relationship to landscapes as tribal speakers explore their distinct, diverse connection to the Yellowstone region. Knowledge keepers and hike leaders include Aaron Brien, Apsáalooke; Conrad Fisher, Tsistsistas/Suhtaio; Lailani Upham, Amskapi Pikuni; and Johnny Arlee from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, among others.  Space for this event is limited and reservations are required.

All Nations Teepee Village by Shane Doyle – 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 23-27 in Madison Junction, with evening performances at 8 p.m. Aug. 23-25. This project will feature 12 teepee lodges and 15 teepee rings that signify a new era of Indigenous inclusion and representation in YNP. The spaces represent the 27 affiliated tribal nations of the Yellowstone area. The installation will come to life with a community of tribal representatives sharing knowledge with park visitors alongside their traditional lodges.

Performers include Supaman, Aug. 23; and Kirsten C. Kunkle (Myskoke), Kate Morton (Cherokee), Michael Sakir, Sapphire Ferguson-Jetty (Dakota and Chippewa) in partnership with Intermountain Opera Bozeman, Aug. 24-25. Artworks by Sean Chandler, Aaniiih; Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Salish; Bently Spang, Tsitsistas/Suhtai (Northern Cheyenne); Wendy Red Star, Apsáalooke (Crow); and Evan Thompson, Blackfeet, are on display.

Doyle (Apsáalooke), is a Montana-based scholar, teacher, and community advocate whose work focuses on the history and heritage of Native American tribes of the Northern Great Plains.

Lighted Teepees: Resiliency of the People by Pretty Shield Foundation and Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council – Aug. 23-27 near the Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner. Seven teepees will be installed and lighted nightly at sunset.

Mountain Time Arts (MTA) drives change through the cultivation of bold and engaging public art projects and programs that explore the history, culture and environment of the Rocky Mountain West and its Sovereign Nations. To learn more about Mountain Time Arts and Yellowstone Revealed online.