Oneidas, and other Haudenosaunee, rely on legends to teach them
life lessons, history, the importance of taking care of the earth,
and more. Such stories have been passed down from generation to generation
with each family emphasizing a particular point or adding embellishments.
native art. Everyone here is Native American and they are
interpreting our own legends. I think thats really special
to see because theyre normally spoken. We shared the
legends and they picked (painted) what they wanted to so theres
a wide range. Its going to be nice to see the different
interpretations. Jessica Farmer.
Latocha (Wolf Clan) creates a night sky, a portion of the
Big Dipper (or Autumn Color) legend.
class began with the legend of the Mosquito and then moved
on to the Big Dipper (Autumn Leaves) legend. The class will
also explore The Flying Head.
member of the class focused on a particular portion of the
legend. Classes continue Tuesday nights through March 15 at
the Oneida Nation Cookhouse.
class, offered by Shako;wi Cultural Center, aims to help Oneidas
and other American Indians put legends onto canvas using acrylic
paint. Local artist Stephen Wameling was on hand to give pointers.
And while these stories have certainly been told orally and
written down (see Legend
of the Mosquitoes and Autumn
Color) several Oneida and other community members have put the
legends to canvas.
Beginning Feb. 16 and happening each Tuesday evening through
March 15 the Oneida Indian Nation Shako:wi Cultural Center has been
hosting a paint the legends class in the Nation's cookhouse. The
top three paintings will be revealed at a reception and art show
set for 3 to 7 p.m. on Friday, March 18, at Shako:wi. The paintings
will be on display.
The painting class is just one way Shako:wi reaches out to the
Oneida and American Indian community. Jessica Farmer, cultural programs
coordinator for the Oneida Nation Shako:wi Cultural Center, said
other classes include creating dreamcatchers. Later this spring
Shako:wi will offer a Flint Knife class with artist Elwood Webster
"Tonight we are painting the Big Dipper legend which some may
know as the Fall Colors legend," said Jessica. "Some (participants)
have painted in the past, for some this is brand new. Lisa (Latocha,
Wolf Clan), who was convinced she didn't have any talent, told me
that she probably couldn't do it. She took an art class before.
Well, as you can see, she's done a very good job. I'm impressed
with some of the talent we have."
Jessica said she is surprised at how the participants are interpreting
the legends. "It's native art. Everyone here is Native American
and they are interpreting our own legends. I think that's really
special to see because they're normally spoken. We shared the legends
and they picked (painted) what they wanted to so there's a wide
range. It's going to be nice to see the different interpretations."
Weaving between stations and sorting through acrylics, Melissa
McCann (Turtle Clan) was working on her piece depicting the Legend
of the Mosquitoes. Melissa recalled having heard the legend 20 years
ago and subsequently looking up the story, noting the variances
between the oral version and those that were transcribed. "Each
version would have a reference, and you would look that up, and
that would have another reference. Before you know it you have four
or five different stories but it's all one. They're all really
neat legends. They teach you something.
"This has to do with the giant mosquito that is attacking the
villagers and the warriors," she explained. Her piece showcases
the giant bug coming down upon a warrior, touching him with his
massive leg, as the warrior points toward the beast. "We're getting
into a battle here and the water is rushing and the mosquito is
ready to come on in and take over because the mosquito was quite
She added she was thankful that the Nation is offering such
a class. "It sounded like fun. You paint the legend. You have a
basis. You have a story, and everyone is taking that story and they
have done something different with it. Yes, they have warriors.
Yes, they have mosquitoes. But they're all different.
For example Lisa (Latocha) painted a bunch of red and put a
bunch of little mosquitoes. Once they finally killed the mosquito
all these little ones came out whereas mine piece depicts the middle
where the story is building up, where they're going to war."
Next to Melissa was Teyekahli:yos Edwards (Wolf Clan) who took
on the legend of the Big Dipper. "The story behind it is the three
hunters who chased him (the bear) off the earth so I'm painting
the actual constellation and then drawing the bear around the constellation.
The cup itself represents the bear and the three stars behind it
represent the three hunters."
Teyekahli:yos has had experience painting before having taken
classes with artist Birdy Burdick (Turtle Clan) and painting has
been something she's always enjoyed. "I took classes with her when
I was a little girl and I painted Corn Husk dolls, a water drum
and a rattle, and I still have it. I wanted to learn about how to
be a better painter. I only know the elementary, the basics of painting,
and it's not much."
As for concentrating on the Big Dipper itself Teyekahli:yos
explained, "it is one of the part of the story that I can remember
when I look up to the sky. I can see it. There's another part of
the story when they shot him (the bear) with arrows, and it changed
the leaves red, and that only happens once a year. This is what
I think of when I think of this story."
Local artist Stephen Wameling, who is assisting the class, began
by doing a demo of different techniques for the class from painting
a star field to demonstrating how to recreate fall foliage. Wameling
received his fine arts degree from Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute
in Utica and a degree in illustration from the Fashion Institute
of Technology in New York City.
"We had the class sketch out their idea and I try to help them
paint it, help them turn out the way they envision it," Stephen
said. "There is no right way to start off. Try it. Experiment with
it. Try all different mediums and different techniques, and always
look at artists."