Eiteljorg Musuem Blog

Brulé at the Eiteljorg–it's about time!

by Jaq Nigg | May 18, 2012
One of the best parts of my job as the Eiteljorg’s festivals and markets manager is that I sometimes get to travel to other events around the country. I’ve visited Native art markets in Santa Fe, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Sioux Falls, as well as Western events in Oklahoma City and Cartersville, GA. Travel ranks high in my top five favorite work-related activities:

#1 Interacting everyday with people who know and care about art 
#2 Travelling to new places to meet new people, learn new things and eat new food 
#3 Researching and discovering music
#4 Buying American Indian jewelry
#5 Eating Indian tacos 

One of my first work trips was to attend the 2002 Northern Plains Indian Art Market in Sioux Falls, SD, to recruit artists and see their logistics; primarily artist booth set up, judging, food vendors and entertainment stage. Northern Plains is an indoor show, and there was a curiosity about the feasibility of moving our market indoors. I was extra excited about the opportunity to see the group Brulé perform. I hadn’t been at the Eiteljorg very long and didn’t know many people in the national Native art market world so I figured I’d be under the radar. I introduced myself to the 2001 Eiteljorg Indian Market signature artist Benjamin Harjo, Jr., (Seminole/ Absentee Shawnee) and his wife Barbara who pretty much immediately embraced me and made sure that I met everyone. It was a whirlwind, highly educational, so much fun and remains a touchstone for my time at the Eiteljorg. It is also the basis of many of my professional relationships, almost like I’m part of a club. There’s a knowing laugh and look shared when I meet an artist for the first time and they discover I’ve been a passenger in a car driven by Ben. “Poor thing must have been terrified” is the only way I can describe it.

Coyote and the Hummer, Benjamin Harjo, Jr. (Absentee Shawnee/Seminole), 1999

During that weekend, I learned that the Lakota Sioux serve their frybread with wojapi, a thick blueberry sauce–hands down my favorite non-taco way to eat frybread. Completely different from what I had seen at the Eiteljorg and in the Southwest, wojapi was a good early lesson for me about the differences between tribes. Although many have similarities, each of the more than 500 Indian tribes recognized in the United States have their own traditions and cultures. It’s obvious when I say it out loud–there is no pan-Indian–and surprises me when people constantly group Indian experiences together. I was lucky that my lesson was tasty rather than verbal.

Even more important to my professional development that weekend was seeing the live performance by Brulé. Up until that point, I thought mostly of Native American music as soothing drums with some flute along with regalia-wearing dancers. That’s probably what most people think and it’s wrong. Here was a Native band with those elements, but they rocked–really rocked–with an inspired blend of musical styles–traditional Native American influences fused with contemporary rock. Led by keyboardist Paul LaRoche (Lower Brulé Lakota), who was adopted as an infant and raised in a non-Native family, Brulé uses music as a way to bring together the two cultures of LaRoche’s past. Every performance is an attempt to communicate, through music, the transformative discovery of who he is. Pretty lofty, but it works. 

I returned to Indianapolis, determined to book Brule for Indian Market, but, for years and years, the timing was never right. Since then, they’ve sold more than 1 million records worldwide and won numerous awards, including “Group of the Year” three times at the Native American Music Awards (Nammys). Hearing Brulé within the first year of working at the Eiteljorg influenced me to make a concerted effort to book contemporary Native groups for market. I’m especially proud of bringing Robert Mirabal (Taos Pueblo), Joanne Shenandoah (Iroquois, Wolf Clan), Indigenous (Nakota) and Pamyua (Inuit/Yup’ik) to Indy.

 When we started talking about what we could do that would be extra special for the 20th anniversary of Indian Market and Festival, I knew I wanted Brulé. They were available and excited to finally come here. It’s been worth the wait.

1 Comment

  1. 1 metal foundry 18 Jun
    Wonderful video. Thanks for the share.


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