Muralist Steven Grounds (Navajo & Euchee), a past student at Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU), painted the portraits of the late Vine Deloria, Jr. (Standing Rock Sioux) and Grounds’ past instructor Daniel Wildcat, Ph.D (Euchee) on the walls of Tommaney Hall Library. Grounds had previously painted a mural of Jim Thorpe for the library in the spring of 2019 and was invited to return honoring a legacy of Indigenous instruction.
Grounds said it’s significant placing Deloria alongside Wildcat to honor the mentorship relationship between them. The mural highlights the generational nature of Indigenous education — from Deloria to Wildcat to Grounds himself who graduated with a bachelors degree in American Indian Studies in 2004.
Wildcat said, “Again after nearly four decades teaching, you feel so fortunate to see so many of your students successful and doing such good things in the world now. I cannot begin to name all the students who have made my life richer for the good things they are doing now. Of course, having Steven, one of my former students, do the mural of Vine Deloria, Jr. and myself really affirms for me how important relationships are in our lives. Steven is such a gifted artist, I feel so humbled and honored to have him do this wonderful work of Vine (a wonderful teacher) with myself (his student).”
HINU Librarian Carrie Cornelius hopes the mural inspires students who will read and study underneath it. The sentiment is shared by Wildcat who says. “I want them to ask, ‘Who are those two guys?’ Then ask, ‘Do we have their books?’ Of course, the hope is they will then read them and carry on the important work of writing our literature, histories, intellectual traditions, and creating art in the spirit of who we remain, the First Peoples of this land”.
Featured image of mural by Jared Nally