Meskwaki art showcased at first-of-its-kind symposium Monday

Free event highlights beadwork, carving, cattail mat-making, painting and applique

This bear claw necklace with beaded thunderbird was made by an unknown Meskwaki artist around 1900. This type of artwork will be featured as part of the Wi wi ni to tti ki art festival Monday, Oct. 9, in Tama. (Submitted photo)
This bear claw necklace with beaded thunderbird was made by an unknown Meskwaki artist around 1900. This type of artwork will be featured as part of the Wi wi ni to tti ki art festival Monday, Oct. 9, in Tama. (Submitted photo)

UPDATE: This event has been postponed. A date has not yet been determined.

The Meskwaki Nation is offering an alternative celebration Monday — Columbus Day — to promote art by Native Americans and educate the public about their culture.

“It’s more like a statement that we’re still here despite Columbus Day,” said Mary Young Bear, registrar of the Meskwaki Cultural Center and Museum in Tama. “Despite all the attempts at genocide of native people, we’re still here.”

We we ni to tti ki, or “Those that make beautiful things,” is an art symposium from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday that includes presentations by nationally known artists, demonstrations, an art gallery and art sale at the Meskwaki Veterans Convention Center and Red Earth Gardens in Tama.

All presentations, demos and lunch are free to the public.

One of the featured speakers is Duane Slick, a Meskwaki painter and storyteller who is on the faculty at the Rhode Island School of Design. The Waterloo native teaches painting and printmaking and will speak about his personal journey in the arts.

Another highlight, Young Bear said, is a presentation by Brenda Ackerman, senior lecturer in apparel, events and hospitality management at Iowa State University. Ackerman, a Meskwaki Nation member, will speak about how applique is used to create tribal garments based on traditional motifs.

Throughout the day, a group of Kickapoo artisans from Oklahoma will be making a large cattail mat similar to what would have been used to cover wickiups, which are domed huts made by American Indians, Young Bear said.

“The cold and snow make the reeds swell, which actually provides better protection,” she said.


Although Meskwaki members have not actively harvested cattails to make mats for several decades, a few tribes, including the Kickapoo, still practice the craft, as well as traditional homebuilding, Young Bear said. “For me, that is probably the most interesting part (of the festival),” she added.

An art gallery will showcase the work of Meskwaki artists, including students at the Meskwaki Settlement School in Tama, as well as art from the tribe’s collection.

The event — the tribe’s first recognizing tribal art — is sponsored by the Meskwaki Historic Preservation Department with support of the State Historical Society of Iowa, the National Endowment of the Humanities, Red Earth Gardens and Humanities Iowa.

l Comments: (319) 339-3157;

Schedule of Events

Here is a schedule for the we we ni to tti ki event set for Monday. Most events take place at the Meskwaki Veterans Convention Center, 1504 305th St., Tama.

— 8 to 9 a.m. — Doors open and registration begins, continental breakfast available.

— 9 to 9:30 a.m. — Flags posted, blessing by tribal elder.

— 9:30 to 10 a.m. — Welcome: “How Do We Define Our Art?” by Duane Slick and Brenda Ackerman.

— 10 to 10:30 a.m. — Twined Bags: “History, Use and Revitalization” by Kelly Schott and Nina Young Bear.

— 11:10 a.m. to noon — Fine Art: “2-D Art Painting, a Personal Journey in the Arts” by Duane Slick.

— Noon to 1 p.m. — Lunch; boxed lunches provided.


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— 1 to 1:50 p.m. — Beadwork: “Intro to Beadwork, Six Styles of Regalia and the Significance of Past, Present and Future of Beadwork” by Terri Scott and Daniel Young Bear.

— 2 to 2:50 p.m. — Carving: “The Significance, Process and Purposes of Carving Wooden Bowls and Spoons; Making Bone Dice and Pipes” by Luke Kapayou and Johnathan Buffalo.

— 3 to 3:50 p.m. — Applique: Models will show garments made by Brenda Ackerman, who will discuss this art form.

— 4 to 4:30 p.m. — Closing statements.

— 4:30 to 5 p.m. — Retire flags.

— Ongoing throughout the event will be an art gallery, art sale and demonstration of traditional cattail mat making by Kickapoo artisans in nearby Red Earth Gardens, 1506 305th St., Tama.



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