Cutline: Native American author Walter Echo-Hawk and artist Sonny Howell appeared at the NOC Cultural Engagement Center Nov. 15. Pictured (L-R): Artist Sonny Howell, Distance Learning Specialist Sara Hawkins, NASNTI Title III Grant Director Anna Scott, Native American Student Service Specialist Gina Conneywerdy, author Walter Echo-Hawk. (photo by John Pickard/Northern Oklahoma College)
Native American author Walter Echo-Hawk and artist Sonny Howell spoke to Northern Oklahoma students and staff Nov. 15 at the Cultural Engagement Center (CEC) on the NOC Tonkawa campus.
The lecture and artist reception were part of Native American Heritage Month at NOC.
Echo-Hawk, a member of the Pawnee Nation, lectured on his 2018 book, Sea of Grass, while Howell explained the inspiration behind his art.
Echo-Hawk is an author, attorney, and legal scholar.
Echo-Hawk’s book describes the story of the Pawnee Nation from its roots in the North American Central Plains. The book explores 10 generations of Echo-Hawk’s family from the 1700’s to the present day.
“This book was written because Native Americans need to tell their own story,” he said. “So many of our books are written by non-Native Americans that sometimes show us through the stereotypes of Hollywood. It’s telling our story with our own voices.”
Echo-Hawk encouraged all to research their ancestry and record that information for future generations. He said he was inspired by Alex Haley’s Roots, the story of African Americans from their roots in Africa to the southern states.
A Pawnee Indian with a BA, Political Science, Oklahoma St. Univ. (1970) and JD, UNM (1973), Echo-Hawk practices law in Oklahoma. He serves as Chair, Board of Directors, Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums (www.atalm.org); and is on the “Knowledge Givers” advisory board for Oklahoma’s American Indian Cultural Center and Museum.
In private practice (2009-2019) Echo-Hawk has represented various Oklahoma tribes; served as a Justice on the Supreme Courts of the Pawnee Nation and Kickapoo Nation; taught at Federal Indian Law at the law schools of Tulsa University, Lewis & Clark, and University of Hawaii. Copies of Sea of Grass are available for student and faculty check-out in the CEC.
A reception honoring Pawnee artist Sonny Howell followed the book lecture. Howell is a full blood Pawnee of the Skidi “Wolf” band of the Pawnee and draws inspiration for his art from his heritage and life experiences.
After serving in the U.S. Army from 1982-1990, Howell attended Cameron University and graduated from OSU with a B.F.A. in Studio Arts. It was while attending college that Howell began to hone his artistic skills.
Howell remarked how artists such as T.C. Cannon inspired his artwork and explained the importance of bringing the Pawnee culture to life through his artwork. Participants of the reception listened intently as Howell explained the purpose and process that went into several of his paintings; including references to the people and places that are depicted in his artwork.
Howell’s exhibit will be on display in the Cultural Engagement Center until Friday, December 13. The CEC is open from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday while school is in session.
The exhibit and book lecture were made possible by a U.S. Department of Education grant through the Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions (NASNTI) program, is supportive of the initiative to provide activities that highlight Native American culture.
The CEC opened in 2017 and includes contemporary learning spaces where students, faculty, and/or tribal leaders can meet; individual study or collaborative projects can be conducted; culture-based learning activities and community/cultural events can be provided; professional development can be held; and small group or individual tutoring can occur. Northern is continually striving to support the Native American student population and is pleased to host events like this in order to honor our local tribal members and provide activities that educate on the local Native American culture.