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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Bree Blackhorse
A Young Woman With Lofty Goals
by Jack McNeel, Indian Country Today correspondent

POST FALLS, Idaho – Bree Blackhorse just graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a degree in political science and a 3.2 GPA. The remarkable thing is that she did it in just three years while working full-time and traveling around the country with her parents going to powwows and art events. Seattle University School of Law was impressed and gave her its Native Scholar Award for 2010. It's a $120,000 scholarship which will pay her way through three years of law school.

So what does this dynamic young woman aspire to after receiving the law degree? "I would like to work on the corporate side of law. Corporate law provides a lot of connections. Eventually my dream is to be a U.S. Senator but I also want to help Indian people." She isn't positive on how to best do that but she sees education as an important step, "not just undergraduate but advanced degrees."

"There's a way to be successful both in Native country and the outside more mainstream world. I think a lot of the characteristics fostered in powwow or art are really useful and applicable."

Bree is enrolled with the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, her mother's tribe, and Blackfeet on her father's side. Both parents are established artists. Catherine Blackhorse is a textile designer, ledger artist and designer. Terrance Guardipee is an internationally acclaimed painter and ledger artist with many awards and has work featured in numerous museums across this country and Germany.

Bree was born and raised in Seattle but maintains a strong cultural identity. Part of that comes from the large amount of time she has spent at powwows with her parents. "I was powwow princess for Edmonds Community College as well as Gonzaga University." Bree is also a traditional dancer.

"All through my undergraduate years I was really outspoken because I was a minority view. I was the only person of color in most of my classes; actually it was mostly all rich white kids. So mine was always a different point of view. But having to speak to every person at an art show and be able to sell them an expensive piece, or being powwow royalty and getting up in front of hundreds or thousands of people and speak, really gave me that confidence and that ability.

"I speak a little bit of the language and know most of the history. I've written several papers about it. One of my papers was on how women were traditionally viewed and how that plays out now in women's role in tribal government."

She is also an accomplished artist. She has exhibited at the Heard Museum Indian Art Market the past three or four years and at the Tesoro Indian Art Market in Denver in addition to various other locations. She was exhibiting her art work at Julyamsh at the time of this interview. "I do a lot of art from Seminole culture because there's not a whole lot of Seminole artists. I'll integrate our traditional patchwork designs into a contemporary form. I use a lot of old photographs in mixed media pieces and I also do some Plains art."

These accomplishments are all in addition to working. "I got a job when I was 16 and worked full-time up until a couple of weeks ago (July). I was a sales person at Nordstrom in the lingerie department. It's all commission and I've been in sales my entire life so it was a natural fit," in reference to selling her art at numerous events.

Andrew Morrison, a nationally recognized Native artist, has known Bree and her parents for a number of years. "I've seen her (Bree) blossom into the beautiful young lady she now is. She's very smart, well-spoken, well-educated and very respectful. She represents our Native American community in a fantastic way and has a dynamite bright future ahead of her."

Guardipee had similar comments about his daughter. "She is an exceptional young woman. She's now off to law school and representing Indian country very well to be a professional woman and lawyer. Her art career is also going well, but I think she's going to stick to being a lawyer."

"He's a huge reason I am who I am between my art and powwows," Bree said of her father. "He's always been very encouraging and very supportive."

She loves to hike and do outdoor things. Now that she's not working full-time she has more time. "I want to do Mt. Rainier. I've done Mt. Hood before. It's a 12,000-foot peak."

This bright, articulate, attractive young woman is one to watch in years to come.

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