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Canku Ota
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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Chantelle's Quilt Goes To Washington
by Ernestine Chasing Hawk, Native Sun News Editor
Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian to display CRST member's quilt
"Magestic," one of Chantelle Blue Arm's quilts, that was displayed in the Sioux Indian Museum in Rapid City.

SIOUX FALLS –– She was just 12 years old when she made her first star quilt. Now at 28, one of her beautifully handcrafted signature star quilts will grace the walls of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Indian in Washington D.C. as part of their permanent collection of Northern Plains Quilts.

Chantelle Blue Arm, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, has been creating, selling and winning art shows with her signature star quilts ever since she made her first one in the seventh grade at Cheyenne Eagle Butte middle school, where she learned the art of quilting in a home economics class.

She would make her first award winning quilt while she was in the eighth grade at the Pierre Indian Learning Center, a BIA boarding school in Pierre. She entered that quilt in the Lakota Art Market during the Cheyenne River Fair and Rodeo and won a first place ribbon.

Blue Arm continued to make quilts while attending high school at Native American Prep School in Rowe, N.M., just outside Santa Fe, and at Fountain Valley Prep School in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Determined to receive her bachelor's degree in psychology from Yale University, Chantelle focused her attention on her rigorous academic schedule but continued to cultivate her love for sewing in her free time. After college, she began experimenting more with variations in her quilting, such as color, size of diamonds, batting loft, fabric patterns, and star designs in addition to incorporating suggestions from her customers.

"I feel fortunate to have a creative outlet to express myself; it's like therapy to me. I especially enjoy picking out the colors and a pattern for my quilts then being able to see them come to life as I continue along. It's exciting to make quilts because I know in the end I am making something I can be proud of," Chantelle said.

Chantelle is the daughter of artist Norman Blue Arm whose artwork was featured in the May 2012 edition of National Geographic Magazine. She is also the daughter of Ernestine Chasing Hawk, editor of Native Sun News whose beadwork is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian's Folk Art Museum. Silversmith Mitchell Zephier also promoted Chantelle's star quilts all across Indian Country and supported her first entry into the Northern Plains Art Show in Sioux Falls in 2010, where her quilts placed first and third.

"It was an amazing feeling. I felt very honored and humbled, especially because I have always asked my family members and friends for their opinions and I never knew if they were being honest or just nice. It was validating to find that my work was chosen to place by jurors who had no obligation to be kind in their judgement," Chantelle said.

"Ocean of Rest," a star quilt created by Chantelle Blue Arm, will be displayed in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Indian in Washington D.C. as part of a permanent collection of Northern Plains Quilts.

"I was overjoyed just to find out I placed, I was beside myself when one of the hosts of the event, a man who has been with the NPAIM since it began, informed me that a juror purchased one of my quilts and then he asked me where I had been all these years. It was a wonderful feeling. I had fun and I'm glad I joined in on it," the industrious little seamstress beamed.

That quilt is now prominently displayed in the Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls.

In 2014, Chantelle entered three quilts in the Northern Plains Indian Art Market and placed first, second and third. One of the quilts, "Ocean of Rest" which took first place was purchased by Linda Boyd owner of Prairie Star Gallery in downtown Sioux Falls. Boyd informed Chantelle last month that the quilt had been purchased by the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian and will be placed in their permanent collection of Northern Plains quilts.

"The blue-green star spiral is Chantelle's specialty--beautiful! Having a hard time keeping these in the gallery. Prairie Star Gallery is proud of placing Chantelle's quilt in the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indians Northern Plains quilt collection," said Boyd who has bought numerous quilts from Chantelle.

Chantelle, who now lives in Flandreau and works at the Flandreau Indian School said, "I am extremely humbled. I take pride in the effort I put into my quilts but, never in a million years, did I expect that my work would receive this type of honor and recognition. I have my family, fiance, and friends to thank for always encouraging me to pursue my passion and helping me in any way they can."

Chantelle's quilts were recently featured at the Sioux Indian Museum in Rapid City and have been purchased by renowned Ojibwe author Louis Erdrich.

You can view the colorful array of Chantelle's quilts on her Facebook page and she can be reached by email at

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