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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


December 25, 1999


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Mitchell Zephier

by Vicki Lockard

For Mitchell Zephier, called Pretty Voice Hawk in the Lakota language, artistry, teaching, and social activism are important tribal values taught to him, as a child, by his grandparents.

Zephier regards his work as purposeful.

"I wanted to create a style recognizable as Lakota. I consider my jewelry a new tradition. Our tradition included quilling, featherwork, and pipe carving, but jewelry was virtually unknown. Today, our jewelry carries Native American into everyday life," he says. "Art has great healing power: the human spirit is nourished by things of beauty and creativity."

To make sure that all can afford his work, Zephier produces both museum quality pieces and Lakota Jewelry Visions, a lighter line.

He notes, " I used to go with my grandmother and pick wild turnips. She would put the soil back the way it was, explaining that if you take medicine or healing plants from the earth, there's going to be a cavity, and you should place tobacco there. Lakota Vision Jewelry is my way of returning something back, to the people."

Zephier favors working with "gifts of the South Dakota land: petrified wood, jade, agates, rose quartz, red or black pipestone, garnets, and bone...With the inlay technique, I'm trying to duplicate the earth colors of hide painting. The colors are significant.

Zephier has also trained many aspiring jewelers. As a teacher, he believes he can ensure the continuation of Plains silverwork and an awareness of the history that is its base.

"Contemporary Native art has as much value as what was done in the past. To me, that is exciting because, until recently, anything done after the late 1800s was diminished," says Zephier. "It says a lot for the strength of our culture that the artists ant to express themselves and keep it going. Our culture is a gift that we have to hang on to."

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

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