Thunder Hawk's Effigy honors the Blue Roan that is depicted by the ledger drawings of 'Artist B' (see: "An Hour With Castle McLaughlin"), but in doing so it also honors the descendants of that horse, the Nokotas. This is mainly because it is an old art form with a contemporary twist-- Thunder Hawk complies with tradition, but also adds his own fresh perspective by adding elements of his own artistic style. The hair found on the Effigy belongs to a horse that passed away five years ago, so the piece is very much a reference to horses existing today.
|A Nokota horse|
By having the Effigy in the exhibit, we are reminded of the importance of connecting ourselves to the past. The fact that Thunder Hawk is honoring a horse that once was, a horse that neither he nor us has ever met, is a sign that what is behind us on a timeline has never truly been surpassed, or at least shouldn't be. Effigies teach us this to begin with-- to never forget those who have departed-- but the Effigy, as a dance stick, brings history to life. Its potential for movement in a dance ceremony is an indication that history exists in both a past and present state. The Nokota horses that McLaughlin and Thunder Hawk are dedicating themselves to under the Nokota Horse Conservancy are in a fight (a successful one at that) for survival. The following is the description of the organization's goals, as quoted from Nokotahorse.org:
The Nokota® Horse Conservancy is a nonprofit organization established in 1999 to preserve the unique and historical Nokota® Horse. These wild horses of the northern plains inhabited the Little Missouri badlands, now encompassed by Theodore Roosevelt National Park, for more than a century. They were removed by the National Park Service and sold during the 1980s and 1990s. The vast majority of the remaining Nokota® horses now survive on the overburdened Kuntz Ranch. The goals of the Nokota® Horse Conservancy are to preserve these important horses by caring for them, promoting awareness of their plight, value, and use to others, and by working to establish a sanctuary where they can survive into the future.The values behind the organization are, in this sense, revolutionary. The Effigy, just like the Nokota horses, is a reminder of this "plight, value, and use to others" that we find not only in the creatures themselves but also in history-- or more specifically, Native American history.
On that note, the Wiyohpiyata: Lakota Images of the Contested West exhibit, in which the Effigy is found, is revolutionary due to the message it sends. It brings to light the importance of reviving the Native American past, something which often tends to be swept under the rug, so to speak. Sure, most American studies today learn about the culture at some point during their schooling years, but often times that's as far as exposure goes. Spending time in the exhibit at the Peabody (both by myself and with Dr. McLaughlin) has taught me more than I feel I could have ever learned from a textbook. It's important to experience culture all around you-- to see it, touch it, smell it, hear it, etc. If it envelopes you, you begin to feel history come alive. The Effigy, particularly in the context of the exhibit, achieves just that. It is revolutionary but also celebratory, and is a mode of expression through which we find not only stories of the past, but also stories of the present.
Nokotahorse.org. The Nokota Horse Conservancy, n.d. Web. Nov. 2012. <http://www.nokotahorse.org/cms/>.