There are few ‘single’ words, from the ‘old west’, that when spoken, conjure up an immense amount of emotion. Words that generally don’t promote fence sitters without an opinion. All one has to do is say, “Geronimo”, and nothing else has to be spoken. Fear, admiration, courage, cunning, death, mayhem, commitment are all wrapped up into that one word. It’s amazing how much energy and feeling can be wrapped in a single word. Say, “Custer, Wyatt, Winchester, Billy, Jesse, Texas, Sioux or Yellowstone” and try not to get lost in the lore, history or spirit of the West – far beyond the confines of the words themselves.
This leads me to, “Tatonka”. I’d be willing to bet you didn’t go far emotionally on that on. For some of you, this may be the first time you have heard of it. And yet, to a race of people who sung songs about it, prayed to its spirit, asked Mother Earth to let it come forth to be killed, held sacred ceremonies to it, it’s very existence and eventual lack thereof spelled either life or death. The word ‘tatonka’ was sacred to many.
Tatonka is the Dakota Indian word for Buffalo (or the American Bison).
With this piece, I wanted to show “tatonka” as I feel him. I desired to show the powerful forces that drove this animal to travel the plains, brave winters and show courage to a fault. For me, there has always been something about the shaggy, unkempt, ruggedness of tatonka that has held my heart (perhaps its because I often find myself sculpting in my torn jeans and ratty t-shirt?).