New Children’s Book Tells the Story of Oscar Howe

Last Updated by Michael Zimny on

Two South Dakota educators and a Minneapolis-based graphic-designer have teamed up to tell the story of the great Dakota artist Oscar Howe, with the new children’s book Native American Master Artist: Oscar Howe.

Lois Sayre, a retired teacher, and Lisa Vande Vegte Dresch, an art teacher at Roosevelt High School in Sioux Falls, met while working in the arts at the Washington Pavilion. They first discussed the idea of writing a children’s book about the life and art of Oscar Howe in 2006, after they witnessed the impact an exhibit of his art had on school children.

howechildrensbooksamplepg1.jpgA sample page from Native American Master Artist: Oscar Howe.

There were detours and stalls along the way, but after nearly a decade, the book — the first children’s book about Oscar Howe — has come to fruition, with reproductions of original Howe paintings and graphics by Minneapolis graphic designer Marnie Teppen. The book tells the story of the artist from his upbringing on the Crow Creek reservation — where, though poor, he was taught the rich traditions and stories of his Dakota heritage that became lifelong themes in his art — through his art education at the Santa Fe Indian School, his WWII service, family life, and his long and distinguished career as an artist and educator.

Sidebars throughout the book give children history lessons on historic Native American figures and on words in the Lakota language. One of the goals of the project was to create a resource for the state-required 4th grade South Dakota History curriculum. Since the book was printed, the authors have personally donated over 200 books to South Dakota public schools.

howechildrensbooksamplepg2.jpgAnother sample page from Native American Master Artist: Oscar Howe.

“As a painter myself, I am amazed at [Howe’s] ability to take the simple tools of a brush and some water-based paint and make images so crisp and vibrant. Even though a painting is essentially a still, flat surface, Oscar could somehow make it look like the subject was moving. There is an excitement to Oscar's paintings,” says co-author Lisa Vande Vegte Dresch. “Another thing I value is his character. He had many situations happen to him in his life that would have made many people give up. But he didn’t.”

“My first impression of an Oscar Howe painting is — wow!” says Lois Sayre “Such rhythm, the viewer can hear and feel the rhythm and chanting; such bold, exciting colors; such movement — dancing feet, fringe and hair flowing; such story-telling… I marvel at Oscar's blending of two cultures.”

Native American Master Artist: Oscar Howe is available now on Amazon.

If you are interested in sponsoring a school, so that kids can experience Native American Master Artist: Oscar Howe, please call (605) 338-4898.

Related: 

Oscar Howe's Wounded Knee Massacre, a Rarely Seen Masterpiece 

A Few Ways to Celebrate Oscar Howe's 100th Birthday

Mobridge's Oscar Howe Murals Restored  

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