Belcourt man has a gift for art

BELCOURT The Turtle Mountain Tribal Arts Association was chartered in 2008. The association took the lead on developing methods to display and distribute art work created by members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa whose enrollment includes some exceptionally talented artists.

“We wanted to promote our culture, heritage and art of the people,” said Joseph Marion, executive director of the Turtle Mountain Tribal Arts Association. “Native American people have this gift for art, to be artistic, and it comes in many forms.”

The forms of art referred to by Marion includes beadwork, quilting, basket making and paintings in a variety of media. Woven baskets on display in the Belcourt gallery include those of traditional and turtle design reflective of the artist’s Chippewa heritage.

“North America is referred to as Turtle Island and they say the Turtle Mountains is the heart of the turtle,” said Marion. “Many, many peoples use turtles. We have a lady here who makes purses out of turtle shells. Horse themes are a big thing too, as is the buffalo, which is an important part of the Native American way of life.”

Music is part of the arts of the Turtle Mountain region too where fiddle players, dancers and singers excel. To Marion, each tribe has their own specialty that has been carried down through the ages.

“When I say that I look at everybody European, Spanish, Native American, whatever. We’re all in tribes really,” said Marion.

Marion said a person needs to look no further than the Norsk Hostfest, a Scandinavian celebration held annually in Minot that features many artisans, to understand the role of art as it relates to culture and heritage.

It is anticipated that the demand for creations of tribal artists will increase with additional exposure. With that as a goal, the Turtle Mountain Tribal Arts Association will soon be expanding so that more people will be able to see the work of tribal artisans. According to Marion, an agreement has been reached for the Tribal Arts Association to display art at Artspace, a nearly completed building in downtown Minot that will house artists and their artwork.

“The main floor of the building has three commercial spaces. The Turtle Mountain Tribal Arts Association will be located there,” said Marion. “The Tribal Arts Association is actually looking at inviting artists from North Dakota, not just Native Americans, to come into our gallery.”