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Press Release

Release Date: August 03, 2022
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

Chickasaw youth artists took home top honors at the 36th annual Red Earth Festival in Oklahoma City. Nalin Saur, Peyton Horton, Camden Oliphant and Hayden Straub were recognized for their contributions to First American art and cultural items during Red Earth.

Saur, 18, took first place in the 16-18 Division of the Cultural Art category for her ledger art titled “Time is Here.” Peyton, 12, took home second place twice in the 8-12 Division of the Cultural Art and Photography categories. Camden, 14, also took home second place titles in the 13-15 Division of the Cultural Art and Drawing categories. Hayden, 9, placed third in the 8-12 Division of the Cultural Art category.

“I’m shocked that I took first place in my division,” Saur said. “‘Time is Here’ is meaningful to me. It’s a portrait of my mother and all the collage elements have to do with how our identities intertwine. I was most proud when I got to see her standing next to it.”

Annually, there is a strong presence of Chickasaw youth artists that are represented at Red Earth. Much of the artwork entered into Red Earth is produced during the Chickasaw Arts Academy and After School Arts Programs.

“The Chickasaw [youth] are a wonderful group that participate in the youth art competition,” Vicky Norick, chairman of the board of Red Earth, said. “They bring lots of artists and entries to our competition. We are grateful Chickasaws come every year.”

Due to the COVID-19, the winter session of the Chickasaw Arts Academy took place virtually. The virtual academy provided Chickasaw youth artists the ability to continue to work among peers. More than 30 children, divided among three classes, received guidance from Chickasaw Nation employees. Many of the participants, including Saur, submitted their work completed during the academy to this year’s Red Earth Festival.

“I value the experience of being in the room with fellow artists, but the virtual arts academy taught me so much,” Saur said. “‘Time is Here’ only exists because I went to the virtual arts academy. I learned about ledger art and the history behind it at the virtual arts academy.”

Red Earth took place June 30-July 2 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. In addition to the youth art competition, numerous adult First Americans displayed their artistic creations, also offering their artwork for sale.

According to Red Earth’s website, for more than 40 years, Red Earth has been recognized as a multicultural resource in Oklahoma for advancing the understanding and continuation of traditional and contemporary First American culture and art.

“It has always been a celebration of First American art,” Brent Greenwood, Chickasaw artist and Chickasaw Nation Director of Fine Arts, said. “Red Earth has pageantry, dancing and culture.”

“I feel ecstatic that our youth do so well (at Red Earth),” Greenwood said. “Our goal is to support our children. We nurture and encourage creativity. It goes toward Governor Anoatubby’s support and vision for the arts and humanities within the Chickasaw Nation that our children do so well.”

Saur believes programs like the Chickasaw Arts Academy, and by extension Red Earth, allow First Americans to connect with their heritage.

“‘Time is Here’ is about my identity as a Chickasaw person,” Saur said. “The arts academy, virtually and physically, has helped me connect to Chickasaw culture, even after we moved to Colorado. I think it is very fitting that a piece I created there won, and I would like to express my gratitude to everyone involved with it.”

Chickasaw artist and 2013 Red Earth’s Honored One, Daniel Worcester, displayed artwork during the festival. In bestowing him the Red Earth’s Honored One award, the organization acknowledged Worcester as a master visual artist who supported and influenced the First American community. He has continuing involvement and participation in his art form at Red Earth.

“This is my 27th consecutive year coming to Red Earth,” Worcester said. “Red Earth is important. It not only showcases Oklahoman First American artists, but artists from around the United States.”

Another esteemed Chickasaw artist, Dustin Mater, believes Red Earth is beneficial to First American artists. According to Mater, Red Earth has a lasting impact on the Oklahoma art scene. While not displaying artwork at Red Earth this year, Mater was on hand working a Chickasaw Nation information booth.

“Red Earth has been going on for so long,” Mater said. “I know when I was a kid one of my highlights was seeing my uncle at Red Earth. He would tell me about the cool experiences of meeting all these (First American) artists. That really instills community within the artist.”

“Red Earth is a vital part of the art community,” Mater said. “People keep coming back because of its history. Its popularity is intertwined with the amount of time it has been going on and that it is so inclusive of the different tribes. Red Earth speaks of this state, and of Indian Country.”