UTTC Art Students to Replicate Artifacts

Aug 15th, 2001 | By | Category: 13-1: Honoring Our Students & Alumni, Tribal College News

Five art/art marketing students from United Tribes Technical College (UTTC) and their instructors spent the summer re-creating history. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation has contracted with UTTC to make museum quality reproductions of artifacts collected during Lewis and Clark’s journey through the area in 1804-1806. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark sent items they collected from tribes along the Missouri River back to President Jefferson, who displayed them in the “Indian Hall” at Monticello, his plantation home. When Jefferson died, his belongings were auctioned off. As part of the expedition’s bicentennial, the foundation has chosen to recreate these items for its permanent display, which is visited by half a million visitors annually. A bronze plaque with the students’ names will appear as part of the display.

“This could be a career maker for the students,” said Wayne Pruse, chairman of the UTTC Art/Art Marketing Department. The contract was originally offered to Butch Thunder Hawk (Hunkpapa Lakota) because he had previously reproduced artifacts for the Peabody Museum. Thunder Hawk, however, wanted the students to share the experience. Most of the items being reproduced were originally collected from the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes, two of the tribes now served by UTTC. In fact, three of the students who are crafting the reproductions belong to those tribes.

To assure accuracy, Pruse and Thunder Hawk traveled last spring to see the collections at Harvard’s Peabody Museum, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the archives at Monticello. They also relied on the displays at the North Dakota Heritage Center. The students spent the summer creating 16 items: a shield, gunstock, war club with a free stone head, war club with a buffalo horn head, pipe tomahawk, eight arrows, lance, and two pipestone pipes.

The students and their instructors face challenges. Accustomed to state of the art equipment at UTTC, they must use the same tools that their ancestors used to make the weapons and pipes. The objects must look used and 200 years old, which requires using ashes, tobacco, and tea, Pruse said. A curator at the National Museum of the American Indian must judge whether the reproductions are accurate enough for display. “If something doesn’t pass inspection, we will do it again until we get it right,” Pruse said.

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