Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Miracle Year: Sonja Holy Eagle

(To the left: Sonja Holy Eagle and examples of her work) Leaving Sioux Falls after staying at cousin Sandy’s one last night (after having supper with Melba in Worthington, MN) kind of marked the end of the reunion – but not the end of the trip. Steve, I, and the dogs still had another 1,500 miles to go.

Our next stop (besides doggie breaks) was Rapid City, SD, a 340-mile drive, straight east. I especially wanted to check out Prairie’s Edge -- a showcase for Lakota/Oglala Sioux art -- as well as to speak with Sonja Holy Eagle at the Dakota Drum Co. about painting my drum.

Several years before I'd had the privilege of meeting another remarkable woman, Yolanda Martinez, a striking mixed-blood Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache with some Mexican thrown in. Among Yolanda’s many roles (one of which is singing -- she is a 2004 NAMMY winner for Best Female Artist), is teaching drum making for use in healing ceremonies, meditation, prayer, dancing and singing. Taking one of her classes, I created an 18-in. elk-hide Apache-style drum -- and made a dear friend in the process.

(To the right: Yolanda Martinez leading a drumming session) Since its creation, I’d wanted to have my drum painted. The advertisement I’d seen in a South Dakota art magazine featuring Sonja Holy Eagle made me think she was the one to do it.

I walked into Dakota Drum and introduced myself. Explaining how I came to have my drum, I mentioned Yolanda’s name. Sonja’s eyes lit up. She said, “Oh, Yolanda! I haven’t seen her in a long time! We used to meet at pow wows all the time. Is she still in Las Cruces [NM]?” The answer being "yes," I caught her up on as much as I knew of Yolanda’s recent history.

Later that night, I emailed Yolanda. “Sonja Holy Eagle sends her greetings.”

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