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Study of Tusweka

Study of Tusweka

Friends –
Just last month I had the good fortune to meet new friends. One of them, Jenny S, introduced me to the others -- a few Nokota horses at her residence in Springfield, OR. So beautiful, they have a long and complicated history going back to the invasion of Europeans in this country. Nokota, now a registered breed, are believed to be related to horses from North Dakota once belonging to Sitting Bull.

Most of my friends know the horror stories of how the Original Peoples were treated, which included forcing them into prison camps (aka 'reservations'). Among other atrocities committed against them, tribes were intentionally limited in their ability to function by confiscating (stealing) their horses.

Tusweka (the subject of this painting) was not one of the horses I met in Oregon. Yet her story, as described by Jenny, is dramatic enough that it is worth painting. This study is of that marvelous gray Nokota mare before she learned to trust people and allow herself to be touched. Her Rastafarian mane alone exhibits the effects of absence of grooming from a human hand.

I should interject here that her name, Tusweka, means 'Dragonfly' in Lakota. To me that is like magic and when I learned that I felt a wonderful shiver. Over time I've heard versions of the significance of a dragonfly to native people – all of them positive. They include protection, invincibility, hope and infinite possibilities.

The name, then, is a good fit for this lovely mare, and she is already beginning to show those possibilities. She has learned to trust her caretaker and now allows herself to be groomed and loved. She is becoming even more beautiful and healthier and the next time I paint her that will show.

'Study of Tusweka' is already sold, but I wanted to share with you this story regardless. I am hoping there will be more Nokota paintings at some point soon.

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