Archive for Wednesday, January 2, 2002

Artist uses today’s art to tell of Native American past

January 2, 2002

Art to David Earl Norris is a matter of the heart.

An outpouring of the spiritual awakening he had several years ago.

Some may think Norris' is strange or different when hearing his story, but he says it's a matter of perspective.

Norris' perspective comes from that of his adoptive Native American family. A family that passed a rich heritage and deep spiritual belief onto Norris, inspiring him to create artwork that tells the history of Nez Perce Tribe and of Norris' spiritual awakening.

"I feel that I owe it to them," he said. "Especially, for what they done for me. It's a matter of the heart for me. Being honest with myself and being honest for them."

About 20 years ago, Norris read a book about the Nez Perce, describing the tribe's history, struggle and near destruction.

The Nez Perce Tribe's homeland is Wallowa Valley, Ore. But it was the tribe's struggle with the U.S. government and short exile in Fort Leavenworth that hit home to Norris.

"They had a lot of things happen to them, like many American Indians, they weren't treated well," Norris said.

Gold was discovered in Wallowa in the mid-1800s and although the Nez Perce had a treaty with the U.S. government, they were asked to live their land.

The Nez Perce rebelled when whites that were never brought to justice killed a young tribesman. The impending war led to the tribe spending a short time in Fort Leavenworth.

More than 100 years later, Norris encountered the Nez Perce through what he called spiritual vision. It led him to Colville Reservation in Nespelem, Wash., and a Nez Perce Indian named Earl "Taz" Conner.

"He was a great man I dearly admired," Norris said.

Norris said Conner treated him as a brother and through this new connection with the tribe, Norris eventually was healed of the depression he had struggled with for several years.

Taz eventually died and "went over to the other side," Norris said.

It was through this loss, and his spiritual awakening that he decided to create a work of art about the tribe.

The artwork, called the "Guardians of the Valley Who Chose Freedom," is a mixture of mediums painting, sketch and photography, honoring Taz and great Nez Perce chiefs.

Yet, the artwork has a twofold- purpose.

First, it's art depicting history, a friend and Norris' spirituality.

Second, the Nez Perce Tribe has recently received a grant giving them 160 acres of the Wallowa Valley, their original homeland. The tribe is trying to raise funds to build an interpretive learning center on the land so to teach tribal youth about Nez Perce culture and history.

Norris has made the artwork into a 24-by-36-inch poster that he has reproduced and is attempting to sell to raise funds for The Wallowa Band Nez Perce Trail Interpretive Center.

The injustices the tribe suffered and this new found peace for Norris has also led him to produce a similar poster, called "Soaring Spirits," a Native American perspective of the Sept. 11 attack in New York City.

"I got so much feeling about it, it's hard to explain," he said. "I was watching when the second plane hit (the tower) and to know I had been standing on top of that tower, taking pictures . . . it just touched my heart."

The artwork also includes poetry written by Norris about that fateful day and the impact it has had on the nation. He believes the work is different from all the hundreds of pieces already done about the attacks because of its Native American overtones.

Part of the money he receives from the sale of the art will go toward helping abused children.

"There has already been so much money given to the relief efforts that I decided I would give part of the proceeds to an organization that helps abused children because that is something that is of a great concern to me," he said.

Anyone interested in seeing the art or purchasing either work can contact David Norris at (913) 651-4653 or Alternatively, they can also go to Casey's General Store in Basehor, where Norris' wife Carole works. She will have copies of the posters to view from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.

The "Guardians" poster sells for $25 and "Soaring Spirits" sells for $20. The posters can be mailed to an individual, Norris

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