Painting by Paul King
Size: 16" x 20"
Tribal Affiliation: Choctaw
With the concept of defining this image, the artist simulated a page from “A Dictionary of the Choctaw Language,” written by Cyrus Byington (1793-1868). Byington was a lawyer, a missionary and developed the Choctaw language into written form. Byington, a non-Indian from Massachusetts, learned the Choctaw language from Mississippi Choctaws. With the government removal of the Choctaws (Trail of Tears) from their homes in Mississippi to Indian Territory (Oklahoma), the Byington family settled in Eagletown. He founded a mission near Eagletown, across the homestead of the artist’s grandparents Willy and Amanda Dyer. By translating OKLA (people) HUMMA (red) from Choctaw to English, it became the name of our state, Oklahoma. It first appeared as Oklahoma in the 1866 Choctaw treaty.
The Gourd Dance originated from the Kiowa tribe and is a tradition shared by many tribes for their veterans of armed services. The Choctaw word “holitopa” translates to “that which is sacred” which is appropriate for the honor of our veterans. The original image was captured at Tuskahoma during a Labor Day Festival pow wow. The faces of these Choctaw veterans indicate the reverence and experience of these warriors.
The diamond pattern that serves as a foundation for this painting, represents the pattern of the diamond back rattler. It has been said that it symbolizes the respect for nature. For instance, if you go into the woods and are bitten by a snake, you have invaded his territory; therefore, you should respect his home and be watchful.
Painting with gouache on watercolor paper provided many vibrant colors offering a striking contrast to the printed words. It is from respect and cultural history that motivated King to create this painting.