Native Sun News: Indian artists create tipi for Wyoming museum

The Water Bird Tipi at the Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum in Buffalo, Wyoming. Photo courtesy A Cheyenne Voice

Museum home to new Water Bird Tipi
By Clara Caufield
Native Sun News Correspondent

LAME DEER, Mont. –– Last year curators at the Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum, Buffalo, Wyo. were excited to erect an Indian tipi, designed and inspired by Bilford Curley Sr., Northern Cheyenne elder and society man, and painted by Jim Starkey (Defender Eagle), Cheyenne River Sioux. The unique and colorful tipi will be displayed on the museum grounds throughout the summer season, a highlight for museum guests, said Museum Director John Gavin.

By 2014, the museum’s 15-year-old, Plains Northern Cheyenne Tipi was in dire need of replacement. The museum then purchased a new “Northern Cheyenne” tipi from a Billings, Mont. Tent and Awning Supply Source and commissioned two American Indian artists to create traditional designs on the new tipi, appealing first to Belford Curley Sr., a Northern Cheyenne, and longtime friend of the museum. Ever modest, Curley, recommended James Starkey, a Lakota who lives among the Cheyenne in Lame Deer, Mont., widely known for his artistic representations of Native history and culture.

“The museum learned that Bilford Curley thought long and hard about the symbolism of the paint and shared his ideas with James Starkey, whose Lakota name is Defender Eagle,” said John Garvin, Museum Executive Director.

The two artists decided that Starkey, with guidance from Curley, would, incorporate a Cheyenne/Lakota vision, in fantastic acrylic dream, aided by Chief Dull Knife College, where the painting was completed on campus, requiring many winter months of work.

“We need to do these things, leaving something behind for our children,” Curley states. “We must also share our vision and culture with others. The people at the Gatchell Memorial Museum have been very good friends,” he said, “helping to preserve our history in a way that honors the Cheyenne and Lakota people.”

Read the rest of the story on the all new Native Sun News website: Museum home to new Water Bird Tipi

(Clara Caufield can be reached at

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