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Bird Songs (ziŋtkála olówaŋ pi)
Arthur Short Bull

Image courtesy of the artist

Arthur Short Bull

Image courtesy of the artist

Arthur Short Bull was raised in a traditional family on the Pine Ridge Reservation. His great-grandfather was Grant Short Bull, uncle to famed artist and historian, Amos Bad Heart Bull and younger brother of He Dog, a companion of Crazy Horses’. Driven by a desire to help his people, Mr. Short Bull attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and became a substance abuse counselor. He worked as a counselor for 14 years, until he left the field to pursue his career as an artist.

It was Oglala Lakota artist Andrew Standing Soldier who first told young Mr. Short Bull that being an artist and painter could be a viable career. Unsure of his talent, he began to experiment with different media, and to seek the advice of more established artists in the Omaha area, where he lived at the time. After experimenting with acrylic and oil painting, drawing in various media, and clay sculpting, Mr. Short Bull eventually found his voice in watercolor painting.

Searching for a subject to paint, he settled on a theme of the Wounded Knee Massacre, inspired by the Oscar Howe painting, Bigfoot at Wounded Knee. During a visit to the site of Wounded Knee for the 100th anniversary of the massacre, Mr. Short Bull realized that these victims were not nameless people, and that each had a story to tell. He decided to do a painting and poem for each person who had been there, those that died as well as those who survived. The project is ongoing, he has documented over 171 people to date, however it has taken a heavy emotional and mental toll on Mr. Short Bull. He realized that to make it through this project he would have to learn how to paint other subjects.

Arthur Short Bull

Image courtesy of the artist

Arthur Short Bull

Image courtesy of the artist

In 2006, the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition led Mr. Short Bull to research the expedition and read William Clark’s journals. He learned that the expedition had killed thousands of animals in the name of science as they “discovered” new species. This made him angry since he knew these animals were already known to Lakotas, who also had names for them. It was this knowledge, along with an innate love of nature, that led him to begin painting birds and animals. Using Father Buechel’s Lakota dictionary, Mr. Short Bull began learning the Lakota names of animals. This led to a rediscovery of his own culture and language, as well as an awareness of how much of the language was lost. During his research he learned of a story about a man who could understand the songs of the birds, and that they spoke in Lakota. For this reason, Mr. Short Bull titles all his artwork in English and Lakota and tries to share the stories behind the Lakota names to preserve that knowledge.  

Mr. Short Bull has received numerous honors and recognitions including the 2021 Artist in Residency Fellowship at Crazy Horse Monument, 2009 First Peoples Fund Business in Leadership Fellowship recipient, and 2006 First Peoples Fund Cultural Capital Program Fellowship, for a project that utilized his Wounded Knee series of paintings and poems as a vehicle to promote Lakota culture and history. Agate Fossil Beds National Monument selected Mr. Short Bull to paint one of the official White House ornaments for the 2007 Christmas tree used in the Blue Room.

The artwork featured in the exhibition may be purchased by contacting Arthur Short Bull through his website at http://dawnhawk.org/index.html.

Wood Thrush
čángugúya šá
Watercolor on paper, 12" x 12"
© 2021 Arthur Short Bull

Wood Thrush
čángugúya šá

Watercolor on paper, 12" x 12"
© 2021 Arthur Short Bull

You'll likely hear the wood thrush before you see it. The wood thrush's loud, flute-like song rings through the forests. In South Dakota, they are found as summer breeding birds in the far southeastern part of the State.

From A Dictionary of The Teton Dakota Sioux Language by Rev. Eugene Buechel:

Čángugúya šá s’e íwašičunlah. It’s as if he were talkative as a wood thrush. As is said of a very talkative person.

Čángugúya šá s’e ia čan oegle waníl líla ie ló. Whenever he speaks, he speaks as if a wood thrush, really without saying a sentence. As one might say when a person talked unduly long.

Two Children
húntka
Watercolor on paper, 12" x 12"
© 2021 Arthur Short Bull

Two Children
húntka

Watercolor on paper, 12" x 12"
© 2021 Arthur Short Bull

The cormorant, a large waterfowl, is found in a wide variety of aquatic habitats, including large lakes and reservoirs, small ponds, and rivers in South Dakota. Cormorants often lay only two eggs, though they can lay up to seven. It is said that if an arrow hit them, they dove and returned without it, repeating their calls as if nothing ever happened. 

From A Dictionary of The Teton Dakota Sioux Language by Rev. Eugene Buechel:

Húntka s’e icewin núnblala wicayuhá. Cormorant-like, she magnificently gives birth to only two children. As is said of people who have only two children.

 

Messengers of Wakínyan
Watercolor on paper, 22" x 28"
© 2020 Arthur Short Bull

Messengers of Wakínyan
Watercolor on paper, 22" x 28"
© 2020 Arthur Short Bull

Wakínyan are Thunder Birds or Thunder Beings, the Winged One. Wakínyan are the cause and source of thunder. They are very sacred and can create lightning by opening their mouths.

In George Sword's telling of the story "Tate: A Myth of the Lakotas as It Is Told in Their Winter Camps," when four brothers are afraid to continue their journey as they come upon a stormy mountain, a swallow informs them that he is the messenger of the Wakínyan (James R. Walker, Lakota Myth, 1983: 81). The "fork-tailed" swallow (upížata or ičápšinpšinčala) has been observed by Lakotas to make a significant presence before a thunderstorm. The swift, erratic, and zigzagged flight pattern of swallows can be compared to a lightning bolt. The swallow's exceptional flight makes it worthy of Wakínyan

Large White Breasted Hawk
čanšká
Watercolor on paper, 12” x 12”
© 2021 Arthur Short Bull

Large White Breasted Hawk
čanšká

Watercolor on paper, 12” x 12”
© 2021 Arthur Short Bull

A large hawk with a white breast, a snake eater. Čanšká most often refers to the rough-legged hawk, the biggest species known in South Dakota. A true cold-weather hawk, they are only seen in South Dakota in the winter or during migration.

In Lakota oral tradition, hawks are known to convey messages to the eagle.  

Black Billed Cuckoo
čépela tánka
Watercolor on paper, 12” x 12”
© 2021 Arthur Short Bull

Black Billed Cuckoo
čépela tánka

Watercolor on paper, 12” x 12”
© 2021 Arthur Short Bull

In Lakota, the black-billed cuckoo might be known as čépela tánka, šohótunla, or ičóka sápa. Black-billed Cuckoos are found throughout South Dakota during the summer. It is a bird whose mouth is black inside and whose tail is long. It lived in the woods and leaves in the fall. It returns in May and leaves in September. It sings in the morning, at noon, and in the evening. Never at night. Its song is a short note at first, then many.

Catbird Medicine

čehúpaglagla pežúta

Watercolor on paper, 8½” x 11”

© 2019 Arthur Short Bull

Catbird Medicine

čehúpaglagla pežúta

Watercolor on paper, 8½” x 11”

© 2019 Arthur Short Bull

The gray catbird has a remarkably varied vocabulary, including occasional cat-like mewing call notes. They are easily found in the eastern part of South Dakota, particularly around riparian areas and other woodlands. Čehúpaglagla is used for either the brown thrasher or the catbird. Čehúpaglagla also means to chatter one’s teeth. The bird’s Lakota name derives from its chattering in the evening.

From A Dictionary of The Teton Dakota Sioux Language by Rev. Eugene Buechel:

When the weather is cold, Lakotas would say:

Čehúpaglagla našlél kiníča. The catbird tries to split things. 

Čehúpaglagla namašlél kiníča. The catbird tries to split me. As is said when the jaws, being tired, refuse to move.

Crow Song

kangí olówan

Watercolor on paper, 12¼” x 12¼”

© 2020 Arthur Short Bull

Crow Song

kangí olówan

Watercolor on paper, 12¼” x 12¼”

© 2020 Arthur Short Bull

The American crow (kangí or unčíšičala) is one of the most widespread and adaptable birds in North America. They are found throughout South Dakota. American crows are extremely intelligent and opportunistic, with individual birds or groups of birds often specializing in specific foraging techniques. They have a wide variety of behaviors depending upon location and situation. Crows will watch and study people’s faces. They can recall faces and alert other crows to avoid certain people.

There is a Lakota legend that crows were originally white. Believing that the crows warned other animals about approaching hunters, the leader of the crows was tricked and captured by a Lakota hunter disguised as a buffalo. As punishment for continually spoiling hunts, Lakota hunters threw the crow into the campfire. Crow narrowly escaped with his life, but ever since, all crows have been black.  

Small Blue Bird
zitkáto čík’ala
Watercolor on paper, 12” x 12”
© 2021 Arthur Short Bull

Small Blue Bird
zitkáto čík’ala

Watercolor on paper, 12” x 12”
© 2021 Arthur Short Bull

The blue bird is a corn eater. The mountain bluebird is a summer (and occasional winter) resident in the western part of South Dakota, only rarely appearing in the east during migration and in the winter months.

From A Dictionary of The Teton Dakota Sioux Language by Rev. Eugene Buechel:

In April, Lakotas once would say:

Wanná zitkáto aglí yeló, wínyeya únpo iglúwinyeya po. The blue bird has now come back, be ready, prepare yourselves. For after its return there occur cold rains that kill many horses because they have shed their winter hair.

Wren
čanhéyala
Watercolor on paper, 12” x 12”
© 2021 Arthur Short Bull

Wren
čanhéyala

Watercolor on paper, 12” x 12”
© 2021 Arthur Short Bull

Wrens are commonly found throughout South Dakota, with nine species recorded in the state. They are small and inconspicuous birds, except for their loud songs.

From A Dictionary of The Teton Dakota Sioux Language by Rev. Eugene Buechel:

Čanhéyala išnála itánčan. The wren, the “Lone Chief,” a title given because of its loud voice.

Redstart
čánpiško
Watercolor on paper, 12” x 12”
© 2021 Arthur Short Bull

Redstart
čánpiško

Watercolor on paper, 12” x 12”
© 2021 Arthur Short Bull

Čánpiško or kansú zintkála in Lakota, the American redstart is a little bird that lives in the woods. American redstarts are more easily observed than many warbler species in South Dakota and are found nesting in June and July. It is a small song bird with varied songs, which might be described as a series of thin, rapid chew-chew-chew notes. 

 

Bald Eagle
anúnkasan
Watercolor on paper, 12” x 12”
© 2021 Arthur Short Bull

Bald Eagle
anúnkasan

Watercolor on paper, 12” x 12”
© 2021 Arthur Short Bull

The eagle was the one who could fly the highest and carry messages to and from the Great Spirit (Wakán Tánka). The eagle is a winged symbol for the Lakota people and the strongest and bravest of all birds.

Lakotas know of four kinds of eagles. There is the golden eagle of the east (wanblí), the spotted eagle of the south (wanblí glešká), the black eagle of the west, and the bald eagle of the north (anúnkasan). As there are only two eagle species in South Dakota, the spotted eagle is either the juvenile golden eagle or bald eagle. In South Dakota, bald eagles can often be found around open water in the winter, especially along the Missouri River or in the Black Hills.

Sparrow Hawk Girl

četánšála wičínčala

Watercolor on paper, 9” x 12”

© 2020 Arthur Short Bull

Sparrow Hawk Girl

četánšála wičínčala

Watercolor on paper, 9” x 12”

© 2020 Arthur Short Bull

Some of the possible Lakota names for the sparrow hawk (American kestrel) include četánšála, čanšká upígila, or paglá.

Due to its small size and colorful feathers, the American kestrel is sometimes mistaken for a song bird. However, its curved beak and talons show that it is no song bird. Despite being nicknamed the sparrow hawk, the kestrel is actually the smallest falcon in North America. American kestrels prefer open country such as fields, meadows, and marshes.

Raven Medicine

kangí tánka pežúta

Watercolor on paper, 9” x 12”

© 2020 Arthur Short Bull

Raven Medicine

kangí tánka pežúta

Watercolor on paper, 9” x 12”

© 2020 Arthur Short Bull

Ravens are the largest of the song birds. To Lakotas there were three kinds of crows, which included the raven. The raven was the large crow, kangí tánka. Ravens are believed to have been found throughout South Dakota until about 1877. They are now only rare visitors. Ravens are considered among the most adaptable and intelligent of birds.

Birds often assist humans as spiritual helpers. The belief in animal medicine means that when an animal crosses our path, whether it be in a vision or waking life, its message to us has the power to heal. 

Blue Jay Rider

zintkáto glegléga šunk’ákanyanka

Watercolor on paper, 9” x 12”

© 2019 Arthur Short Bull

Blue Jay Rider

zintkáto glegléga šunk’ákanyanka

Watercolor on paper, 9” x 12”

© 2019 Arthur Short Bull

The blue jay (zintkáto glegléga) is common in the Black Hills. Blue Jays are brash and sometimes noisy, with a wide array of vocalizations. They are also intelligent and quick to adapt to new situations. Blue jays can be found in a wide variety of woodland and forest settings, utilizing many different techniques for foraging.

Slide-Show

Slide-Show Thumbnails
Red Star Crow, wičhápi lúta kangí

Red Star Crow

wičhápi lúta kangí

Watercolor on paper, 9” x 12”

© 2019 Arthur Short Bull

Night Dream Crow, hanhépi hanblé kangí

Night Dream Crow

hanhépi hanblé kangí

Watercolor on paper, 9” x 12”

© 2019 Arthur Short Bull

Awakening, oíkpahiča

Awakening

oíkpahiča

Watercolor on paper, 12” x 12”

© 2020 Arthur Short Bull

Star Crow, kangí wičhápi

Star Crow

kangí wičhápi

Watercolor on paper, 9” x 12”

© 2019 Arthur Short Bull

Woodland Red Crow, čanwíta lúta kangí

Woodland Red Crow

čanwíta lúta kangí

Watercolor on paper, 9” x 12”

© 2017 Arthur Short Bull

The Conversation, akíčiyuptapi owóglaka

The Conversation

akíčiyuptapi owóglaka

Watercolor on paper, 9” x 12”

© 2018 Arthur Short Bull

Night Crow, kangí hanhépi

Night Crow

kangí hanhépi

Watercolor on paper, 8½” x 11”

© 2018 Arthur Short Bull

Doorway to the Crow, tiyópata kangí

Doorway to the Crow

tiyópata kangí

Watercolor on paper, 9” x 12”

© 2018 Arthur Short Bull

Red Star Crow, wičhápi lúta kangí

Red Star Crow

wičhápi lúta kangí

Watercolor on paper, 9” x 12”

© 2019 Arthur Short Bull

Night Dream Crow, hanhépi hanblé kangí

Night Dream Crow

hanhépi hanblé kangí

Watercolor on paper, 9” x 12”

© 2019 Arthur Short Bull

Awakening, oíkpahiča

Awakening

oíkpahiča

Watercolor on paper, 12” x 12”

© 2020 Arthur Short Bull

Star Crow, kangí wičhápi

Star Crow

kangí wičhápi

Watercolor on paper, 9” x 12”

© 2019 Arthur Short Bull

Woodland Red Crow, čanwíta lúta kangí

Woodland Red Crow

čanwíta lúta kangí

Watercolor on paper, 9” x 12”

© 2017 Arthur Short Bull

The Conversation, akíčiyuptapi owóglaka

The Conversation

akíčiyuptapi owóglaka

Watercolor on paper, 9” x 12”

© 2018 Arthur Short Bull

Night Crow, kangí hanhépi

Night Crow

kangí hanhépi

Watercolor on paper, 8½” x 11”

© 2018 Arthur Short Bull

Doorway to the Crow, tiyópata kangí

Doorway to the Crow

tiyópata kangí

Watercolor on paper, 9” x 12”

© 2018 Arthur Short Bull

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