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South Dakota's Great Faces: Oscar Howe

10/27/2010
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PIERRE, S.D. – Widely known for representing the rich heritage of his Native American people through unique artwork, Oscar Howe is recognized as one of South Dakota’s Great Faces.
 
Oscar Howe was born May 13, 1915, on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation in central South Dakota. At a young age, he began translating the stories he’d heard into drawings. At the age of seven in 1922, Howe was sent to the Pierre Indian School, where he battled a skin disease that caused him to return to the reservation. Howe treated himself until his skin cleared. He returned to the Pierre Indian School and graduated in 1933.
 
Howe contracted tuberculosis in 1935 while working on a road crew in Santa Fe, New Mexico. That unfortunate event led him to enroll in a new art program at the Santa Fe Indian School.
 
Upon graduation in 1938, Howe returned to South Dakota as an art instructor at the Pierre Indian School and was later assigned to paint a mural in the dome of the Carnegie Library at Mitchell. He was appointed in 1948 as designer of the Corn Palace panels, a task he did annually until 1971.
 
In 1957, Howe moved to Vermillion as an assistant professor of art at the University of South Dakota, artist-in-residence and assistant director at the W.H. Over Museum. He remained with the USD for 25 years, where he touched the lives of many students.
 
Howe’s artwork has been featured in numerous solo and group shows, and is included in public and private collections around the world. He died October 7, 1983, and is buried at Vermillion.
 
South Dakota’s Great Faces weekly press release series is a project of the South Dakota Office of Tourism, designed to highlight people who have had significant impacts on South Dakota, particularly in the visitor industry. Click on the special “South Dakota’s Great Faces” link at www.MediaSD.com to access the complete list of articles.
 
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