About DG Smalling

In 50 years, Indian Country has gone from the brink of our treaties being terminated to being the single largest Oklahoman employment block and the fourth-largest gaming market in the world. Just as the elder generation can hardly believe the evolution of Indian Country; so too, the youngest will know nothing other than vibrant, and hungry Tribal Nations eyeing well past the state of Oklahoma to the World. Indian Country is unavoidable and will no longer be ignored, threatened, or abused.

Enter Operation Lady Justice, the single largest multi-agency law enforcement initiative addressing murdered and missing indigenous women in the history the United States. The initiative was conceived and is executed by a Native American woman, Assistant Secretary Tara Katuk Mac Lean Sweeney. I am honored that the initiative bears the name of my painting hanging in the Department of Interior; the painting is a remembrance to the women in my family who have suffered at the hands of predators.

I wanted to document this moment in Indian Country, when in reclamation the rise of Matriarchs is also happening. I wanted to create a contemporary record of seven women who embody the 21st Century Matriarch and her impact on Oklahoma. Indian Country does not divide or compartmentalize our societies between the spiritual, commercial, or political; rather, it is seen as a whole. These seven Matriarchs reflect that complexity. They are what we expect to come. As contemporaries in Indian Country, their lives continue to interweave--politics, commerce, remembrance all drawn tighter together.

Choctaws, and other Southeast Native Americans, traditionally use the diamond pattern in reference to the rattlesnake. The vertical banner with five diamond spaces on the left of each painting is a way to acknowledge that [the painting] has been made by a Choctaw. The banner is based upon traditional sashes that would have patterns detailing the identity of the wearer. For this, this series I have chosen to show the milestones of each woman. The colors reflect tribal affiliation, regalia, choice, or landscape of home.

- DG Smalling

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