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September 2015 — What we did this summer!

It’s already September and the 2015 Flying Buffalo Project Tour is winding down. There are kite stories galore for each of the twenty some locations we visited this year. The paintings by the participating artists flew above buffalo jump sites in Montana, Wyoming and Canada. They flew at museums, above reservations, at school and after school programs, at community kite festivals, in parks and on mountain peaks.

The photographs following show the First Peoples Buffalo Jump in Ulm, Montana. We flew in three sessions that weekend and had people from all over the globe watching the children fly their just- made bird kites. Sharon Musto and Bud Taylor came down from Canada to help fly.  Our newest artist, Seidel Standing Elk, came for the inaugural flight his kite and we got some great shots of Seidel and his lady.

The First People’s management were gracious enough to provide accommodations for us.  We were able to stay in a 100 year old converted convent that had the original rooms fairly intact.

As beautiful as the kites are in the sky, they are equally beautiful put together in the classroom with thirty 5th graders gathered around, looking closely at the art and examining the sewing, the fittings, and the frame. STEM subjects are the core of kite building. Combining Native American art and buffalo jumps with kite-based STEM education captivates young minds and empowers them to know they can stretch out into the sky and participate with the world in new ways. Kites teach children how to follow instructions and innovate and the joy of flying a well balanced, hand made kite draws out even the most reserved teenager.

We shared the joy of kite building and flying with about 700 children this year! The larger number is because of a grant from the Harry L. Willett Foundation. All Native American children received free kite kits because of Ryan Willett’s generosity. Thank you Ryan!

In Montana, we visited Lame Deer, Lodge Grass, Hardin, Crow Agency and Browning this year and will visit Chief Plenty Coup’s home this next weekend.  The Piikani people in Canada were delightful, and we flew forty kites among the largest gopher holes I’ve ever seen.

The art that we make into kites, the paintings that tell the stories about the buffalo jump cultures, are such a source of beauty. Allen Know His Gun‘s “Buffalo Tracker” was stunning as it flew above the Vore Buffalo Jump in Beulah, Wyoming. Dolores Purdy’s canvas “Honoring the Ancestors” was our first casualty, with a spar going through the tipi. It repaired almost perfectly. Angela Babby‘s “Resurrection” flew beautifully at the Madison Buffalo Jump, as did Frank Finley’s “Buffalo Calf Spirit”.  Rabbit Knows Gun and Wendy Red Star‘s painting “Historic Buffalo Lodge” always shines so brightly in the sky, drawing all eyes. And DG House‘s painting “When I Grow Up, I Want to be a War Pony” flew perfectly until it didn’t, coming down on the brush arbor at the First Peoples.

Alaina Buffalo Spirit painted “Strong Cheyenne Woman” and the kite looks like a feminine spirit fluttering across the prairie when it flies. Photos of it at the Madison and at the Head Smashed In are included. And Jaune Quick To See Smith and Neal Ambrose Smith made “Big Medicine” and we got the historic white buffalo into the air at each location this year.

It was a special honor to show Jon Cadotte‘s kite “Blackfoot Buffalo” to Chief Earl Old Person in his office at Blackfeet Tribal Headquarters in Browning. He spoke about often seeing kites above the reservation fifty or sixty years ago and thought it would be good for them to return.