Indian Friendship

James Auchiah

It might be said that James Auchiah had art in his veins; his grandfather was Red Tipi, a well-known medicine man and talented artist. Auchiah was also the grandson of Chief Set’tainte (sometimes referred to as Satanta.) He is also the grandfather of contemporary Oklahoma Judicial Center artist Sherman Chaddleson. See page 112.

As a child, Auchiah attended the St. Patrick Mission near Anadarko. A Catholic mission, St. Patrick’s was run by a French-born monk named Isidore Ricklin. He apparently valued art and allowed the students to depict traditional tribal ceremonies in their art works – something not allowed at most Indian schools of the time where the goal was to replace Native culture with the American way of life. Auchiah’s work caught the attention of Susie Peters, a field matron for the Kiowa tribe. In 1927, she arranged for Auchiah and several other students to attend special classes at the University of Oklahoma under the direction of Oscar Jacobson, director of the university’s school of art. See page 130. Jacobson realized the artists would feel most comfortable if they had a place to live in Norman. He made arrangements for housing and a room in the art department where they could paint undisturbed. Auchiah was twenty-one at the time and already married. His wife accompanied him to the University of Oklahoma.

Auchiah and the other Kiowa artists took part in a university exhibit just a few weeks after arriving on campus and in November 1927 received national attention when their works were displayed at the American Federation of Arts convention. Shows in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, Houston and Denver soon followed. In 1928, their work received international acclaim when exhibited in an art festival in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

In 1934, Auchiah received a commission from the Federal Art Project to paint Indian Friendship, a oil on pressed board composed of two 4’ x 6’ panels placed side by side for an overall dimension of 6’ x 8’. It was originally completed for the Five Civilized Tribes Agency in Muskogee and later transferred to the Oklahoma Historical Society. It is now on permanent loan to the Oklahoma Judicial Center. The painting also appeared in the November 1990 issue of Oklahoma Today accompanying a story about the Kiowa artists who studied with Jacobson.

In 1939, Auchiah and Stephen Mopope, see pages 133 and 144, were commissioned to paint murals in the dining room of the Department of Interior headquarters in Washington, D.C. Auchiah served in the Coast Guard during World War II and later worked as a curator at the United States Army Artillery and Missile Museum at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He continued painting and teaching art up until his death. His work is included in many public collections including the National Museum of the American Indian, the Gilcrease Museum, the Philbrook Museum and the Jacobson House Art Center.

Source: The Oklahoman, September 27, 1931, American Indian Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 3 (Autumn, 1974), pp. 193-200; Oklahoma Today, November-December, 1990, pp. 9-10; Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture; Jacobson, Oscar: Kiowa Indian Art, Nice, France: 1929.