On Tuesday, November 14, the Ramonat Scholars and members of the Loyola University community came together for the first of this year’s speaker series. Dr. Sally Thompson, who has spent over thirty years working with the native tribes of the West, presented on the art of Nicholas Point and an unnamed Blackfoot artist. Point’s artwork represents his impressions of Blackfeet country; self-taught, he painted what he saw and what was described to him. His miniature painting technique could be clumsy at times, but he was an excellent sketch artist and captured the likeness of many of the Blackfeet. His representations of the Blackfeet tell us about what Europeans, in particular Jesuit priests, saw and expected to see when they encountered Native Americans.
In contrast, the Blackfoot artist who handed a sheaf of paintings to Point before he left Blackfeet country represented both Native Americans and whites from a distinctly Blackfeet perspective. Focusing on similar subjects, his paintings of people are often faceless, and white men all share a distinctive posture. The art of this Blackfoot man provides valuable insight into how the Blackfeet thought about and represented the newly arrived whites in their midst.
After the presentation, Dr. Thompson joined some of the students for dinner and a rousing discussion that built on the themes of her lecture. The students were happy to have the opportunity to continue the discussion of representation and to learn from Dr. Thompson’s experiences working with native tribes in Montana, particularly her work using the art of Nicholas Point and the Blackfoot artist with high school students on reservations.