Water and earth, personified through art
Published July 29, 2021
When Danielle SeeWalker looks at mountains, she sees faces. Specifically, she sees the grandmothers and grandfathers who have safeguarded the land in and around what we know as Silverthorne today, for generations.
Danielle, who recently created the mural on display at Rainbow Park, is a citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota. She uses the faces she sees as her inspiration, depicting them as the original overseers, forever ingrained within the mountains and water surrounding us.
“When I was approached to do this mural, the concept was to create something centering around water, “ Danielle said. “My first thought was to make the connection of the mountains and land and tie it into water. The result is a mountain scene that is personified into Grandmother Earth.”
“For all people, water is very important. We were born in water, we cry water, our body is made of water. It is essential to everyone. In my culture, we honor that and recognize it every single day. We are taught as young children that it is our duty to take care of our water and our earth. That is what I want to convey with this mural.”
Danielle also hopes to communicate that access to clean water is a luxury not afforded to everyone and that we must prioritize our water because once it is gone, we are gone. In 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe made headlines for its efforts to take a stand against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which her people viewed as a serious threat to the water supply and millions downstream. The construction also destroyed sacred sites and burial grounds. Danielle encourages those viewing her mural to consider how turning on our faucets and accessing clean water is a privilege that we must not take for granted. We must all do our part, she says, to protect our waterways for not only us but for generations not yet in existence.
Danielle’s mural is also inscribed with a land acknowledgment to the Ute Tribe, honoring them as the first inhabitants of this area, the first to take care of this land and water that we continue to cherish.
About the artist
Danielle is a multi-disciplinary artist who works with a wide range of mediums, from painting on canvas to leather to beadwork. Murals are a more recent endeavor and she’s been enjoying experimenting with a broad swath of styles and techniques. Each of Danielle’s art pieces tells a story about her people, her culture and her background.
Recently, Danielle has also been exploring a ledger style of art, which originated with her ancestors performing simplistic drawings using animal hides, to help tell a story. Later, after buffalo were killed off and hides became scarce, Indigenous peoples would use the ledgers given to them by colonizers for food rations to draw their stories. This morphed into the modern-day canvas drawing technique.
The Red Road Project, on which she’s worked for nine years alongside her best friend, is another of Danielle’s passion projects. The photo series documents what it means to be American Indian in the 21st Century. She has an exhibition coming up at the Washakie Museum in Wyoming in August that will remain on display through Indigenous Peoples Day in October.
Danielle is the author of Still Here, a book that embodies her effort to address commonly asked questions about her Indigenous identity such as, “What is a reservation like?” and, “Can you tell me more about the boarding school era?” Danielle has long been advocating for more education around American Indian history and hopes to bring more awareness to her people and history with this book.
She is also the Chair of the Denver American Indian Commission, which serves as a liaison between Native communities and local government, ensuring that Indigenous peoples have a voice. Among the commission’s recent efforts are the passing of bill SB21-116 which prohibits the use of American Indian mascots by public schools throughout the state, as well as bringing more representation to arts, festivals and businesses in the community.
When Danielle is not creating art and advocating on behalf of Indigenous peoples in and around the Denver area or traveling back home to her reservation, she is a busy mother of two and also fosters animals. She encourages anyone in Silverthorne interested in bringing more Native American education and culture to the area to please reach out to her and other Indigenous people in Colorado. More on Danielle and her work can be found at seewalker.com.