Great Lakes: A Gateway to Woodland Indian Art

Sherrole Benton

sherrole benton | yukhika-latuhse (yl) voice | june 2016

Baby Moccasins created in Iroquois Raised Beadwork by Neva Cahill, Oneida Indian, photo by D.King of Images, 2015.Woodland Indian Art is diverse, unique and different from Southwestern Native American art. The Woodland Indian Art Show and Market (WIASM) grows more every year in both attendance and organizational strength. The 10th annual WIASM will be held July 1-3, 2016, in the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center, Green Bay, Wisc.

WIASM is the only juried art competition in the Great Lakes region for Native American artists. WIASM highlights traditional and contemporary art from Native American artists in the upper Midwest and Eastern Woodland regions. The event is open to public.

Beth Bashara, ex-officio board member, said they are expecting about 25 artists to enter the juried art show competition this year. Building upon the success of last year, the WIASM will have workshops and classes taught by the artists.

One of the co-founders of WIASM, Stan Webster expressed a need for a Native American art show in the Midwest.

“We want to raise awareness of Woodland Indian art. We would like people to recognize that Woodland Indian art is on a different track than Southwestern Indian art,” Webster said.

‘13 Moons’ Turtle watercolor by Dawn Dark Mountain, Oneida Indian, photo by D.King of Images, 2015.The Woodland Indian tribes have floral, woodland and streams in their environment. That is different from the Southwestern Indians who have mountains, prairies and deserts in their surroundings.

“The Woodland Indians have a unique media from porcupine quills, moose hair, baskets, to the two-dimensional raised beadwork. The Oneida people have their own carvings and the wampum belts which pass on the stories of their culture. I believe we need to identify these things as art,” Webster said.

“It is vital that Native American people hold onto their unique cultural identity. Too often, native culture and arts are mistakenly viewed as one culture, the same in every tribe. We strive to raise awareness of Woodland Indian art,” he said.

There are 12 Indian reservations in the State of Wisconsin representing several different tribal peoples. The Oneida people have raised beadwork and unique pottery designs; the Menominee have wood carvers and painters who bring out the spirit of the woods they live in; the northern Chippewa have fish lure carvers and birch bark art. The Ho Chunk and Potawatomie people also have unique culture and art forms.

These are just a few examples of Woodland Indian art that come together annually at the WIASM. These artists are all storytellers and help to move along the lessons of their culture to future generations.

By bringing Woodland Indian artists together and celebrating the many diverse native art forms and styles, WIASM raises awareness of the distinct artistic styles of the Eastern United States and southern parts of Canada. In doing so, they also create the opportunity for economic growth for artists' through networking and sales of their art to buyers and collectors of Native American art.

WIASM is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.

Carved eagle by Ren Katchenago, Ottawa/Chippewa Indian, photo by D.King of Images, 2015.The Woodland Indian Art, Inc. sponsors WIASM, a non-profit organization to expand the awareness and appreciation of Woodland Indian art and culture through education, events and markets. The original board members of the WIASM incorporated as a charitable organization as WIA, Inc. The WIA is supported by the First Nations Development Institute's 2016 Native Arts Capacity Building Initiative (NACBI) grant.

The Oneida Tribe, the Oneida Nation Arts Program and the Oneida Tourism Department are also generous supporters of WIASM each year. The Native American Tourism of Wisconsin (NATOW) is also a collaborative supporter of the WIASM.

For more info and a peek at the art gallery from previous years, visit WIASM online at

Also shown on page: Pottery by Pete Jones, Seneca Indian, photo by D.King of Images, 2015.

Yukhika-latuhse (YL) Voice is Wisconsin's Indigenous People's Voice in Arts and Culture. This article is courtesy of Yukhika-latuhse, an online journal featuring Wisconsin Native writers. Please visit our online journal at

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