Press Release

Release Date: November 16, 2023
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

THACKERVILLE, Okla. – Brian Landreth started his artistic career as a cartoonist but as his understanding and love of the Chickasaw people blossomed, so did his artistic abilities and love of being First American.

Landreth’s unique art offering at Hushtola’ Art Market Dec. 9-10 will not only be Chickasaw-centric, but it will also be educational as well, as patrons are introduced to critters of all types and the Chickasaw name given to each.

“I always make a holiday-themed piece just for my own enjoyment. That is coming soon as I just got back from SkasdiCon in Tahlequah,” he said. SkasdiCon is an Indigenous comic convention where guests can attend Indigenous panel discussions, screenings, meet Indigenous artists and creators, and participate in a family-friendly cosplay competition.

“I created my ‘Clan Buddies’ after a few years at the shows. I did this because I was a cartoonist first in my career, and I saw there was not a lot of First American/Chickasaw art geared toward our youth. I started with raccoon, bird, wildcat and fox as the first buddies. I have created 10 pieces with them,” Landreth noted. Chickasaw families, through mothers, were part of “clans” which have special meaning to the family and tribe, particularly during religious ceremonies.

“The last piece I began to expand and include all the recognized clans of the Chickasaw Nation. The piece for Hushtola’ Art Market is one I am working on that will include the Chickasaw names of the animals included in the work of art. This is the way youth can learn the words, and it will encourage them to learn more of the Chickasaw language,” he added.

This will mark the first year for Hushtola’ Art Market. Hosted by the Chickasaw Nation, it will feature more than 100 First American artists in a show conducted at the famed WinStar World Casino and Resort, just off Interstate 35 at Thackerville, Oklahoma. Being the largest casino in the world, it is difficult to miss. Just look east one mile after crossing the Red River.

The seriousness of his art will not preclude the “cartoonist” in Landreth to emerge frequently to produce the most colorful, elaborate and beautiful works of a Chickasaw warrior fighting off “Big Pharma” and its devastating “medicine” which can lead to addiction, abject poverty and death.

Or a Chickasaw warrior protecting his family – wife and child – as they collect cool, clean, pristine water threatened by a serpentine pipeline creature spewing oil and preparing to deliver a poisonous bite to anyone standing in its way.

“Growing up in Midwest City, I absolutely was introduced to my Chickasaw heritage. My great-grandmother on my father’s side was full-blood Chickasaw. She had 10 children. She made us fully aware of our Chickasaw blood and the importance of being Chickasaw,” Landreth said.

Yet Landreth believed separation from the Chickasaw Nation treaty territory diminished his understanding of what it meant to be Chickasaw, to be part of something larger than oneself, to fully know and embrace Chickasaw heritage, tradition and culture.

It was not until he was given the opportunity to teach graphic arts at Murray State College in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, that Landreth leapt into the culture and traditions of Chickasaws, fully understanding the customs he would dedicate his life to capturing through art.

"First American art is much different to me because it is part of my heritage, so I approach it from a much more personal and emotional aspect than art I produce commercially," he explained.

"Native art has meaning to me, where the other work I do is more dependent on what I have been exposed to over the years – like pop culture influences."

Three such paintings were among his collection during October’s Southeastern Art Show and Market (SEASAM) conducted annually in Tishomingo during Chickasaw Annual Meeting and Festival.

One entitled “Ghost Deer and Bluejay” is a hauntingly beautiful painting inspired by an ancient Chickasaw story about Chickasaw warrior “Bluejay” wishing to fulfill his betrothed’s desire to wed in a white deerskin gown.

Bluejay stalked a white deer, repeatedly shooting lethal arrows into the animal only to have it survive. It was only then the warrior understood the animal was a ghost and could not be harvested.

Another Landreth painting depicts his father, Dewey, fleeing an Indian boarding school to hop a freight train back to his parents’ home in Ringling, Oklahoma.

“Dad hated it there. He ran away often. He resented tribal citizens were forbidden from speaking their native language or performing cultural dances or religious ceremonies. And let’s just face facts … the discipline dispensed was heavy-handed. He ran away so much his parents finally let him stay home,” Landreth recalls with a laugh.

Another painting depicts the beauty and legend of famed Chickasaw storyteller and actor Te Ata Thompson Fisher. Te Ata brought Chickasaw culture to the forefront in the 1930s into the 1990s with dance and acting. She performed for Oklahoma school children for decades and is an “Oklahoma Treasure.” She died in October 1995 just days shy of her 100th birthday.

Cartoonist Brian Landreth will be at Hushtola’ Art Market, too, mostly for the youth.

“Clan Buddies” are cartoons of creatures familiar to Chickasaw, and the Chickasaw name of the animal is there for the youngster to learn and enjoy Chickasaw culture,” Landreth said.

There are “Shawi” (raccoons), “Loksi” (turtles), “Ofi” (dog) and dozens of others for people to know their names in Chickasaw.

“Actually, Clan Buddies is one of my better ideas,” Landreth said with a smile. “Youngsters really enjoy it, and I enjoy passing on my art to appreciative patrons to deepen their knowledge of Chickasaws. It also will be a history lesson to them. They will discover First American families were members of clans and that clans commanded respect and reverence among tribal members and beyond.”

For Landreth, art shows such as Hushtola’ Art Market also serve as a reawakening within him.

His mind often travels back to visits to Ringling, Oklahoma, to a time when he drew cartoons on exhaustive rolls of newsprint discarded by the local newspaper.

He fondly recalls his father, who spoke often of his mother, Hannah, an original enrollee with the Chickasaw Nation. Her allotted land was near the small, southwestern community that 869 people called home in the 2020 census.

"As a child, it was a place full of wonder and adventure. My father was Chickasaw and a proud Marine," he said. The family home was adorned with Chickasaw memorabilia and First American art. He remembers stomp dances, powwows and has a profound respect for Chickasaw tribal heritage.