Artist, army veteran, and Native-American cultural educator Steve Tamayo talks about being raised within a Mexican cultural heritage, deprived of his stolen cultural identity as a native American, and how, as he matured, he not only sought out his native American culture through language and art, but has become a respected culture bearer for his Sicangu Lakota and other native peoples.
Tamayo is a traditional Sicangu Lakota artist whose family originates from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. Tamayo studied the traditional arts of the Umonhon people under Howard Wolf and earned his BFA from Sínte Gleska University in 2011 where he developed and taught the traditional arts program. After more than 30 years of study and practice as an artist and educator, he began consulting educational institutions and other organizations on the history, culture and traditions of the Plains Indians, including being a regular consultant to the curatorial and conservation staff at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. In 2022 Tamayo received a grant from the Creative Capital Foundation to create a series of traditional buffalo robes, which he explores further in our conversation. He founded Bluebird Cultural Initiative to support his vision of preserving and sharing his cultural heritage. He is a past Nebraska Governor’s Heritage Art Award recipient, an honor bestowed for his contributions in the arts and Native American culture.