Honoring a Legacy

By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer, Artist in Business Leadership Fellow 2015


Image by Wako Long.

Image by Wako Long.

Founder of the Legacy Cultural Learning Community in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, Dana Tiger (Mvskoke) is best known for her watercolors and acrylic paintings that hang in galleries, universities, Native institutions and state buildings nationwide. In 2011, she was honored as a Community Spirit Award recipient, and in 2017 was awarded a Cultural Capital fellow. She lives in Muskogee with her family.



As a summer storm rolled in, legendary artist Jerome Tiger left his finished canvas to dry on the drawing board. It was his last one. 

Dana Tiger was only five years old when her father passed. She turned to his art as a way to get to know him. Under the guidance of her uncle — renowned painter Johnny Tiger, Jr. — she came to know the richness of her culture and the bounty of its artistic tradition. But she didn’t know if she had it in her to carry on her father’s legacy. Dana’s children could paint. Her uncle. But could she?

Now, it’s a dream come true to have her people appreciate what she’s done. Thoughts that she wasn’t good enough stayed with Dana until her accomplishments and good feelings overcame them. Perhaps that’s why she paints the hearts of strong women. She paints that determination. 


The past few years, Dana has grown more in touch with nature, how things grow and how chemicals in water affect paint application, so she decided to catch rainwater from the roof of their family's Tiger Art Gallery to use in her work.

When Dana’s uncle passed, she couldn’t paint. But not long after, she learned of her daughter’s pregnancy. She began to paint again using the rainwater — a source from nature, a strength in her work. Her grandson was born nine months after her uncle’s passing. One life began as another passed.



Now Dana is excited to work with her community on a circle of activity — immersing youth in their culture, art, traditions, food-ways and songs with a yearlong project supported by her Cultural Capital fellowship. Throughout the process of growing a garden that includes pumpkin seeds brought over the Trail of Tears by her people, they’ll have bow-making, singing, sculpting and harvesting. The circle comes around with an art show for the youth to display and sell their original work to further their success. 

The Tiger family of artists continues to honor the legacy of Jerome Tiger. 

A clear sky after the storm.



Another storm has risen for Dana with the recent passing of her mother, Margaret (Peggy) Tiger. We honor her life with these words from Dana.

"My mother showed me what determination was. If she was fearful, I never saw it. Her mind was brilliant, her drive for learning was her pure pleasure. I will live the whole rest of my life feeling her love and strength." - Dana Tiger