Images by Shannon Burnette-Meek

Images by Shannon Burnette-Meek

warren "guss" yellowhair


TRIBE: Northern Cheyenne/Oglala Lakota

MEDIUM: Traditional Plains Art

LOCATION: Allen, South Dakota





During his childhood, Warren "Guss" Yellow Hair was reprimanded in school for drawing. That same passion that used to get him in trouble has since developed in to a successful career as a Native Plains artist. It was originally Guss' uncles—one a musician and the other a carver and painter—who inspired him to pursue art.

Guss, who is an adjunct professor for Oglala Lakota College in South Dakota and teaches Lakota language and traditional Northern Plains art classes, is a recipient of a 2015 First Peoples Fund Cultural Capital Fellowship. The fellowship made it possible for him to organize and lead art therapy courses for youth ages 12 to 17, including hands-on lessons on drum making. 

The courses provide students hands-on lessons in preparing raw materials to make hand drums, including scraping and de-hairing the hides using traditional Lakota methods. He also teaches the students the traditional meanings of the colors used, and the songs. The students get to keep their own drum at the end of the process.

Guss has been an Artist Success Coach with First Peoples Fund since 2011, encouraging the same community leadership that he exemplifies. For Guss, working with First Peoples Fund has been exciting, and meaningful. His relationship with the organization led him to an engagement with The Gymnasium, an arts organization located in Minneapolis, for an event held in Sioux Falls, South Dakota a few years ago. He also performed for Queen Elizabeth II of England during her Diamond Jubilee in June 2012 and was the featured Indian artist at the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in July 2012.

"You get one-on-one treatment with First Peoples Fund staff. They support me, and are just wonderful to be around."

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