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In 2021, we added two new categories to our Wool Blanket Design Contest. Joining our People’s Choice category this year was our Elder category, honoring our elders and ancestors, and our Warrior category, honoring our warriors and veterans.
We received sixty-four submissions to our Warrior category, and each was both beautiful and poignant. It is important to us that this blanket honors and uplifts our service men and women, so we asked the Snoqualmie Tribal Veterans Group to help us in choosing an artist whose art reflects the warrior and veteran experience, and whose experiences are rooted in service and community. It was an incredibly difficult decision, and we thank the Snoqualmie Tribal Veterans Group and Christopher Castleberry, Tribal Veteran U.S.M.C. and Deputy Secretary of the Snoqualmie Tribal Council for their guidance in selecting a final winner. After much deliberation, we’re excited to announce that the winner of the 2021 Warrior Wool Blanket Design Contest is Osage artist Dante Biss Grayson!
Tintype of Dante Biss-Grayson (Osage) by Joseph Kayne
“We feel very fortunate to have found an artist as talented and committed to what grounds a lot of us in purpose, and that is the passion to help our fellow Veteran, because we know the fight isn’t over after service,” said Chris Castleberry. “We all at some point have to endure, and having someone who’s walked this journey with us feels good knowing that this project is going to get the attention and thoughtful creativity it deserves.”
Dante on a tour of duty
Dante is a multi-tour combat veteran with over 3,000 days of service in-country. He is also an artist, a father and husband, and a powerful advocate for several issues across Indian Country. Of his work, Dante says “I am inspired by beauty, emotions, and the belief that art can inspire, empower, and heal. I am from the Osage Tribe, and I am a straight dancer. I am also a multi-tour Combat Veteran with acute PTSD that I am managing through art and therapy. As I unravel each traumatic event (...) I am in need of a platform to express myself. I find this in art, poetry, and fashion.”
Dante at work in his studio
Dante will appear on PBS on November 13, 2021 in “Veterans and Art Therapy Via a Connection to the Land,” where he’ll share his experience of working through combat-induced PTSD through art.
An artist from a young age, Dante’s work has received numerous awards at the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts and is found in both private and museum collections across the globe. But he credits his daughter, Ella Sky-Eagle, as the reason he began his art advocacy work.
Some of Dante's silk scarf designs
“After finding out about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic (MMIW),” Dante says, “I looked to my daughter, so little, and wanted to see what I could do to protect her, and protect my sisters. I began to design works that I hope inspire others, give them strength, pride, hope, empowerment, and resilience. This is when the Sky-Eagle Collection was born.”
The Sky-Eagle Collection features Dante’s work on both ready-to-wear and custom items, often with part of the profits going to Native community groups. In a short time, the Collection has donated to groups like the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center, the Sovereign Bodies Institute, and NOISE. As part of this work, Dante started the 400 Ribbon Skirt Project, which aims to craft and donate 400 ribbon skirts to women’s shelters on reservations throughout the US and Canada, bringing beauty, medicine, and healing to Native women.
Düa-Bläs Design Skirt by Dante, with profits supporting his 400 Ribbon Skirts Project
As a soldier, Dante has fought for his country, and as an artist and advocate, Dante fights for the health and safety of the Indigenous community. “My war is over, but there are so many other ways I can continue to help, and we can fight against these injustices,” says Dante. “This is only the tip of the iceberg for me, (there is) so much work to be done.”
Eighth Generation is excited to work with Dante over the coming months to design a blanket reflective of the warrior spirit that also brings a message of peace and healing to those who wear it. Please join us in congratulating Dante in the comments below, and be sure to follow him on Instagram to see more of his work. Thank you to everyone who entered the Warrior Wool Blanket Design Contest, and congratulations, Dante!
Dante in regalia