Oklahoma Osage Shield 2, study in blue
by Yatika Fields
Oil on Canvas
36 x 36 in
This painting is one of two studies on the Oklahoma Flag I did in February 2021.
Flags are emblematic connotations to identities, social crest to state and country. They derive with colonial overtones usually as the makers are within the perimeters of the states appraised history. Just recently Massachusetts changed the state flag as it’s a symbol of violence that has many points of oppression in exaggerated symbolism, it’s reigned since 1898 over the commonwealth in subtle oppressions of native histories in New England.
This rendition of the Shield derives from the lands I am from and the state that’s come to be upon it. Oklahoma, a place of agriculture, oil and histories- route 66, the expansion of the west for commerce and Capitol. A landscape that once held great plains ecosystems sustaining indigenous people, landscape and bison now replaced with cattle, farming and a construct of property and boundaries in all accord to wealth. Sprawling urban developments linked by wires, landscapes in grids are terrains we all aspire in.
It’s similar in all the states and countries in the regards of symbolism. I can’t speak for all but can only share my experiences from my place and knowledge.
I wanted to recreate what was created in the past to represent Oklahoma through a contest to show the diversity of cultures and peace of European and indigenous relations.
An Osage shield was selected in 1925 as the central symbol in a contest and other symbols taken from previous, Choctaw Blue, pipe and the olive branch- all to symbolize something that is not so true. The olive branch is broken in both studies I did. The political state of Oklahoma has seemingly fought tooth and nail to keep the tribes in tire with oppressed policies and laws. The olive branch is a performative image thrown upon the sanctity of the shield meant to create a false narrative that all is okay here.
As an Osage artist, an Indigenous artist from Oklahoma, I wanted to have agency over this shield where I see it being used as a symbol of contradiction in many ways.
As we move forward in 2021, I want this state to be mindful, hold accountable the past and be receptive to the changes that are needed to bring it forth. That is to be inclusive of all people and backgrounds, genders and allow the real stories to be told.
The final details to the flag are upon the pipe, I’ve painted a more traditional Osage pipe adorned. I incorporated barbed wire wrapping around it as a symbol of protection. We have always had a fight and protect our beliefs to practice under the watchful eyes of the government- even when tribal sovereignty is in place. Policies and interims in regulations on gaming and environmental protection plans on our lands are in a constant stress of protection.
It’s a double meaning as some sacred lands have been taken from us and fenced in- we are banished in our own ancestral lands.
I am Osage, Cherokee and Muscogee Creek. I know this shield is a scared object that once was used to protect our people in battle and in the spiritual realms. Now it’s upon all, used as candid merchandise across Oklahoma and misused daily even showing up as the first flag to breach the U.S capitol of January 6th.