Velino Shije Herrera, Zia Pueblo (1902-1973)
Comanche Dance, ca. 1925-35
gouache on paperboard
37.7 x 50.9 cm (14 7/8 x 20 1/16 in.)
Corbin-Henderson Collection, gift of Alice H. Rossin

Velino Shije Herrera, also known by his Indian name of MaPe Wi (Oriole, or Red Bird), was nicknamed the "singingartist" because as he drew, he would singsongs appropriate for the ceremony he was depicting.Herrera gave permission to the state of New Mexico toadapt his design of the Zia sun symbol for use as the statelogo. The red design on a yellow field can be seen on thestate flag, seal, and license plates. The artist receivedsome criticism from other members of the Zia communityfor betraying his people by giving the traditional Pueblodesign to non-Indians. With Awa Tsireh, Herrera paintedunder the sponsorship of the School of AmericanResearch,and in the late 1930s Herrera taught painting atthe Albuquerque Indian School. In 1939 he wascommissioned to create a series of murals for theDepartment of the Interior building in Washington, D.C. Hespent much of his life as a rancher and cowboy.

The Comanche dance is a complex re-creation of thestereotypes of one tribal group by another. As primarilymigratory cultures, the Comanche, Navajo, Apache, andUte peoples traded with, and occasionally raided thesedentary Pueblo villages. To parody the feathers andfancy dress clothing of the Comanche and other Plainspeoples, Pueblo male dancers dress in gaudy, brightlycolored costumes and large feathered headdresses andcarry brightly colored standards. Occasionally thedancers, in imitation of Comanche warriors, let out loudyells and "war cries." The songs sung to accompany thisdance include some words in the Comanche language. Thisis more for effect than for accuracy. The dancers,musicians, and Pueblo spectators are interested more inthe symbolic concept of the relationship between tribesthan historical accuracy.


Source: Andrew L. Connors, wall text accompanying theexhibition Pueblo Indian Watercolors, September 24-November 29, 1993; organized by the National Museum ofAmerican Art, Smithsonian Institution.