Monarch Nation

Media - 2021.2 - SAAM-2021.2_4 - 143000
Copied Kevin Pourier, Valerie Pourier, Monarch Nation, 2019, carved bison horn, inlaid orange sandstone, white mother of pearl, overall_​1: 3 34 in. × 3 in. × 11 34 in. (9.5 × 7.6 × 29.8 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Kenneth R. Trapp Acquisition Fund, 2021.2, © 2019, Kevin Pourier

Artwork Details

Monarch Nation
Not on view
overall_​1: 3 34 in. × 3 in. × 11 34 in. (9.5 × 7.6 × 29.8 cm)
© 2019, Kevin Pourier
Credit Line
Museum purchase through the Kenneth R. Trapp Acquisition Fund
Mediums Description
carved bison horn, inlaid orange sandstone, white mother of pearl
  • Animal — insect — butterfly
Object Number

Artwork Description

Kevin and Valerie Pourier are Oglala Lakota husband-and-wife artists from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. For twenty years, they have created sculptural forms from buffalo horn, a material used by the Lakota since time immemorial. The Lakota name Pte Oyate translates as “buffalo people,” and the buffalo is respected and integrated into everyday and ceremonial life. The Pouriers have found examples of historic buffalo horns adorned with beads and inlaid with earth pigments within museum collections.

For Monarch Nation, the Pouriers have inlaid each butterfly in orange sandstone and white mother-of-pearl shell. Depicting the butterflies in flight, they reference the annual migration of the insects from Canada to Mexico. Paying tribute to both the buffalo and the butterflies connects the artists to their ancestors and Lakota lifeways, in which all beings and forms of connections are acknowledged with respect and care.

This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World, 2022

Verbal Description

A delicate sculpture covered in monarch butterflies, in the shape of a large feather arching up in the middle and balancing on its two ends. About one foot long, the three-inch-wide half of the sculpture is like an elongated, downward facing ladle. The other half is a skinny, curving rod. A shiny deep black color covers most of the handle, the surface underneath the ladle shape, and outlines the ladle’s top surface.

On the top surface, underneath the butterflies, the background is a rough texture made up of tiny black-and-white dots indented into the surface. Sitting slightly raised on top of this gray texture, several large monarch butterflies overlap one another in different ways, as if the butterflies are in flight. Their wings are bright orange with black lines. There are white spots around the outer sections of the wings. The shiny surface of each butterfly contrasts with the dotted, rougher background.


Quilt featuring the portrait of a woman
This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World
May 13, 2022April 2, 2023
This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World showcases the dynamic landscape of American craft today.