Willamette University

Artist’s Description

Terrance Guardipee: Keepers of the Present and the Past

This piece depicts the presence of Native American peoples in the Willamette Valley and throughout North America, from the beginning of time.

Willamette University began as a "Indian boarding" school and has transformed itself in to a university that supports Native American students in competitive academic studies and social opportunities like the pow wow, the Halle Ford Museum and the Chemewa partnership.

This poster is a representation of the original native people who were on the land before the university was even an idea; it is representative of current native students graduating from Willamette University and departing in to the world. They are symbolized by the train with the Indians as the conductor and passengers — this time in charge of their futures with rights and opportunities.

The "traditional man and woman" figures in regalia symbolize the past elders and present-day elders who lead, serve and encourage the people in their traditional ways and to bring honor to every life and the Creator.

The abstract spirit figures are guardian spirit beings to protect the people on their journey in life. The red arrow is a symbol for the heart line of the life force and breath from Creator. The little circle is the sun, representing the Creator that has brought life, light and warmth to the earth for all living things.

The beaver is a powerful medicine animal for the Blackfeet, as well as the original animal depicted on documents of Willamette University. The rounded designs are rolling hills, the circles inside the night stars. The triangles represent mountains and night stars.

The sun is a symbol for the Creator, the moon for the suns wife, and the morning star for their son, who brings dreams and taught the people to pray and sing praise songs. The star gave them their ceremonies for healing and the Creator offers pity and helps them get through life with his blessings, protection and wisdom.