Valor in Black and White: War Stories of Horace Poolaw
This is a special Veterans Day program, held in conjunction with the exhibition, "For a Love of His People: The Photography of Horace Poolaw," opening at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, on November 11, 2016. Decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran Robert “Corky” Poolaw and Linda Poolaw (two of Horace’s four children, both Kiowa/Delaware), will speak about the photography of Horace Poolaw (Kiowa, 1906–84) with particular attention to his pictures on the subject of American Indians and the military. The discussion focuses on Poolaw’s compelling and insightful images of generations of Native servicemen during the wars in Europe, Korea, and Vietnam. Multimedia artist Thomas Poolaw joins the conversation to explore his grandfather Horace Poolaw’s artistic and cultural legacy. The Museum’s Alexandra Harris moderates. Alexandra Harris, program moderator, is a senior editor/writer at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). Since joining the museum in 2008, she has written and edited exhibition texts, their companion catalogues, and other scholarly publications, while also assisting various museum departments with their editorial needs. Her recent publication, For a Love of His People: The Photography of Horace Poolaw, was chosen for the New York Times’ 2014 holiday gift guide, and the accompanying exhibition received a glowing review from respected NYT critic Holland Cotter. Prior to her work at the NMAI, she was a curator at the Barona Cultural Center and Museum, the tribal museum of the Barona Band of Mission Indians, and also taught American Indian and California Indian culture and history classes for Palomar and Grossmont Colleges’ American Indian studies departments, all in San Diego. Harris received her BA in Psychology and MA in American Indian Studies from the University of California at Los Angeles, with emphasis on visual anthropology and photography of and by Native people in the American Southwest. Linda Poolaw (Kiowa/Delaware), Horace Poolaw’s daughter, is a former member of the Delaware Tribe Executive Committee, a health researcher, playwright, curator, and educator. She was born in 1942 in Lawton, Oklahoma, to Horace (Kiowa) and Winnie Chisholm Poolaw (Delaware/Creek/Seminole), and was raised on her parents’ allotted land near Anadarko. She holds a BA in sociology from Oklahoma College of Liberal Arts, and worked towards a master’s degree in speech communication from University of Oklahoma. In 1989, Poolaw taught a photo-documentation class at Stanford University and curated the exhibition of her father’s photographs: "War Bonnets, Tin Lizzies, and Patent Leather Pumps: Kiowa Culture in Transition, 1925–1955." For more than twenty years, Poolaw worked for the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center investigating the causes of heart disease among Indian people. She is now living comfortably on her family’s allotment just west of Anadarko, reflecting on her life and occasionally speaking publicly about her father’s photos. She appreciates how much her father’s photographs have taught her about her Kiowa people. Captain Robert “Corky” Poolaw Sr. was born 17 July 1938 in Lawton, Oklahoma, and grew up on his mother’s Delaware allotted land west of Anadarko, Oklahoma, as a member of the Kiowa Tribe and Delaware Nation. Following his high school graduation in 1956, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served four years in the communications and electronics career field. In 1960 he returned to Oklahoma and received an undergraduate degree in secondary education from Southwestern State College in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Poolaw re-entered the Marine Corps as an officer in 1964 and retired after 27 years of active service. For his service, he was awarded the Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Star Medals with Valor and two Purple Heart Medals for his wounds received and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Valor. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame on October 21, 2016. He currently resides in Norman, Oklahoma, and enjoys traveling, camping and spending time with his family, especially his grandchildren and great grandchildren. Thomas Poolaw (Kiowa/Delaware) was heavily influenced during the late 1960s and ’70s by the American Indian artists of southwest Oklahoma and the photography of his grandfather, Horace Poolaw. He attended art school at the University of Oklahoma, and has since been making acrylic paintings and more recently, digital images. Making process the focus of his work, he chooses formats and situations that encourage spontaneity and experimentation. In his words, “the journey must be exciting and inspired. I want to produce something nearer to poetry than documentation.” His work usually deals with Native American subject matter expressed in a contemporary manner. He hopes the work reflects the status of today’s Native American individual: complex, modern, and spiritual.