What started as a December art competition for inmates at the Two Rivers Regional Detention Facility in Hardin has turned into a bona fide form of interior decorating for the building. New paintings are appearing along the facility’s beige walls encouraged by of Hope Keller, manager of the inmate’s Re-Entry Services Turning Point Program.
Four dorms took part in the original contest. Each had to express the theme “My Culture and Heritage Keep Me Strong” in their own form of artwork. The art pieces had to represent every person within the dorm, and everyone had to contribute with ideas and skills. The winner was picked based on the artistic ability, teamwork, delivery and explanation of the design.
“We have some really good artists here,” Keller said. “When you think about [Native American] history, expressing themselves artistically has always been important.”
Keller said she wanted to give the inmates a positive and creative outlet during their time in the detention facility as well as something they can reflect on when they graduate from the three-phase recovery program.
“It’s the behaviors that were the problem not who they are,” said Keller, “We want to make sure they feel comfortable in growing and learning to give themselves a new start.”
The winning project was a hand-crafted teepee lamp featuring 10 Native warriors and warrior ponies to represent the 10 tribes in the facility including the Crow, Northern Cheyenne and Lakota. Each pony shows the unique symbols and look of each of the 10 tribes.
“The unity of the design was amazing,” said Keller, “They did a great job including everyone’s traditions.”
The winners gave themselves the name “One Warrior Nation”. Ron Yellow, a detainee from Fort Yates, N.D. said they chose the name to combine the culture of all the tribes in their group.
Allen DeRockbraine, also from Fort Yates, made the lamp out of canvas and hand-painted the ponies, implementing everyone’s ideas.
Yellow and DeRockbraine are the two main artists who designed the mural painted on the walls of the indoor recreation room where graduation ceremonies are held.
Eight other inmates participated in painting the murals.
After finishing the horse mural on the east wall of the recreational room, which took about 40 hours, they started on the northeast wall.
This wall features a medicine wheel with 10 teepees on the circular border to also represent the 10 tribes.
The team is currently working on a star pattern that will include the face of a woman and a young girl “fancy dancing” in brightly colored regalia.
They hope to have the painting done by April 2, when the women have their graduation ceremony.
Yellow said they chose this design to make the women in the facility feel welcome and accepted.
Yellow, DeRockbraine and the other eight inmate artists are in the relapse prevention phase, which is the third and final phase of the Turning Point Program. The program is a modified therapeutic correctional-based program with treatment elements.
The group has an estimated four weeks left before graduation.