Telling Many Magpies, Telling Black Wolf, Telling Hachivi

  • 1989
  • Screenprint
  • Image/sheets (two joined), approximately: 72 15/16 x 45 1/8 inches (183.7 x 114.4 cm)
  • 2009-61-35a,b
About the Print

The title of this print refers to the important role of oral history in Native American culture. Many Magpies/Heap of Birds is the artist’s great-great-grandfather, a Cheyenne chief. Black Wolf is the artist’s great-grandfather, and Hachivi (Hock E Aye Vi) is the artist.

This six-foot-tall work, composed of black text printed on white paper, is filled with contrasts: fluttering abstract shapes encircle rows of bold text; most of the words are read left to right, but “NATURAL” is written in reverse. According to Heap of Birds, the dark shapes are magpies in flight.

This print raises many questions. Is it right to take tribal names to promote sport teams or to sell products? Are indigenous cultures and people acknowledged or given the respect they deserve? Are people today living in harmony with each other and with nature? The first and last lines of text suggest what Heap of Birds believes. What do you think?

“Before any truly sweeping social justice for Natives in America can be forthcoming, a stunning reality must be projected of the true existence of Native Americans.”

– Hocke Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds

Let's Look
  • Read all the words in the print. What is the artist saying?
  • Now look at how the artist has written the words and what he has surrounded them with. Why has he written "natural" in reverse and "living people" so large?
  • Dark, abstract shapes, which the artist calls "magpies," fly in and around the text. What feelings do they add to the image? What sounds would these birds make?
  • This print is six feet tall. Why might the artist have chosen to make it so large?
  • What do you think Heap of Birds believes about the popular use of tribal names today? What do you think?

Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds

Native American (Cheyenne)
Born Wichita, Kansas, 1954
Photograph courtesy of the artist
About the Artist

Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds was born in 1954 in Kansas. After graduating from college, he studied art in Philadelphia and London, and is now Professor of Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma. An educator, sculptor, painter, and printmaker, Professor Heap of Birds uses words, tribal names, dates, color and symbols to honor the culture and heritage of native peoples across the land.

Curriculum Connections

Suggested Topics for Art Projects, Group Discussion, and Independent Writing

Art

Express Yourself!

Use the power of art to speak out and express your opinion or point of view about an issue in your school or community. Plan and design a poster with text that creatively conveys a message. Use traditional media or graphic design software to create your poster using design principles.

Calligram (Shaped Poem)

Draw the outline of a symbol, map, or object that you associate with your ancestry. Fill in the silhouette shape with words or phrases that you associate with that object. Keep design principles in mind as you develop the text.

Language Arts

Mythology

Research the Cheyenne creation story of the magpie and buffalo race. Compare the Cheyenne myth with a creation story from a different place, such as China or Africa. What main points are common to both? Track your findings on a Venn diagram.

In Your Opinion

"Before any truly sweeping social justice for Natives in America can be forthcoming, a stunning reality must be projected of the true existence of Native Americans."
Consider Heap of Birds's quote about his artwork. In your opinion, does Telling Many Magpies, Telling Black Wolf, Telling Hachivi reflect the spirit of his words? How? If not, why not?

Social Studies

The United States-Dakota Conflict

Research the historical event that occurred between the United States military and the Dakota nation in 1862. Who was Chaska, and why is he still remem­bered today? Express your opinion about the incident in a persuasive essay, or make a poster to express your opinion. Heap of Birds remembered the Dakota with his artwork Building Minnesota (1990). Research the work, and present your findings to the class.