Jim Nelson is a nationally acclaimed painter and storyteller of Lakota legends. Although not native by heritage, his formative years were spent in the shadow of Pine Ridge where he inter-mingled with his Lakota friends from an early age on, coming to know their culture as well as them. Today he paints from his heart, telling these stories and legends through the use of vibrant colors and symbolism. Everything in his work has a meaning.
Explaining the spiritual quality of his work, Nelson states: "I don't just paint a person or an animal; I paint the spirit of that person or animal. It is my hope that the viewer will feel a connection to that spirit and have a better understanding of this proud and noble people."
Today he is highly respected by native people for his ability and desire to carry on the legends of their culture. Through the years he has received many accolades for his work, which is now included in countless national and international private and corporate collections.
“She is Wakan”
In the long ago, in a time before time, Mother Earth was lonely. She asked Sky Father if she might have a companion. Sky Father told her to make a companion of her own and make it well, for she had but one opportunity. Mother Earth made Unk. Mother Earth made Unk like herself but much more beautiful. Mother Earth was very pleased and spent many days with Unk. Soon, because Unk was more beautiful , Earth Mother became jealous. She threw Unk into the water and told her she must never come on land again. Mother Earth again approached Father Sky, complaining she was only allowed one, Unk, but he would allow his daughter Woope (wo-pay) to be company with her. She would have no dominion over Woope. Mother Earth was so pleased with Woope that she gave her command over all of the wings (the birds, and the sky people).
Woope’s first act as a commander of the birds was to send her father the bald eagle, his messenger. She then sent the golden eagle to the thunder being who lived in the west for his messenger, because the thunder being was the protector of the Sky Father. She sent the black and the red birds to the people so they would have the horse and the buffalo. She then called for her godfather, Tate, the wind, and told him he could now use all of the birds except for the eagles to carry his messages to the four directions.
Woope came to the real world twice. The first time was to help her godfather set the four directions of the wind (the four directions of the compass). On this assignment Woope married the gentle south wind. The second time she came as the white buffalo calf woman bringing all of the sacred rights to the Lakota people.
The Lakota believe that if she returns a third time it will be the end of the earth. When she is on a mission representing her father “She IS Wakan”