I first started carving with a chainsaw in the early 1990's. Crude bears mostly. When a fellow asked me "what is that!? A dog? A bear? What the heck is that!?" I knew I needed to up my game. I started to take carving seriously. I began to study the anatomy of the beings I was trying to recreate. I also had to "train" myself to look at everything differently. Casual glances are what we mostly suffice with but for this art I had to ask myself what am I really seeing here. Shape, symmetry, color, hue, shadow.....all the details mostly go unnoticed. Anyway, it seems that I have now progressed from crappy to satisfactory. (I am my own worst critic). I don't think anything can really be mastered so the claim that the web site makes about the "master carver" is mostly inflated. Ego and marketing stuff. In this universe the information is immense if not infinite thereby making it impossible to ever master anything in my opinion. I just try to always do my best.
I try to maintain an attitude of honor and respect not only in my art work but in my whole walk here on Earth. If I were to try to convey my philosophy of Life it would probably be "Nupa sni"... "Not two" ... non-dual.... no separation. We are not exactly all one but also not all separate. We are the Universe and the Universe is us. It is the original substance behind every religious and spiritual belief. In Lakota, it is Skan's original teaching. Try to describe what cannot be described and that about sums it up!
Although I am of mixed blood, it is the Lakota part of my ancestry that I have identified with the most throughout my life. The Shota part of Shotawoodcarving is a direct tribute to Grandpa Chief Smoke of the Oglalas. In our family genealogical records my Great-great Grandma Walks With White was said to be one of the Chief's daughters. Recently there has been some question about whether this is correct information or not.
Regardless, Walks With White and her sister Walks With Cow were raised up there in Chief Smoke's group at Fort Laramie. You can find information written in history books about Chief Smoke. Especially notable is the account by Francis Parkman Jr. in his classic "The Oregon Trail". I still honor him and all the "hangs around the fort" people who hung with him. I mention this because there were always those that thought negatively about the one's who stayed close to Fort Laramie. Given the hindsight that we have now I try not to be too critical of how things came down in those days.
Anyway, Great-Great Grandma Walks With White met a french trapper named Alex LaBeouf and she soon gave birth to my Great Grandma Zoe LaBeouf. When just a small child, Zoe was kidnapped by her father Alex and taken away with him to the gold fields of Colorado and then across the Oregon Trail to their permanent home in eastern Oregon. Walks With White never saw her daughter again. She died soon after losing her but before she passed she gave birth to my Great Uncle Alex LaBeouf Jr. It is said that Alex was raised at Pine Ridge by my Great Auntie Walks With Cow.
When just a young woman, Great Grandma Zoe fell in love with Steven Amiotte, a ranch hand on her father's horse ranch. It was around this time that Zoe found out she had a brother she never knew about back at Pine Ridge. She and Steve decided to pack up and cross the Oregon Trail once again to return to Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Once there she was reunited with her brother and Aunt. Zoe and Steve Amiotte settled out in the Sand Hills and lived the rest of their lives back in South Dakota. This was at the time of the Wounded Knee massacre. Zoe was at the school house when it occurred. Uncle Alex helped retrieve the dead. During those troubled times it is said that Steve and Zoe's ranch was refuge for those trying to lay low.
Zoe and Steve had 11 children the last of which was my Grandma Lena Amiotte. Her mother Zoe died when she was very Young, I think around 5 years old and although her Father Steve was still alive, she was shipped off to the residential school along with her sister Delma. As teenagers, Grandma Lena and Aunt Delma left the rez. Soon she met my Grandpa Paul Craig, a young soldier just home from WW1. They headed west to Seattle then south to Sacramento where they settled. As far as I know Grandma never went back to the Rez. We talked often but she rarely talked about those days.
Lena and Paul had one child, a boy named Paul Jr. who became my Father. My Dad never knew these stories growing up because he was instructed by his father Paul to never bring up Indian stuff with his mother. I was given the same instructions by my Dad when I was young but I secretly asked her stuff anyway. She always answered my questions and talked freely about those days so I am not sure who was trying to protect who over all the secrecy. So it wasn't until my Father's twilight years when he was undergoing treatment for cancer that as a gift to him and myself, I went back to Pine Ridge and started to put together the pieces that is this story. Happily my father got to know these stories and many more about our family before he passed. I have since been in correspondence with many wonderful family members I never knew we had. A very gratifying experience and I am so glad to have made the effort to reconnect.
I love music! From the time I first picked up my Mother's old Harmony arch top six string guitar at the ripe old age of 10 years and began plucking away until the present moment, I have been a constant companion to my instruments. Creating music is in my opinion, indescribable. It's clean. It's fresh. It's magic!
Over the years I have had the great honor to play with many wonderful and talented musicians some of which I have collaborated with to make some recordings of our music. You can check out some of these by clicking below.