Creativity flows from Indian roots

Posted 12/15/09

Native American artist Don Brewer’s ancestral name, Wakpa, meaning river, suits his style of painting, considered “free flowing”. Brewer’s …

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Creativity flows from Indian roots


Native American artist Don Brewer’s ancestral name, Wakpa, meaning river, suits his style of painting, considered “free flowing”.

Brewer’s passion for his acrylic painting, and recently sculptures, was born from his Sioux Indian relatives and their heritage.

“I would say I have a connection spiritually with my ancestors, and I try to respect my culture to honor where we come from,” Brewer said.

Both parents were raised on an Indian reservation, Pineridge in South Dakota. If you travel back through five generations of great grandfathers, Brewer is related to Chief War Eagle, who is featured as a monument in Sioux City, IA., overlooking the Missouri River. The monument is a tribute to Chief War Eagle, a respected leader who was a friend to the white man and firmly loyal to America.

“I try to paint a light that is in honor of my heritage, and try to convey an understanding of who I am through my work,” Brewer added.

His ancestors were a people of great pride, even though they knew they had to move off the reservation to give their children a better opportunity. Brewer’s parents moved the family to Thornton when he was four.

After high school, where Brewer took some painting classes, he joined the Marine Corps for four years. Although he didn’t start painting yet, he did draw some tattoo designs for “some of the guys”.

Working odd jobs after the Marine Corps, he said one day he got a break with his painting career.

“I went to a gallery and asked if they would sell my work,” Brewer said. “They sold a couple in a few weeks, and I began to get confidence.”

For the last ten years, painting has been a full-time occupation for Brewer, and some of his work is featured in a Santa Fe, New Mexico gallery and previously a Denver location.

Paintings of Native American, horses, and landscapes splash his canvases with vivid deep colors. He said he starts with a color and then sketches on top of the color, and goes from there.

“I had a French lady tell me it was too overpowering, from her perspective, too much color,” Brewer remembered from an artist show he participated in.

Brewer said a popular painting in Santa Fe has been what he calls his “moody portrait”.

“It is a person without a face, and it kind of sends a message,” he said. Brewer said it signifies the identity of Native Americans, who are still searching for a place in today’s society. Examples of this “faceless” portrait are certain land deals being stalled in the supreme court, Brewer said, and certain relocation issues that are not fair to Native Americans. Brewer hopes the up and coming “young” Indian lawyers will make some changes for Native American children for the future.

Recently delving into sculpture art, Brewer is creating works of art in marble and alabaster.

“I always go back to creating from my roots,” Brewer said. “It just comes out in my art, and now my sculptures.”

“My great grandmother told me if I use my Lakoda Indian name, Wakpa in a good way, I would be helped by the spirits,” Brewer said.

Brewer has his art studio in Castle Rock, and hopes to make it public accessible possibly in the spring. For more information visit


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