Chiricahua Apache

2018 – Arts,

Allan Houser (Haozous in Apache) was a Chiricahua Apache sculptor, painter and book illustrator born in Oklahoma. He was one of the most renowned Native American painters and Modernist sculptors of the 20th century.  Houser/Haozous’s work can be found at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., and in numerous major museum collections throughout North America, Europe and Japan. 

Houser/Haozous was the first member of his family from the Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache tribe born outside of captivity since Geronimo’s 1886 surrender and the tribe’s imprisonment by the U.S. government. In 1934, Houser/Haozous left Oklahoma at the age of 20 to study at Dorothy Dunn’s Art Studio at the Santa Fe Indian School in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He received his first major public commission to paint murals at the Main Interior Building in Washington, DC. In 1940, he received another commission with the US Department of Interior to paint life-sized indoor murals.

After World War II, Houser applied for a commission at the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas. Haskell, a Native American boarding school, lost many graduates to the war and wanted a sculptural memorial to honor them. His monumental work “Comrades in Mourning” from white Carrara marble in 1948. It has become an iconic work. From 1952 to 1962, Houser/Haozous worked as an art teacher at the Intermountain Indian School in Brigham City, Utah, which was primarily a Navajo boarding school. He completed hundreds of paintings there, experimenting with watercolors, oils and other media. In 1962, Houser/Haozous was asked to join the faculty of a new Native American art school, the Institute of American Indian Arts, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

In 1975, he was asked to paint the official portrait of the former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall. He also continued to produce remarkable figurative pieces as well, including the life-sized bronze work, Chiricahua Apache Family, dedicated in 1983 at the Fort Sill Apache Tribal Center in Apache, OK. The piece honored both the memory of his parents, Sam and Blossom, and commemorates the 70th anniversary of the release of his tribe’s prisoners-of-war from Fort Sill. In 1985, his monumental bronze, Offering of the Sacred Pipe, was dedicated at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York City. A year later, he made a bronze bust of Geronimo to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the surrender of the Chiricahua Apaches. A cast of the bust was later presented to the National Portrait Gallery, where it remains in the permanent collection.

In 1989, he dedicated As Long as the Waters Flow, a monumental bronze commissioned for the Oklahoma State Capitol building in Oklahoma City. In 1991, he presented a casting of a bronze Sacred Rain Arrow to the Smithsonian Institution. In 1992, he became the first Native American to receive the National Medal of Arts, awarded at a ceremony at the White House by President George H. W. Bush.

A figural group created by Houser in 1990 was moved to the Oval Office when Joe Biden began his presidency in 2021. The sculpture depicting a running horse and a Native male rider is currently placed on one of the shelves in the president’s office and was previously exhibited at the National Museum of the American Indian. 

David Rettig – on behalf of Allan Houser from James Shield on Vimeo.