LAUREN SMALL RODRIGUEZ
"I grew up on my Cheyenne homeland and each season brings diverse beauty to our lands and a deep appreciation for nature as it inspires our art. I grew up dancing in our local pow-wows so I learned how to make my regalia from my Mother and Grandmother.
My inspiration comes from my late Grandma Mabel Woodenlegs Small. Her Cheyenne name is Vixeohuat, Bird Woman, and she had amazing style. She was one of the first women of my tribe to mix modern with traditional designs into everyday fashion. It is with her guidance, wisdom and love that my art comes to life.
The legacy of hope through art and culture is what I hope to pass on through my work. As a young Cheyenne woman, I cherish shells and in particular, dentalium, pink conch, and cowries. These shells came to us from trade and barter agreements with coastal tribes of the Northwest. Merging shell designs into our Cheyenne regalia was a symbol of natural beauty and inter-tribal wealth exchanges. Native tribes have always traveled and negotiated peace and trade agreements with each other, and I hope my art reflects this sovereignty aspect of who we are.
I am the first Woman Cheyenne tribal member to be enlisted the US Coast Guard. I spent over six years on Active Duty serving on Search & Rescue Operations. The passion I have for shells stems from my life along the west coast during my military years.