For two weeks, the Culver Woodcraft Camp Indian Lore, Crafts, and Council Fire programs benefited from a visit by Donovin Sprague Hump, a Native American expert and university professor.
Culver’s long and storied history in Native American art and activities served as the catalyst for Sprague’s visit. A member of the Minnicoujou Lakota tribe, his career focus is learning and teaching the practices of Native American culture across North America. He teaches classes at Black Hills State University as well as the University of Iowa. Sprague has also written 10 books and consults on Native American topics across the country.
Sprague’s journey to Culver began when Crisp Visual Arts Center Curator Bob Nowalk and Woodcraft Director Heike Spahn SS’86 traveled to Rapid City, South Dakota, in November to meet with Ray Hillenbrand ‘52 and his wife, Rita. They are dedicated to preserving Native American history and art in the modern world.
Along with making a donation of modern Native American art that is now on exhibit at the Crisp Center until Sept. 15, Hillenbrand introduced Nowalk and Spahn to Sprague. After talking about Culver’s philosophy of mind, body and spirit, Sprague was intrigued enough with Culver and the Woodcraft program to decide to visit during summer camp.
While he is an expert in the history of various tribes, Sprague is well-versed in the art and practices of the native people. He has personally crafted over 550 award-winning traditional cedar flutes and brought two to show campers. The campers not only inspected the beautiful instruments up close; Sprague also dedicated, then played a song for the Indian Lore class.
During his visit, Sprague spoke to the Indian Lore class about the history of the Native American tribes in north-central Indiana and the greater Midwest. He has also had the opportunity to spend quality time with the kids in the Indian Crafts classes, where he showed the campers and counselors a few new stitches. The methods are truer to the authentic art form. Campers will now create art more closely related to the native people.
One evening, Sprague made a public presentation for staff and community members covering the history of his tribe and their historical significance. Sprague is a direct descendant of Etokeah, known as Chief Hump, who was connected to Crazy Horse and the Battle at Little Big Horn.
While introducing Sprague, Nowalk said the Native American way of life is “a living culture that continues to grow.” Over the years, there have been a number of experts who have come to Culver and helped “grow the Indian Lore program into what it is today. We are lucky to have had Donovin visit campus this summer in order to help continue this process of growth.”