Norman residents that have driven by Thunderbird Casino in recent days likely noticed an addition to their outside scenery.
The mural is painted near the entrance of the casino at 15700 OK-9 and features four abstract portraits of prominent Native American people in history. The casino finished the mural project in mid-July.
Artists J. NiCole Hatfield and Brent Greenwood designed the mural. Hatfield, who has ties to Comanche, Kiowa and Apache heritage, said she is proud of the mural and its representation of Native American culture.
“[Brent and I] love the way the mural turned out,” Hatfield said. “I’m glad we were able to incorporate four people who have significant ties to Native Americans. We were also able to incorporate [Shawnee] clan animals, which are very important to the tribe.”
From left to right, the first portrait in the mural is of Tecumseh, a political leader and war chief for the Shawnee tribe in the late 1700s. According to history.com, “Tecumseh’s political leadership, oratory, humanitarianism, and personal bravery attracted the attention of friends and foes. He was much admired by both the British and the Americans. After his death, a considerable mythology developed about him, and he has become an American folk hero.”
The second portrait is of Te Ata Fisher, a member of the Chickasaw Nation known for her storytelling.In 1958,shewas honored by the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, and in 1976 she received the Governor’s Award (Oklahoma) and was named Woman of the Year byThe Ladies Home Journal.
The third portrait is of John L. Sloat, a sergeant in the U.S. Army who was awarded both the Silver Star and Bronze Star medals for bravery, as well as three Purple Hearts for his service in the Korean and Vietnam wars. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame in 2014 and died in 2019.
The final portrait is of Jim Thorpe,a member of the Sac and Fox Nationwho is known primarily for his achievements in professional football and baseball in the early 1900s. He also earned gold medals during the 1912 Olympics in decathlon and pentathlon.History.com dubbed Thorpe as the “America’s original crossover athlete” due to his success in several different sports.
Sam Caruso, Thunderbird Casino general manager, said he is proud of what the mural represents for the casino and the Absentee Shawnee Tribe.
“In an effort to fulfill our company mission, Thunderbird Entertainment, Inc. undertook the mural project to create a community project that would enhance the surrounding area and enrich the Absentee Shawnee Tribe,” Caruso said. “Our goal was to partner with the Native American community to develop a piece of artwork that represented different aspects of the community.
“The resulting collaboration of Native American artists and TEC is a representation of sacrifice, culture, sport, art, and leadership the characterizes the Absentee Shawnee Tribe and surrounding communities,” he said.
Hatfield has been an artist most of her life, and said the Thunderbird mural allows her to express herself and her heritage.
“I’m just glad that as an artist and a Native woman that I am able to represent myself and my tribe through my art.”
For more information on Hatfield’s art, visit www.jnicolehatfield.com.