Jack Roberts [1920-2000]
AboutJack Roberts was born on April 1, 1920 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. At a very early age he displayed artistic talent and as a young man trained at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. Roberts later studied under renowned artist Harry Dunn at the Grand Central School of Art in New York City. He moved to Colorado in 1947 and became a cowboy at the Benton ranch in Burns, CO. He painted at his Hanging Lake studio in Glenwood Canyon for seventeen years, and later moved to Redstone, CO. In 1965, Roberts became a nationally known artist when the Equitable Life Assurance Society published an art calendar on cowboy life, featuring his painting. The Museum of the West owns 24 paintings in two collections: The Indian Calendar and the Teddy Roosevelt Series. Roberts was a great friend of the museum and would often do gallery talks when his paintings were on display.
He had this to say about the Indian Calendar Series:
I have always been fascinated by the beautiful names the Indians gave to the months of the year. The appearance of the new moon each month was the sign for the beginning of a period of time that was named after some recurring phenomenon. Tribal history was kept in the minds of the elders, and certain years were designated by significant events, such as the death of a great chief, or so many winters since that event.
The journals of early-day traders and trappers occasionally made note of those colorful names for months. And the US Government treaties with Indians were usually dated for both parties, such as the Fort Laramie Treaty of September, 1851, known to the Indians as the Big Issue in the Moon of Yellow Leaves.
The tribes of the Great Plains have become the prototype of the American Indian. Buffalo were the nucleus of their culture and they often referred to themselves as buffalo-people. Traditionally, the Utes of the mountains were not dependent on buffalo, but early in the 19th century they developed such dependency when small herds migrated to the mountains due to the pressure of hunting on the Plains. When those herds were decimated, the Utes conducted communal hunting expeditions to South Park and the Front Range, thus becoming buffalo-people like their enemies, the Arapahos.
Following the Indian Wars of the 1860s, the US began sending survey parties into the West to examine and classify the geological structure of the Indian country. Another purpose was the anthropological research of the Indians occupying the regions being surveyed. The geologists in charge were required to submit annual reports, or bulletins, to the Interior Department, and it was these bulletins that caught the information on the calendar of the buffalo-people. Fortunately there were many tribal elders still living who remembered the way their people counted time by phases of the Moon.
In 1879, the various organizations doing survey work in the West were united as the US Geological Survey. The anthropological and ethnological research was united to establish the US Bureau of American Ethnology. The first annual report of this bureau was written in 1879 and continued every year until 1965, when it was amalgamated with the New York Museum of Natural History.
The earliest reports of the Bureau of American Ethnology have served as the basis for the 12 paintings in this Indian Calendar.