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SIOUX CITY | A Native American artist has finished a mural at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center that pays homage to Chief Blackbird of the Omaha Tribe.

Native to Winnebago, Nebraska, Henry Payer Jr., 29, of Ontario, Canada, completed the acrylic painting in three weeks. It depicts explorers William Clark and Meriwether Lewis planting a flag at Blackbird's grave.

Payer said the scenic landscape, with trees overlooking the Missouri River, is depicted between Winnebago and Decatur, Nebraska.

"It's my admiration for the Omaha Tribe," said Payer, an enrolled member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. "It pays a homage to them."

The 20-by-12 mural titled "Chief Blackbird's (Wazhinga Cabe) Grave: An Indigenous View" joins Payer's two other murals at the center, "The Buffalo Dance" and "Encounters."

Marcia Poole, the center director, said Blackbird died from smallpox in 1800, along with hundreds of Omaha Tribe members. She said Lewis and Clark planted a flag as a sign of respect at Blackbird's grave. 

In Sioux City, Payer attended West High School for one year and focused on art, photography and print making before transferring to Winnebago High School. 

Payer attended the Oscar Howe Summer Art Institute at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. In 2008, he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He received a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013. 

Payer said he strives to incorporate the culture of the Ho-Chunk Tribe, also known as Winnebago, into his artwork.

"It's adding our indigenous perspective to an educational facility like this," Payer said. "It's our collective history as Americans."

Poole said the mural will help educate people about Native Americans during the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

"We're evolving in telling our story," Poole said.


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