Object: Bronze Sculpture

Title: “Something to Believe In”
Artist: Willard Stone (Cherokee name: Ne-ah-yah)
Tribe: Cherokee, NGD (Non-Government Descendent)
Date: Mid 20th Century
Materials: Bronze on Wood base

This beautiful bronze statue, titled “Something to Believe In,” is 8 inches tall and 20 inches long and is mounted on a wooden base. It depicts a young Native American boy lying on his stomach with his head propped up in his hands, contemplating a small turtle. He is wearing fringed buckskin pants, moccasins, and three feathers in his hair. It was created by master sculptor Willard Stone. You can see other versions of this statue at museums such as the Willard Stone Museum in Locust Grove, OK. In fact, Willard Stone made 30 statues that looked just like this one. Why do you think he would have made so many similar sculptures?

Willard Stone stated of this piece: “We have got to get back to the good earth and basic things. Our kids have got to believe in nature and know that all of man’s needs come from God and natural things that surround us. This bronze represents the three basics: 1. the terrapin (turtle): Nature, 2. the Indian boy; our off-spring; and 3. the three feathers; the Great Spirit, or God.” Stone often dealt with themes expressing the wonder of nature in his art. What do you feel when you look at this piece?

Some insight into the meaning of this sculpture can be found in Willard Stone’s life and extraordinary artistic career. Stone was born Feb 29, 1916 near Muskogee, OK. He attended Bacone Indian College in 1936, studying under Acee Blue Eagle and Woody Crumbo, two of the most famous Native American artists of the 20th Century. Stone typically worked in wood and bronze and was inspired by the world around him which included his children as well as the beauty of nature. For many years, he could not support himself and his family solely through his art, but, by 1961 he had become nationally recognized and was able to devote all of his time to the work he so loved. Stone was of mixed heritage, and even though his affiliation with the Cherokee Nation was never recognized (he was a Non-Government Enrolled Descendant Cherokee American), he greatly identified with the beliefs of the Cherokee people. This was a huge inspiration for much of his sculpture.

Willard Stone died March 5, 1985, having created hundreds of sculptures that now reside in museums across the country. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1970.  His artistic drive lives on in his son Jason M. Stone, who has followed in his father’s footsteps to become an incredible sculptor in his own right.


[Stephanie Lynn Allen]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


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