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Brummett Echohawk

“My name is Kit-to-wah-keets So-to-wah-kah-ah. In Pawnee that means Echo Hawk. This is a full blood Indian name. My grandfather won this name in the field of battle. . . . The hawk does not sing. It is symbolic in the Kitkahahki band of Pawnees as a warrior. A warrior who does not sing. So Grandpa Echo Hawk won this name and the name hawk and echo were put together like this: Because he was a man who did not sing of his praises, like the hawk did not sing, but people echoed everything he did, so thus Echo Hawk, a warrior whose deeds are echoed. That is my name. . . . Grandpa Echo Hawk won that, and we in the family attempt to live up to it. A warrior whose deeds are echoed.”1 —Brummett Echohawk

Artist, writer, humorist, and veteran Brummett Echohawk (1922–2006) was shaped by his Pawnee heritage, culture, and ancestors. His artistic career began while he was serving in World War II, in the 45th Infantry Division (known as the Thunderbirds). His battlefield sketches were initially confiscated by the army; some were returned after the war and shown in London’s Imperial War Museum in the exhibition Faces of War (1969).2 Known for his heroism, service, and dedication, Echohawk was awarded three Purple Hearts, three Bronze Stars, and a Congressional Gold Medal.

Before he began his formal fine arts training at the Art Institute of Chicago, Echohawk was largely self-taught. His Pawnee heritage was always a source of deep inspiration, affecting the subjects he chose to paint and the themes and narratives he chose to engage with, and Echohawk’s body of work captures the humor, reality, and humanity of Indigenous art. Representation, identity, and first-person narration remained key during the artist’s expansive career in the post–World War II art market. His work challenged and upended the preconceptions of race-based binaries within the art world and society, which sought to narrowly define the canon of Indigenous art. As Kristin Youngbull said:

“Brummett Echohawk’s dedication to authenticity came from his desire to make an accurate record. Although he recognized the work of historians, anthropologists, ethnographers, and even other artists, he felt the need to offer ‘truthful’ portrayals of past and present.”3

Gilcrease Museum houses several of Echohawk’s drawings and impressionistic landscapes; in addition, between 1977 and 1982, the artist served on the museum’s board. Echohawk’s paintings have been exhibited around the world, including at Gilcrease.

—Jordan Poorman Cocker, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Indigenous Painting Collection Research, 2021

This text was developed from an interview with author and attorney Walter Echohawk, nephew of Brummett Echohawk, by Jordan Poorman Cocker, June 21, 2021


1 Youngbull, “Brummett Echohawk: Chaticks-si-chaticks,” 67.
2 Youngbull, “Brummett Echohawk: Chaticks-si-chaticks,” 225.
3 Youngbull, “Brummett Echohawk: Chaticks-si-chaticks,” 264.