Artwork By Mike Lewis

The Great Plains Series

The Buffalo Will
Never Return
Taming the

Although I have lived in San Francisco for many years, I was born and raised in Nebraska, the descendant of homesteaders who lived in sod houses. I always felt a spiritual connection with the land there, and yet, I also felt disconnected from the culture and disturbed by the historical period known as "the taming of the plains." In 1991, just before the quinticentennial of Columbus' arrival in the Americas, I began a series of collages which examined the historical clash of Euro-American and Native American cultures. Or more precisely, I examined the mythology of that clash and the clash of those mythologies. I was specifically interested in the following themes:

Humanity's Place in Nature: Euro-Americans and Native Americans carried out two very different relationships with the land. "Does the land belong to us, or do we belong to the land?"

White American Guilt: Should we now regard the displacement and extermination of the Plains Indians and the buffalo they depended on as an act of genocide? If my ancestors participated in genocide and I have benefited from their acts, am I also guilty?

Geological Time and Extinction: The timeless geography of the great plains has endured many transformations and will endure many more, while the species and civilizations that dwell upon it have all perished in time. We too shall vanish.