The Arrival Celebration and The Round-Up Murals
Andrew Standing Soldier completed the expansive Blackfoot Main Post Office murals in 1939 at the age of twenty-two. Covering nearly every office wall, the murals depict scenes of the Shoshone-Bannock peoples and their lives in Idaho’s Eastern Snake River Plain.
Andrew Standing Soldier, a Sioux artist of the Oglala Lakota Nation, completed the Arrival Celebration and The Round-Up when he was twenty-two, installing the murals in Blackfoot, Idaho’s Main Post Office. Gilbert Stanley Underwood constructed the Blackfoot MPO in 1936 in the Art Deco style, seen specifically through details such as the foliage motif that decorates the building’s exterior columns. When researchers placed the building onto the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, it was the sole federally-constructed post office in Idaho built in the Art Deco style. The building continues to operate as a post office today.
Andrew Standing Soldier was born in 1917 on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation. He was taught to draw by his father, Martin Standing Soldier. During the 1930s, he studied art under the Swedish muralist Olle Nordmark, a Pine Ridge artist-in-residence who was known for his mural work in New York. Nordmark went on to supervise Standing Soldier during the creation of the MPO murals. With his individualistic, western-focused style and well-drawn horses, Standing Soldier painted the post office murals through a government commission after he submitted sketches of his ideas.
Standing Soldier painted the five-panel Arrival Celebration and Round-Up with a realistic and Regionalist style under the Treasury Section of Fine Arts (TSFA), as a part of a six-mural project in Idaho funded by New Deal-era projects. The works cover all of the post office’s walls excluding the front wall and contains scenes based on life sketches depicting the everyday life of the Shoshone-Bannock peoples who live on the Fort Hall, Idaho, reservation. Their ancestral lands make up present day Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, and parts of Canada.
The Arrival Celebration and The Round-Up depict the western life of the Shoshone-Bannock peoples as they go about their day. In the background, he painted the distinct scenery of the vast Eastern Snake River Plain and the feeding ground that it provided for cattle. Along the mural’s wide expanse, the artist included scenes such as families travelling with horse-drawn wagons, people conversing on horseback, preparing covered wagons, cutting wood, and making meals with cattle roaming in the background. Standing Soldier also filled the scene with depictions of the traditional tipi dwellings of the tribes. The Round-Up portion of the mural shows a group of people as they work to rope and brand cattle.
His murals reflect the aims of the Treasury Section of Fine Arts in employing artists as well as establishing a western identity in art that everyday people could see for free in their day-to-day lives as they ran errands at the post office. Indeed, most New Deal-funded murals did not portray the Great Depression’s troubles, but rather displayed regional scenes of optimistic imagery and scenes of conviviality like the group cooking scene portrayed in Standing Soldier’s work.