OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA --She's not just another visitor who wandered into the Red Earth Museum n Oklahoma City.
Yvonne Kauger, aside from being a justice on the Oklahoma Supreme Court, is a longtime collector of Native American art.
She knows, personally, a lot of the artists who created these works.
She's even purchased a few.
Pointing to a framed picture on the wall, she says, "This was on my daughter's wedding invitation. They were lithographs."
It doesn't seem like that long ago these artists, many from Oklahoma, struggled to find a place to exhibit and sell their work.
Back then Yvonne kept thinking they could use a showcase of their own.
"People come from all over the world and they want to see Indian Art," she said. "and there was no place for them to go and see it."
So Justice Kauger and a few other state leaders in the mid-1980's organized a gathering of artists and performers.
Over lunch at the Petroleum Club they came up with a pretty good name.
"I'd just learned to say Tsa La Gi (a Cherokee phrase) and I said, 'please. can we name this something we can all say."
In 1987 Red Earth was born.
Yvonne and the first organizers weren't sure if anyone would show up, but they did.
She recalls, "We met and Main and Broadway and looked down at the goosebumps on our arms because we couldn't believe all the tribes that had come in full regalia."
Those first parades had a lot of pickups in them, but young dancers like Carlos Mendoville, who was 5 when we caught up with him in 1992, got to show off their regalia.
A Cree drum group called Haystack used to come all the way from Montana to compete and perform.
"The parade has evolved into something spectacular," says Kauger. "and the pickups are a lot nicer now than they used to be."
Over the years we've profiled other Red Earth Ambassadors, talented artists who bring hundreds of cultures together under one roof.
They call Yvonne the Mother of Red Earth now, even though she's not Native American herself.
The ideas behind the festival's origins are still fresh as ever.
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