Marvin E. Oliver1946 -
In 1970, Marvin Oliver, a Native American artist of Quinault/ Soleta-Pueblo heritage, received his Bachelor of Arts from San Francisco State University. In 1973, he completed his Masters of Fine Arts at the University of Washington. Later, Oliver received a major fellowship grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The National Museum of Wildlife Art's handcrafted totem pole, Tetons, stands twenty-three feet tall and is permanently installed in the Museum's main hall. Amy and Ray Minella specially commissioned this totem for the museum when the building opened in 1994. In the upper right corner, the artist depicted the Tetons, the place where legends are born. To the right of the Tetons is the flying raven with the moon tucked under his wing. Swooping down from the mountains is the thunderbird carrying a "copper" in his beak. Copper represents the abundant natural resources of the Teton ecosystem. On each side of the copper are frog chiefs, adorned with ceremonial head ornamentation and both holding bundles of sage in their hands. Sage, a traditional plant used by Native Americans through the plains and plateau regions, is burnt to purify the local area with its smoke. The large grizzly bear in the center of the totem is the "Master of the Forest." Beneath the bear's head is Raven Boy, who carries a basket, which holds all his friends including the sun, the moon, and the stars. The gathering basket, "Seasons," is made up of woven symbolic patterns, each band representing an aspect of one of the seasons, including the first snow, the arrival of spring, early spring flowers, fireweed, trees, butterflies, and salmonberries. Adjacent to the basket sit a beaver and a little bear cub. The beaver, architect of the forest, emerges holding onto a willow branch. The bear cub carries and shares the Native American's values to further preserve and protect the land for future generations. Fireweed and Indian paintbrush, the Wyoming state flower, border the beaver and the bear, representing the forests and the meadows of the Teton region.