The mural, which is entitled “The Arrival Celebration,” was commissioned by the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1939. The program, which started in 1935, was called the Federal Arts Project. It provided work during the Great Depression for about 5,000 artists nationwide and produced more than 225,000 works of art.
The post office artwork in Blackfoot depicts Native Americans gathering together, participating in a horse race, cooking from a chuckwagon, and branding cattle. There are teepees in the mural, but the scenes depict most of the men engaging in activities much more associated with European settlers in the area. Most of the horses are saddled or hitched in a team to a wagon. There are only a couple of women in the photos I have. A couple of dogs are loafing around.
Most of the men wear long sleeve shirts and denim jeans. With their identical flat-brimmed, round-crown hats, they almost look like they’re in uniform. They all sport twin braided pigtails.
The background of the murals looks like a scene from the 19th Century in the Blackfoot area, a buff-colored desert with sagebrush and rabbit brush scattered about.
The artist was Andrew Standing Soldier, a young Sioux Indian from Pine Ridge, South Dakota. He studied under Olaf Nordmark, who was an artist-in-residence at Pine Ridge under the aforementioned federal program. Standing Soldier won a major prize for his art at the 1939 World’s Fair in San Francisco. He was the illustrator of several primers developed for Native American children by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Several collectors sought his art, including the owners of Wall Drug at Wall, South Dakota. His paintings come up on auction sites from time to time, selling from $350 to $900.
Standing Soldier lived at the Crazy Horse Memorial site in South Dakota for the first couple of years that work was done on that massive sculpture. The museum there features a collection of his work.
If you’re curious, type Andrew Standing Soldier into your browser to see much more of his work.