Marlene Riding In Mameah, Skau-doo-dau-deh-wau-dah
Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, Pitahawirata, Bear Society
The Pitahawirata artist Marlene Riding In Mameah died in Pawnee, Oklahoma, on July 10 at the age of 85. She was preceded in death by her parents Frank and Ethel Riding In and husbands Charles “Hodg” Supernaw, and Clayton “Ace” Mameah. Her siblings were Cecil Riding In Sr., Frank Riding In Jr., Virginia “Virgie” HorseChief, Robert Riding In, Clarice Riding In, and Thomas Riding In. She is also survived by stepson Charles Supernaw and nieces Cheryl Brown, Marilyn Feathers, Dawna Hare, Dorna Battese, Delores Blacketer, Denise Riding In, Dayna Ashlock, and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren. She also helped raise Scottie Supernaw. Most of her nephews are serving as honorary pallbearers
Born on March 5, 1933, at the Riding In family farm, located south of Pawnee near the Cimarron River and Council Valley, Marlene was granddaughter of Lina Otter Wilson and Samuel Wilson. Her paternal grandparents were William and Virginia Riding In. She took great pride in being the great granddaughter of Lottice “Lottie” Walking Bear Fancy Eagle, one of the exiled Pawnees who walked from Nebraska to Oklahoma during the Pawnee Removal of the mid 1870s. Marlene attended Pawnee Indian School until her beloved sister Clarice died from the effects of spinal meningitis. Because of this tragedy, her parents took Marlene home to live and enrolled her in a nearby country school. She subsequently attended Chilocco Indian School, where she took up painting, and Bacone College where she further developed her skills.
Marlene pursed the arts in a career that spanned more than six decades and brought her recognition as a finger weaver, painter, and silversmith. At Bacone, she studied under noted Indian artists Dr. W. Richard “Dick” West, Sr., and Acee BlueEagle. Although she sought to learn silversmithing, Bacone policy at that time prohibited females from taking those courses. As a result, she focused on painting with successful results. She painted in the traditional style of flat artwork. At the age of sixteen, she received the first of her many awards, taking first place in the Philbrook Museum’s Annual Indian Plains Division Art Contest with a painting of a Skidi ceremony. Her most prized painting, however, captures the scene of a Pawnee Doctor Dance, as described to her by her father Frank. Her paintings also depicted male and female powwow dancers, some of which appear on the cover of the annual Pawnee Homecoming programs.
Ironically, while working at Supernaw’s Indian Store, she learned the craft of silversmithing, a pursuit that became the primary focal point of the artistic work for the remainder of her life. She took up the traditional and contemporary styles of Southern Plains metalwork, using German silver. Her creations continue to adorn the regalia of powwow dancers across the nation. Marlene and Ace enjoyed traveling from coast to coast in their red Ford Taurus to participate in art shows, powwows, and expositions.
In addition to her involvement in the arts, Marlene had a strong sense of civic responsibility. She served as the art editor of Talking Leaves, a magazine dedicated to all American Indians. She was an enthusiastic supporter and critic of Pawnee government. Manifesting an indomitable spirit of voluntary service to the Pawnee Nation and people, she served appointments on the Pawnee Nation’s Election Commission as well as its Culture, Enrollment, and Museum committees. She was also a founding member of Pani Arts, a group committed to the support of Pawnee creative endeavors and artists. A life-long learner, in 2005, she jumped at an opportunity to take a creative writing course in the inaugural class of the Pawnee Nation College.
In 2007, the Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival named her the Honored One, a prestigious award that honors master artists who have made significant contributions to American Indian arts. Her legacy as a Pawnee artist, aunt, grandmother, and great grandmother will live on with many of us.
Tata atsiks ta, Auntie.