First-year law student Dallin Maybee, recently won Best of Show in the 86th Annual Santa Fe Indian Market, one of the most prestigious Indian art shows in the country, for two children’s books that he wrote, illustrated, and covered in beading.
Law student wins Best of Show at Santa Fe Indian Market
Dallin Maybee, a first-year law student at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, recently won Best of Show in the 86th Annual Santa Fe Indian Market, one of the most prestigious Indian art shows in the country, for two children’s books that he wrote, illustrated, and covered in beading.Maybee, 33, was raised on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in Western New York. His father is Seneca, his mother Northern Arapaho, and he is descended from a long line of well-known bead workers and doll makers, including his uncle, Bob Spoonhunter.But Maybee first became famous as a traditional dancer, starting at 13 and joining a traveling group that performed throughout region. He has since performed across the United States and in China, Mongolia, Europe, the Middle East, Ecuador and Chile.Eventually, Maybee became part of the American Indian Dance Theater, performed at Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, helped choreograph and performed in the 2002 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies, and performed in one of the first Native operas last year in Omaha, Nebraska.He began doing beadwork to make his own regalia for dances. One year, he went to the Santa Fe Indian Market and was “blown away” by the caliber of the beadwork and other arts, and began entering beaded bags and moccasins.
As an undergraduate, Maybee took a class in the philosophy of childhood and began to develop a children’s story that became the basis for his books. The artwork was inspired by ledger art.
“During the Indian wars, when the warriors would be held prisoner at some of the forts, they would recount their experiences in battle and hunt on the used ledger paper provided by the store traders,” Maybee said. “That type of art became known as ledger art even though the pictographic history of drawing and recounting stories on buffalo hides and tipis and such had been around for a long time. I was a big fan of ledger art. I found some antique ledger paper from 1863 and used it for the illustrations in my book.”
One book is about a young boy and his father. It has rawhide covers with acrylic painting and beadwork. The second is about a young girl and her mother. Through Nov. 20, the book covers, an explanation of their meaning and Maybee’s show ribbons are on display in the foyer of the Ross-Blakley Law Library at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. The stories are being held behind the library’s front counter; to read them, just ask one of the librarians.Maybee was stunned when he found he had won Best in Show.
“It was an incredibly humbling experience to win Best of Show,” Maybee said. “To be considered for the award, in the midst of so many fantastic artists, artists I admire and have looked up to for so many years was an emotional experience.
“In submitting the pieces, you never know if anyone is going to understand your work, and in my case, actually open the books and take the time to read what’s inside. For me, I think the stories are the best part of the pieces.”
Maybee, who worked at a law firm the summer before entering law school, is discussing a publishing deal to produce the books commercially.Maybee earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and has begun work on a master’s in fine arts from the University of California at Los Angeles. He decided to go to law school after working as a tribal police office.
“When we had to prosecute our own cases, I began to think about the implications of the legal system upon Indian peoples, and the desire to understand the scope of that impact changed things for me,” Maybee said. “I really enjoyed my job, but I knew I wanted to have bigger impact on the overall evolution and progress of Indian Tribes. I did some Indian law coursework at UCLA during my master’s, including coursework on Federal Indian Law and practical applications in the legal development program there, where I was able to do some really exciting things like helping a tribe draft civil procedural code. Yes, plowing through California Civil Procedure is great stuff when I had not yet had a civil procedure class…”
Maybee said he wants to work in a larger firm that does litigation in Indian Country. “I worked for a securities litigation firm last summer, but my hope is to eventually get into finance and economic development, but not simply gaming.”