Nathaniel Ruleaux is an award-winning artist and culture worker currently located on the unceded land of the Umónhon & Očhéthi Šakówiŋ in Nebraska. A partner, father, and member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, his work combines modern art with traditional Indigenous imagery. He is a founding member of Unceded Artist Collective and sits on the board for the Omaha Area Youth Orchestras. In addition to creating visual art, he is a classically trained actor and educator. He received his MFA in Theatre from the University of Houston’s School of Theatre and Dance after receiving a BA in Theatre Performance at the Johnny Carson School of Theatre & Film at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
I’m a storyteller. In the traditions of my people, the Oglala Lakota, storytelling is not only part of life, but how we’ve survived. I’ve spent my life telling stories as a visual artist, actor, writer, activist, and educator. As a visual artist, my portfolio is filled with acrylic and watercolor paintings, original stencil creations, ceramics, sculptures, and a wide range of drawings and handmade prints. As I’ve grown as an artist – regardless of medium or platform – my work has become more focused on political action, family, and heritage. The stories I tell through visual art span a range of indigenous peoples’ narratives, especially how they continue today. They also are the stories of my family and heritage: from the plains, to the reservation, through Indian boarding school, up to the modern world & and protesting in the street today. By combining traditional and modern elements, I can speak out about the genocide and atrocities committed against Native Americans in the past as well as the current abuses and challenges faced today. I want to cement our place in the modern world, while still honoring our heritage and culture. I’m often influenced by the work of my late grandfather, Donald D. Ruleaux, an Oglala artist and educator. My work often includes images of bison, as did my grandfather’s. My bison is a symbol of the Lakota spirit, the power of our endangered natural world, and a righteous, powerful force for decolonization. When I lived outside Nebraska, I felt increasingly further away from my heritage and home. To the people I studied with and worked with in Houston, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C., Native Americans were Indians, and Indians didn’t exist anymore. That is why it’s important to me to use art to promote Indigenous issues while raising awareness about one of our nation’s most abused and most resilient people. I want to tell these stories for my people, my family, and our futures.