Robert Freeman: honoring the passing of a great man

Robert Freeman, painting.(Photo: Missy Magooshboy, California Indian Culture & Sovereignty Center)

Acclaimed Hunkpapa and Yanktonai Sioux and Luiseno artist Robert Freeman passed away on February 9, 2019

News Release

California Indian Culture & Sovereignty Center

Please join us in honoring and remembering our beloved relative, companion, teacher, and elder.

Robert Lee Freeman passed peacefully from this world Saturday, February 9, 2019 at Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center, La Jolla, California of complications after major surgery. Robert was a prominent and successful artist in both the Indigenous and larger international art community and won many awards and distinctions in his colorful and long life.

He is being carried in love and spirit by his treasured wife of 58 years, Edwina, his son Robert Jr, Robert Florentino, his daughter Tina; his beloved grandchildren: Austin, Ashley, Sam, Reese, Tony, Sarah, and two great grand-children Colton and Arianna.

"Last Sculpture" (Photo: Missy Magooshboy, California Indian Culture & Sovereignty Center)

Robert’s commemorations appear in the Who's Who in CA; Who's Who in SD; Who's Who in America; International Who's Who; Encyclopedia of the American Indian; Indian of North America; Contemporary Personages (Italy); Man of Achievement; and Print world Contemporary Prints and Prices.

His murals are on the walls of the Los Angeles County Library at San Gabriel, CA, and at the Perris Indian Museum, Perris, CA. In 1997 he created the life-size bronze sculpture Journey erected at Santa Fe Springs, CA. In 2006 he created "Coronne," the first historical life size bronze sculpture in the state of California honoring a Native American woman. "Coronne" stands in San Juan Capistrano. In 2008 Cal State University San Marcos installed Freeman's life-size bronze cougar "Tukwut" sculpture on the third floor administration building courtyard. The same year Robert Freeman created a 14 foot concrete abstract sculpture at the entrance of the university.

In 2002 he was commissioned to design the California Indian Commemorative Seal by the State of California, which lies at entrance to Capitol Rotunda in Sacramento in perpetuity.

Freeman has received letters of appreciation from Governors of California, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Mexico, and South Dakota. He knew and/or was visited by Robert Kennedy, Governor William Scranton, Russell Means, Sheldon Wolfchild, Tracy Nelson, Vincent Price, Gale Gordon, Mayor Anthony Villarogosa, Mayor Thomas Bradley, and Governor Jerry Brown.

Robert Freeman was born on the Rincon Indian Reservation in 1939. He is Hunkpapa and Yanktonai, Sioux of South Dakota and Luiseno of the Rincon Reservation of California. The first 10 years of his life included living in Rincon, Reservation, Vallejo, California (Bay area), and summers on the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation, South Dakota. At the age of 11 his mother settled in Escondido where he grew up and graduated from high school. He later taught art classes at Palomar College.

In 1967, Robert Freeman decided to become a professional artist. By the late 1970s he was on his way to a promising career with exhibitions throughout the United States including Alaska and Hawaii. By 1980s and 90s Freeman had won over 200 art awards and had become a well-seasoned International artist with exhibits in Mexico, Canada, Germany, Japan, Senegal West Africa, and the Vatican in Rome.

"A Moment In Time" (Image: Missy Magooshboy, California Indian Culture & Sovereignty Center)

Robert was called the father of Native American humor. He illustrated and wrote For Indians Only (1971), followed by War Whoops and All That Jazz (1974), and Rubber Arrows (1989). For Indians Only was the first Joke/Cartoon book written, illustrated and published by a Native American artist.

He also a published 3 additional books of art: Etchings, Drawings, and Surrealism. Many cartoonists today have been knowing or unknowingly influenced by Freeman.

"Acrobat etching" (Image: Missy Magooshboy, California Indian Culture & Sovereignty Center)

"Many Eyes" (Image: Missy Magooshboy, California Indian Culture & Sovereignty Center)

"Seashore" (Image: Missy Magooshboy, California Indian Culture & Sovereignty Center)

Russell Means was a close friend of Robert’s and said, “Robert is the most important Native American artist of our time.”

"Wings" (Image: Missy Magooshboy, California Indian Culture & Sovereignty Center)

Robert was such a wonderful, multi-faceted and talented human being. His humor, creativity, leadership, creativity, and talent will be greatly missed. And above all, his friendship and loving presence to his family will bring tears to our heart and eyes along with much laughter for the rest of our lives.

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