Published on April 1, 2014 by Amy
Paula Bidwell was born January 28th, 1953. She is of mixed Indian blood, Cherokee, Shawnee, Delaware and Seneca and Northern Italian from Barga Lucca. It was her Shawnee Grandpa, “Johnny Gibson” who named her into Deer Clan as “Welapama”(Bringer of Hope and Joy). Later, she lived on the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation in Eagle Butte, South Dakota where she found the home and people of her heart. It was during this time she was given another name “Kagnigapi Winyan” (Chosen Woman). An eternity of gratitude and love will always be felt for the people of Cheyenne River.
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At age 10 she beaded her first pair of moccasins and has continued to practice the art of beadwork. She is also skilled in many other traditional crafts and ways of life. Paula is a Traditional Powwow Dancer and Singer. She began to dance in the 1980’s and has won numerous prizes across the U.S. and Canada. In the ’90’s she began to sing with her family drum “Ho Ota Oka” and earned the status of “Wicaglata (Woman Singer) on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.
Today Paula lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has made a successful career being an American Indian artist and jeweler. She is also considered an Indigenous Healer and spent many years on the reservation learning. Paula states: “I combine both worlds into my art. I draw, paint and illustrate the visions, dreams and mystical experiences I’ve had. This work is so gratifying because it resonates with so many other people. I also believe strongly that we are all related and there is very little separation between us. When making jewelry or creating traditional crafts I use materials and symbols that have meaning and substance in a spiritual sense.”
Besides her creative life she loves to cook and considers this a “creative endeavor that fits nicely with my artist jeweler life. I’ve written two cook books. I wanted to share my recipes in a heart felt way, so they are both handmade and tied with leather lacing which I believe adds a more personal touch. One has traditional Native American recipes and the other has Santa Fe Southwestern recipes.”
She owns several on-line stores and offers art prints created from her personal dreams, visions and experiences. Her shops also offer Medicine bags made of leather, hand painted with permanent inks with symbols of dreams and visions, such as bear, hummingbird, raven, owl, deer, lizard, wolf, and turtle. There are also Native American Bone (Hair Pipe) Chokers, necklaces and earrings. And because of her love for cooking she has written two cookbooks – The Native American Cook Book and the Santa Fe Cook Book. In the works is another cookbook titles“Decadent Comfort Foods for Fierce Times”. This cook book is meant for those of us who come home and are frustrated, upset, tired, and crabby. The relief recipes are fast, easy and inexpensive. Most ingredients are already in your kitchen. This cook book is funny and light hearted filled with great recipes.
She learned her art from several sources. “When I was very young, my father who was an artist, recognized some sort of talent in me and on my tenth birthday presented me with a full set of oil paints, canvases, brushes and easel. He gently guided me with paints, pen and ink and charcoal. The jewelry came later. My uncle showed me how to solder silver. Then a brother showed me how to cut and stamp. The beaded jewelry started when I was a teenager and various relatives and friends showed me different techniques along the way.”