Velino Shije Herrera (Ma-Pe-Wi), American (Zia Pueblo), 1902–1973

Deer Hunters

  • About 1930
  • Watercolor
  • 14 3/4 in. × 19 3/4 in.

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College: Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller; W.935.1.78

visibilityLook & Discuss

In addition to farming, Pueblo men hunted antelope, deer, and rabbits. This painting by Zia Pueblo artist Velino Shije (Vah-LEE-no She-Hay) Herrera shows the cooperation required for hunting large game.

explore the object

Herrera created this image using pen and ink, filling in the shapes with an opaque watercolor, called gouache. His style is delicate but the image is full of dynamic energy. Three hunters pursue a deer on horseback. They have surrounded their quarry and pierced its rear flank with an arrow. The hunter in the foreground raises his arrow to shoot the creature again while his companions look on. The hunters are dressed in fringed buckskin leggings, moccasins, and vests, all made with the hides of previous hunts. They have placed saddle cloths and wooden saddles on their mounts and control them with hide bridles. They each carry a bow and a quiver of arrows. To ensure the success of the hunt, they have engaged in a ceremony during which their faces were painted along with a red X on their upper arms.

The lack of any landscape or background concentrates our attention on the energy and urgency of the hunt.

meet the artist

Velino Shije Herrera, or Ma-Pe-Wi, was born in Zia Pueblo, New Mexico. He attended the Santa Fe Indian School, one of many schools run by the American government to discourage cultural practice, language, and identity, and to encourage native people to adopt mainstream white culture. Despite a rule by the Indian Affairs Council prohibiting art training, Elizabeth De Huff, the wife of the superintendent of the school, invited Herrera and several other students to paint in her living room. The Museum of New Mexico exhibited the work of these students, who received critical acclaim and opportunities to exhibit and sell their work. Their work paved the way for future Pueblo painters. Herrera went on to paint murals in the Main Interior Building of the US Department of the Interior in Washington, DC, and to become a successful book illustrator.

Southwest: Food