Faces in the Crowd: Donald Montileaux
Donald Montileaux is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe - considered to be a modern-day storyteller with his award winning artwork and children's books. He hopes to help the Native American culture live on through his artwork and illustrations.
RAPID CITY, S.D. — Donald Montileaux was born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation but grew up in Rapid City. When he was 5 years old, he and his dad would draw Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck together; he’s been honing those skills ever since.
He started studying the craft more seriously in high school, then he attended multiple art schools before finishing his schooling at Black Hills State University, earning a teaching degree. He taught art for a few years, got married and spent the next 22 years working at the Rapid City Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. Since 2000, he’s been a full-time artist, working at home and his downtown studio.
He travels, setting up at art shows all throughout the year, to sell his work – one of his favorites is Native POP in Rapid City. He says he’s appreciative of the opportunities he’s had in this community and the support of fellow artists.
Montileaux says, “I’ve been really fortunate because Rapid City has really excepted me as their artist you know there are so many of us here in this area and this community and I’m one of them.”
One of his mentor’s, Herman Red Elk, taught him the practice of hide paintings, which is popular in Lakota culture.
“He taught me how to kill a buffalo, skin a buffalo and then actually tan the hide of a buffalo and then go out and get the bone brushes, get the paint, or boil down the berries to make the different colors and all that stuff and then you boil rabbit skin glue to adhere the color to the hide,” says Montileaux.
Donald considers himself a ledger artist but practices many mediums- his trademark horses don’t have hooves for a reason, based on a story his mentor told him, saying “The native people used to get up on a rise and they would look for an advantage point and they would run into battle and they always had a little bitty pouch on their horses chin and when they were going down that hill, they would pull that pouch in that horse’s mouth and it was different herbs and spices and it would go into that horse’s mouth and it would give that horse a burst of energy. And he said that he would just fly down that hill, and as soon as Herman said ‘fly down that hill’, my horses never loped or galloped again, my horses fly.”
Donald’s contemporary artwork has received many awards but more importantly to him, he wants each piece to come alive- tell a story and impact the viewer.
He enjoys sharing his love for art with his granddaughters. Montileaux’s children’s books are both in English and Lakota language.
He has received numerous awards including induction into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2014.