“A giveaway is an honor, a way to give back,” retired Wyoming Indian cross country coach Chico Her Many Horses said. “We wanted to give back, and we were guided by many people to Jared SunRhodes.”
Chico and his wife Julie began teaching at Wyoming Indian High School in 1990.
The couple worked together on the cross country and track teams for the last 30 years, and their son Caleb, a three-time state champion in cross country, with many more track titles, took the helm a few seasons ago.
They commissioned SunRhodes to create a mural honoring the teams, the individual runners, the school, the community and the Northern Arapaho people.
“We have so many artists from our school, we wanted to use them as part of giving back,” Julie said. “When our boys were involved, it gave us two college educations due to cross country.”
The giving back came with SunRhodes’ artistic talent in creating a mural on the west side of the track equipment storage shed at the north end of the Intertribal Complex on the Wyoming Indian High School campus.
SunRhodes memorialized the many individual state champions but focused on the team titles as well.
“As native people, we honor the tribe, more than the individual,” Chico said.
As he introduced SunRhodes, a former history student of his, Chico said. “I knew he was an artist. He did a history report in calligraphy. It took me three hours to figure it out.”
Chico handed the microphone to SunRhodes as the Chiefs and Lady Chiefs removed the blue tarps covering the mural.
“This drawing is about an eagle song,” SunRhodes said. “The song means the thunderbird is coming. He is bringing the thunder and lightning. It is a blessing. Chico, you brought blessings to us.”
SunRhodes went on to describe the symbolism in his creation.
“The teepees mean Chiefs Nation,” he said. “The school is on both sides, with the students and teachers and the door always open. The yellow is the morning sun, and the red is the end of the day.”
If you look at the top of the mural, you’ll see the eyes and beak of the Thunderbird peaking over the images below in blue.
The mountains and valleys in red, with blue peaks and white centers, are the four communities of life for the Arapaho people.
The runner to the left is for the boy’s cross-country team and the one on the right for the Lady Chiefs. The line coming off their feet traces their feet to the spinning image of the whirlwind, indicating the swiftness of the hundreds of young men and women who ran for the Chiefs.
Chico acknowledged the work of earlier cross country coaches Tom Rogers and Fred Groenke and praised all the runners he coached over the years.
“I’d like to thank every one of you for having a part in teaching our children,” Chico said as he pointed to the school.
The mural will be prominent as 44 teams, and over 800 athletes converge on Ethete Friday afternoon before the state championship meet on Saturday.