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Richard Ray Whitman
Richard ray whitman.jpg
Richard Ray Whitman, 2010
Born T'so-ya-ha
(1949-05-14)May 14, 1949
Claremore, Oklahoma, USA
Nationality Yuchi-Muscogee (Creek) Nation
Education Institute of American Indian Arts, California Institute for the Arts, Oklahoma School of Photography
Known for Photography, mixed-media, film, painting
Notable work Street Chiefs

Richard Ray Whitman (born 1949) is a Yuchi-Muscogee Creek multidisciplinary visual artist, poet, and actor. He is enrolled in the Muscogee Creek Nation and lives in Oklahoma.[1][2]


Richard Ray Whitman was born in Claremore, Oklahoma on 14 May 1949.[3] His maternal grandmother was Polly Long.[1] Like many Yuchis, Whitman is enrolled in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and his Yuchi name is T'so-ya-ha.[4] He grew up in Gypsy, Oklahoma and attended Bristow High School. For college, he attended the Institute of American Indian Arts and the California Institute of the Arts. Whitman also studied at the Oklahoma School of Photography in Oklahoma City.[1]

Whitman began his art career as a painter but also expanded to photography, installation, and video art.[4] In 1973, he participated in the People’s Struggle at Wounded Knee[3] and created art during the struggle.[1]


Whitman is known for his black-and-white photography portraying contemporary Native realities, especially his "Street Chiefs Series" from the 1970s and 1980s. "Street Chiefs" features images of homeless Native men, primarily in downtown Oklahoma City. "The contemporary Indian in the isolation of the city canyons and rural reservations is avoided. The boredom, pain, frustration, poverty of the reality-counterbalance of our lives is harsh, unattractive, and unmarketable."[2] His photographic portraits are compassionate and empathetic to the lives of homeless natives and places them in the larger context of Indian Removal, which forced tribes from all over the country to Indian Territory.[4]

From the 1980s onward, Whitman has incorporated text and computer graphics in his photography to create collage or mixed media. His socio-politically informed work often deals with the issues of homeland and dispossession.[4]

Videography and acting career[edit]

Collaborating with Yuchi poet and brother Joe Dale Tate Nevaquaya, Whitman created video to document the Yuchi language. Together they worked with French filmmaker Pierre Lobstein in the 1990s. Whitman read T.C. Cannon's poetry in the video "Mazerunner: The Life and Art of T.C. Cannon" which was directed and edited by Phillip Albert. This work was subsequently screened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (3/19/1994) and was presented on the Bravo Cable Channel and the Independent Film Channel from May, 1995 through June, 1996.


  • "Barking Water" (2009). Played Frankie.[5]
  • "The Only Good Indian" (2009). Played father of stolen child[5]
  • "Missionary Man" (2007). Played Chief Dan[5]
  • "Four Sheets to the Wind" (2007). Directed by Sterlin Harjo, Whitman played Frankie Smallhill
  • "Rune" (2006). Played Tecpatel[5]
  • "American Indian Graffiti: This Thing Life" (2003). Played Barry[5]
  • "Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee" (1994). Played Carter Camp.[5]
  • "The Grand Circle" (1994). Co-produced with Joe Dale Tate Nevaquaya and Pierre Lobstein
  • "Mazerunner: The Life and Art of T.C. Cannon" (1993). Directed and edited by Phillip Albert; T.C. Cannon poetry read by Richard Ray Whitman.
  • "Humanity's Voice" (1992). Co-produced with Joe Dale Tate Nevaquaya and Pierre Lobstein
  • "Carriers of the Light" (1990). Co-produced with Joe Dale Tate Nevaquaya and Pierre Lobstein
  • "War Party" (1988). Played Harold, directed by Franc Roddam[5]


  • We're invisible, dangerously invisible, until they want us to sing and dance and be tourist attractions.[4]
  • ...I am asked many times..., "do I consider myself a traditional Indian or a contemporary Indian?" Well, I consider myself both at the same moment. Our traditions and our experiences in contemporary life are here at the present time. Our ancestors left us a way which has been brought right up to this moment, to this very moment that I speak to you. So, from the time we are born we are political. Because we have been colonized, the nature of our experience is political, but it doesn't lessen our experience, though.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Lester, 619
  2. ^ a b Lippard, 216
  3. ^ a b Vigil, Jennifer C. "Richard Ray Whitman." Museum of Contemporary Native Arts: Vision Project." (retrieved 10 May 2011)
  4. ^ a b c d e f Abbott, Larry. Richard Ray Whitman, Yuchi. A Time of Visions. (retrieved 25 August 2009)
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Richard Ray Whitman. The Internet Movie Database. (retrieved 25 August 2009)


  • Lester, Patrick D. The Biographical Directory of Native American Painters. Norman: Oklahoma University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8061-9936-9.
  • Lippard, Lucy. Mixed Blessings: New Art in a Multicultural America. New York: The New Press, 2000. ISBN 1-56584-573-0.

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Ray_Whitman — Please support Wikipedia.
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67 news items

Norman Transcript

Norman Transcript
Thu, 28 Apr 2016 19:21:18 -0700

Retired school teacher Mary Francis (right) of Norman hugs Richard Ray Whitman as they wait to speak at the Keystone Pipeline hearing. Francis is environmental activist who spends much of her time in retirement speaking up for the causes she holds dear.

Indian Country Today Media Network

Indian Country Today Media Network
Tue, 16 Dec 2014 18:07:01 -0800

If you need a Native actor, if you are desperate for authenticity or 'gravitas', if you are an “indie film project” which translates as “low budget”, if you need an Indian who's been there, wherever it is you are in Indian country, then you can't go ...

Indian Country Today Media Network

Indian Country Today Media Network
Tue, 11 Aug 2015 13:22:28 -0700

Part of Harjo's inspiration for Mekko was a classic photo series from the 1970s and 1980s, “Street Chiefs,” by Richard Ray Whitman, who starred in Barking Water. Whitman's series featured brutally honest, yet sadly beautiful, portraits of homeless ...

The Journal

The Journal
Thu, 12 Nov 2015 01:00:00 -0800

Aguilar and other Native American photographers of his generation such as Zig Jackson, Shelley Niro, Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie, Jesse Cooday, and Richard Ray Whitman are committed to using the camera in the service of self-representation, making pictures ...

SDPB Radio

SDPB Radio
Thu, 07 May 2015 13:03:45 -0700

Simpson and the cast and crew are in Rapid City for a private pre-release screening during the Black Hills Film Festival. Simpson discussed the film Dakota Midday along with actors Christopher Sweeney, who plays Kent Nerburn, and Richard Ray Whitman, ...

Indian Country Today Media Network

Indian Country Today Media Network
Wed, 12 Nov 2014 10:56:15 -0800

Drunktown's Finest, directed by Sydney Freeland, won Best Film, with cast members Morningstar Angeline and Richard Ray Whitman picking up awards for Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor. Jeff Barnaby was hailed as Best Director for ...

Indian Country Today Media Network

Indian Country Today Media Network
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 09:41:42 -0800

Micah Wesley is an artist whose career trajectory I have watched. He is a contemporary Kiowa/Muscogee Creek artist and I see his work as following a tradition of artists/writers like T.C Cannon, Joy Harjo, N. Scott Momaday, Richard Ray Whitman and ...

Indian Country Today Media Network

Indian Country Today Media Network
Thu, 05 Feb 2015 13:22:30 -0800

In January, I and several other writers embarked on an adventure in Santa Fe. That adventure was the IAIA low residency MFA creative writing program whereas we writers became students for seven straight days, immersed in workshops, craft lectures and ...

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