Francine Tohannie (Te-Moak Shoshone) wins USDA native art competition |

Francine Tohannie (Te-Moak Shoshone) wins USDA native art competition

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Special to First Nation’s Focus
From left, Patti Novak-Echenique, NRCS Nevada American Indian/Alaska Native Special Emphasis Program Manager and Nevada State Rangeland Management Specialist; Francine Tohannie, winning artist; and Ray Dotson, Nevada NRCS State Conservationist display the winning artwork.
Courtesy photo

FALLON, Nev. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) chose Nevada to develop this year’s American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month poster, which includes holding a contest for the artwork.

Of 13 submissions from across the state from a variety of Tribal members, Francine Tohannie’s stunning artwork, titled “Burden Basket,” recently won the top honor and a $2,000 award.

NRCS holds the contest annually, and different states have participated, but this is Nevada’s first time to hold the contest and represent the annual poster, which is distributed to NRCS offices nationwide.

American Indian artists from Nevada Tribes were invited to create an original painting that reflects the artist’s interpretation of American Indian culture and heritage with the title: “Mountain Islands and Sagebrush Seas,” and the theme: “Creating resilient landscapes through an understanding of heritage, culture and conservation.”

“I wanted to illustrate the beauty of Nevada mountains, sagebrush, sky and the Indian paintbrush plant by mixing vibrant hues. My painting ties into the title and theme with a traditional ‘Burden Basket,’ made and used by the Washoe, Paiute and Shoshone people,” said Tohannie, a member of the Te-Moak Shoshone from Fallon. “The painting shows the resilience of the land and what it has offered to our ancestors, that we still use and teach today. From sagebrush bark, they made clothing and shoes, houses, rope. From the willow, they made intricate baskets and utensils.”

Tohannie’s work emphasizes conservation, symbolized by the new sprouting sagebrush in the foreground of the artwork. Preservation of the landscapes and native plants are important as well. With the empty Burden Basket, she shares a call to action for all of us: “pick it up and get to work, it needs to be filled.”

“Choosing a winner was very difficult for all of us,” said Patti Novak-Echenique, NRCS Nevada’sAmerican Indian/Alaska Native Special Emphasis Program Manager and State Rangeland Management Specialist. “Each piece of artwork submitted was beautiful, original, thoughtful and inspiring, but in the end, Francine’s message through her artwork really spoke to us.

“It really embodies what our title and theme were about.”

Poster contest background

The USDA NRCS annually recognizes and celebrates the many different cultures in the United States, including American Indians. November is designated as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.

One of the ways NRCS nationally celebrates American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month is by distributing a poster created by an American Indian artist.

Each year, an artist in a selected state has the opportunity to exhibit his/her talents and heritage on a national level, and Nevada was chosen as that state for 2018. Tohannie’s artwork will be featured on this year’s poster that will be available in November through NRCS offices nationwide.

The poster contest, which began in 1991, showcases Native American talent in one state each year. To date, 21 states have been featured. O

Visit to learn more about the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as its Office of Tribal Relations.

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