Hello, my name is Myron Shield Jr. I am half Oglala Lakota and half Crow. I grew up in Benteen flats on the Crow Agency reservation in Montana. I am the middle son of 3 boys. Growing up my mom taught us how to sew and bead. I remember as a child seeing my kaala (grandma in Crow) dressed traditional. She wore a Crow style dress and she wore an old style traditional leather belt. On her belt was a coin purse, where she always had a piece of candy or money to give me. These memories inspired me to bring this piece of historical culture back to life, in modern day.
My Kaalas belt was tooled and I grew up around rodeos and always admired horse tack. I liked looking at things made out of leather. I liked the smell of leather. I enjoyed looking at the different types of tooling but my favorite is the Sheridan style. I like how it has circular patterns and florals. I wanted to see if I could do something like it. I am a 5 time state champion runner. My dad Myron Shield Sr. trained me every day in distance running. I grew up knowing that I can and will do anything that I put my mind to. Life will always have obstacles and trials. In my mind you have to overcome them. I bought a starter kit, some cheap leather and a book and started learning how the tools worked. I would look at my saddles and see how the patterns intertwined. I was hooked, I wanted to learn and be the best at it. As time went by I learned about the different qualities of leather and how to improve my work. This type of art is not cheap, sometimes I had to save up for a new tool or better quality of leather, or had to improvise for time being.
I worked a Monday thru Friday 8 to 5 job. I would come home in the evenings and tool or play with leather. I would take breaks to eat dinner and play with my kids before bedtime. I would be in my garage most of the evening time. Often times I wouldn’t go to bed until after midnight. I was so fascinated by it all. I would show my work in progress and people started asking questions about my abilities to make certain pieces. I started getting orders for belts, then it grew to other things. I was making knife sheaths, wallets, purses, and shotgun butt stock covers. I still have school age kids at home. My wife and I worked out of town so our kids had to attend daycare before and after school. They were usually the first to arrive and last to be picked up. I felt we were missing out on so much and our children were resenting having to spend so much time away from us. I also enjoy coaching my children, getting home so late prevented me from being involved. This was the point when I made the decision to take a leap of faith and pursue my tooling full time.
I never thought of myself as an artist. I didn’t think what I made was art. It was just something I enjoyed. It was my therapy. I didn’t imagine I would be doing this as my sole job for so long. I figured the interest of customers would fizzle out, but it has only grown. I am amazed at the comments I get on how beautiful my art is. I have finally accepted that I am an artist and have come to see the beauty my customers see. I always try to challenge myself and improve my work. As my wife would say “break the mold on this one”. What I do is one of a kind. Nowhere in the world will you find a tooled leather bag with authentic native beadwork together.
I am a praying man and have strong faith in my creator. In my Oglala Lakota language we call him Tankasula. I talk to him daily. I have prayed for new doors of opportunity to open. I felt like I was ready for the next level. I didn’t know what it might be, I just had faith that something great was coming down the pike.
I am excited to be partnering with Arise and have these new opportunities to work with veterans. The sky is the limit and helping improve quality of life is always important.