Start A Petition

Designer Is Drawn to His Native Roots

Society & Culture  (tags: Indians, Native Americans, Osages, Fashion, Clothing, celebrity, culture, society, fashion, freedoms, goodnews, humans, interesting, news )

- 3451 days ago -
PAWHUSKA, Okla. -- Ryan Red Corn believes that if you build an economic infrastructure in the place you live, a community will emerge. Even though his graphic design talent could let him work anywhere, he chose to move back to his reservation and...

Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.


kat yazzie (400)
Saturday December 6, 2008, 8:29 am


kat yazzie (400)
Saturday December 6, 2008, 8:30 am

PAWHUSKA, Okla. — Ryan Red Corn believes that if you build an economic infrastructure in the place you live, a community will emerge.

Even though his graphic design talent could let him work anywhere, he chose to move back to his reservation and open his own graphic design firm. After everyone doubted him, Red Corn's Red Hand Media is now one of the top Native graphic design firms in Indian Country.

"They said it couldn't be done," Red Corn said of opening his business in Pawhuska, a town of approximately 3,400. "Our language department's here, all the Osages are here or around here, why not Pawhuska?"

Pawhuska is probably one of the least likely places someone would find a store like Red Corn's. A delicate balance of cowboys and Indians, Pawhuska boasts a tall-grass prairie, a buffalo reserve, a yearly cowboy cavalcade, but more importantly to Red Corn, the Osage Nation headquarters.

Red Corn, a 29-year-old Osage tribal member, has built his businesses on graphic design work for entities such as the Native American Rights Fund, National Congress of the American Indian, UNITY and the National Museum of the American Indian. Aside from doing artwork for Native organizations and non-profits, Red Corn takes pride in serving tribes, nations and their language-preservation programs.

"Each project I take on I want it to be a portfolio piece," Red Corn said. "With each project, I take to it the same intensity and want the next one to be better than the last."

The new look of Native advertising

Red Hand Media took off when it landed a contract in 2006 with the Native American Rights Fund. The contract was to rebrand the 38-year-old non-profit Native law firm to help it re-emerge into Indian Country's consciousness. The firm's slogan, "Modern Day Warriors," was coined by Native journalist Jodi Rave in the 1980's when she worked for NARF.

Crystal Echohawk, NARF's assistant director of development, said the firm asked Red Corn to work with that. The firm was looking for a fresh and sophisticated feel.

"My favorite always will be his Sitting Bull," Echohawk said. "It was the first one he came out with and it's Sitting Bull in a suit; and that design to this day, when I'm working with Ryan and he asks me what I think and I say, ‘I'm sorry, Ryan, but this one will always be my favorite.'"

NARF budgeted approximately $24,000 for the campaign and raised more than $104,000 with the help of Red Corn's design.

"We just got such a tremendous national response," Echohawk said. "We got calls from Hollywood asking if they could run the ad and they even said, ‘We'll run it for free.'"

Red Corn's designs are a modern take on Native culture and often have a youthful but sophisticated look that is cross-generational, Echohawk said. Red Corn has worked with NARF ever since the ad campaign that he did for the organization received critical acclaim. He has created similar campaigns using Geronimo, Chief Joseph and current NARF president, John Echohawk. The next one features a Native woman.

"His unique gift is through his design—he's just an incredible talent in terms of recognizing the type of messaging that resonates in Indian Country," said Crystal Echohawk. She said his designs "get to the root of Native identity in a very fresh and contemporary way. It's gotten to such a nice point, he understands our work. It's not a lot of push and pull with him. He's really helped us find our stride and make us look more professional."

Red Corn said things stepped up considerably after the NARF work. Once the Sitting Bull ad broke, he was inundated with referrals. "It exploded into a lot more work for me," he said.

There is competition in Indian Country for graphic design contracts, but most of the competition is from non-Indian companies or from companies that aren't ready for a national playing field, he said. What Red Corn brings to the table is a Native perspective to designs that translate to Natives and non-Natives.

"I would encourage young Natives to get into graphic design because there is so much work going to non-Natives," he said. Since there is such a high demand, he doesn't think Red Hand Media will be going out of business anytime soon. "The demand is too high," he said.

Buffalo Nickel Press

Red Corn owns three businesses: Red Hand Media; Buffalo Nickel Press, a business that prints and distributes custom shirts; as well as, his politically satirical line of T-shirts. He also distributes Red Corn Native Foods, a line of pre-packaged Native foods.

"First thing we try to accomplish is staying in business," he says with a laugh. But funny business aside, Red Hand Media doubled its business in the last year, while Buffalo Nickel Press tripled.

In 2007 Red Hand Media made approximately $60,000 and is projected to make $120,000 in 2008; Buffalo Nickel Press made approximately $97,000 in 2007 and is projected to make $230,000 in 2008, Red Corn said.

Upon entering Buffalo Nickel Press, patrons see an explosion of color from his Demockratees line, which can either be taken as offensive or genius. On the walls of his store are spray-painted murals of Osages, Osage dancers and Osage chiefs.

"I'm not forcing my opinions on anyone ... only if they come to my store and see the front of it," he said, laughing. The front of his store is covered with freedom of the press ads and other political literature.

Red Corn does all of his work for Red Hand Media out of his store. While most of his business is from Natives, non-Native businesses have come knocking. Red Hand Media was selected by the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Oklahoma, Tulsa Chapter, as the 2008 Company of the Year. Non-Natives pay attention to that award.

"It probably puts us on the radar, although we do a lot of work for national clients," Red Corn said. While his job is making other businesses look good, the award will bring attention from businesses in Oklahoma that may not have been aware of Red Hand Media. "We work for everyone; we did work for Sony last month." he said.

He has only two employees at the moment who hold the place together when he's out of town, he said. The work is too much for one person and Red Corn said that Todd Vedder, his assistant for the last year and a half, nearly has a panic attack. Vedder is Pawnee/Otoe/Iowa.

"We've got clients from all over," Vedder said. "It gets pretty busy."

So busy, in fact, that during the summer Red Corn has to hire eight employees and just hired another full-time assistant, Casie Renee, Choctaw.

"I met Ryan about two to three years ago and I had heard about Demockratees," she said. "I approached him, and we became friends. We've been adding some structure and organization to the businesses."

An Osage way of life

The main appeal of the Osage reservation to Red Corn is his involvement in the culture here.

"You have to have Osages in proximity to have a community," he said. Creating a lasting community is important to Red Corn. Most of the clients who come into his store are Osage and he's proud of that.

Once he moved to Pawhuska, he took the initiative to enroll in the Osage's growing language program. Mentored by his uncle, Talee Red Corn, one of the tribe's more fluent speakers, Ryan Red Corn does work for the program and for other Native language programs around the country.

"I am thoroughly invested in making sure that our language continues to survive for future generations," Red Corn said. "It is the window to a true Wa.zha.zhe (Osage) thought process."

"Without involvement in language and cultural literacy in our people's ways by our tribal members, community members and our youth, there is no Osage Nation. These things are the basis for which all extensions of our tribal sovereignty are based," Red Corn said. "To recognize this is to understand the importance that its existence be concreted."

Red Corn took it upon himself to learn Osage traditional songs and regularly sings at Osage functions. He dances in the Osages' three In-Lon-Schka dances and is a member of the Pawhuska In-Lon-Schka dance committee.

"He's always been willing to listen and willing to do that extra effort so he could learn tradition, learn culture and learn language," Talee Red Corn said. "He was a good listener and had an open heart to be able to understand, to be able to comprehend the old traditional way of the Osage, if I can say that. I feel real inadequate in saying that myself but I feel he took it to the best level you can go for our family and our tribe."

Ryan Red Corn continually stays committed to traditional singing and sacrifices his time so he can sing at dances in Oklahoma and learn the songs and learn the meaning, Talee Red Corn said.

"I enjoy singing, dancing and being around the drum and the fellowship that happens during those times," Ryan Red Corn said. "You can't get that by living anywhere else in the world than right here (on the Osage reservation). The same goes for the language. The best place to learn and talk Wa.zha.zhe i.e (Osage language) is here at home."

Past Member (0)
Saturday December 6, 2008, 8:44 am
Art can be a profound form of expression and persuasion. More power to him. Well done.

kat yazzie (400)
Saturday December 6, 2008, 8:48 am
Yes, Debbie, and here is yet another website:

Past Member (0)
Saturday December 6, 2008, 8:59 am
Powerful stuff. Thanks, Kat.

. (0)
Saturday December 6, 2008, 10:21 am
good for him yeah noted

Pamylle G (461)
Saturday December 6, 2008, 10:53 am
Wow ! He's the best of both worlds, isn't he ?

Dawna Raven Sky Zimbalist (261)
Saturday December 6, 2008, 11:19 am
thanks Kat.. I was just in Victoria B.C... and I had thousands of temptations with all the native art.... especially The Cowichian sweaters by the first nations people on the Island.. although they are mostly over 200.00 so I couldn't do it... thanks for coming up with such cool news.

Past Member (0)
Saturday December 6, 2008, 11:37 am
I think it is good for him to go back to his reservation. Good Luck to him. Noted. Thanks. Kat.

Jenny Dooley (830)
Saturday December 6, 2008, 1:09 pm
oh my goodness, thank you kat! i just bought 11 xmas prezzies!!!

Jenny Dooley (830)
Saturday December 6, 2008, 1:25 pm
Ryan Corn's so talented! It does my heart good to see his work. I wish him and all involved much happiness and success. Thanks for the story and links, Kat. 'Scuse my abruptness in previous message - too excited :p

. (0)
Saturday December 6, 2008, 1:30 pm
Wow this is so great Kat someone to put there heart and sould into native art this is going to a big hit. Thanks Kat

Henry P (171)
Saturday December 6, 2008, 3:20 pm
NOTED Thanks Kat . Good luck to him.

Raja G (142)
Saturday December 6, 2008, 9:58 pm
Noted Thanks

Faith M (161)
Sunday December 7, 2008, 5:25 pm
Great stuff Kat many thanx

Bob F (10)
Sunday December 7, 2008, 7:42 pm
Good for him, but? Is he making more money there or here? And did that help him decide where to work? Money drives everything. I dont blame him if he did. But at least tell the truth if it is the truth. $$$ or home land. Which makes more? His right, but get off your soapbox and just do what you do.

Past Member (0)
Sunday December 7, 2008, 10:46 pm
Nice stuff. Thanks.
Or, log in with your
Facebook account:
Please add your comment: (plain text only please. Allowable HTML: <a>)

Track Comments: Notify me with a personal message when other people comment on this story

Loading Noted By...Please Wait


butterfly credits on the news network

  • credits for vetting a newly submitted story
  • credits for vetting any other story
  • credits for leaving a comment
learn more

Most Active Today in Society & Culture

Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of or its affiliates.

New to Care2? Start Here.