Portrait of Tudl-Tur (Sun Elk)
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ebrowne's picture


This man is the only reason that a white guy like Bert Geer Phillips could learn anything about Pueblo Native Americans in the American Southwest.

In 1898, Phillips and his buddy Ernest set out for Mexico, but only made it to New Mexico because of a wagon wheel debacle. They were also just too taken aback by the beautiful scenery and beautiful people in New Mexico and decided to stay. You could say that Taos, New Mexico was the foundation of Phillips’ ~aesthetic~. He had a passion for Native Americans, horses, trees, mountains, and any combination of those four things. He painted such things until the day he died largely due to the help and teachings of his dear friend, Tudl-Tur also known as Sun Elk.

And to honor this, Phillips decided to paint him. But by the look on his face it looks like Tudl-Tur was looking for something a little more than just some lousy portrait. Afterall, he had taught Phillips how to shoot a bow and arrow and took him six miles south of Taos to Ranchos de Taos and Río Chiquito so he could witness firsthand Holy Week traditions. On numerous occasions he acted as a guide so that Phillips could get in on Native communities and their sacred ceremonies. But here, Tudl-Tur is with just a painting to show for all of his work. Add him to the list of people who were slighted by colonialists.