Funeral service for Edwin Neal Rackleff will be 1 pm Friday, December 18, 2020 at MMS-Payne Funeral Home Chapel. Ed passed away Sunday, December 6, 2020, at the age of 59.
Ed Rackleff, full blood Keetowah Cherokee, originally from the rural community of Rocky Ford, near his birthplace of Tahlequah, OK, has been a resident of Claremore for the past twenty-five years. He is well known as an award winning Native American artist and has won numerous awards at several prestigious art shows throughout his career.
"I can't take credit for my artistic talents or gifts", remarks Ed, "it's in my blood. I am very proud to be Cherokee and the roots that I have and through my art I can express my feelings and remember the stories of the elders and their influence on my life." Ed comes from a large extended family that all possess artistic talent, mostly in crafting traditional Cherokee items. Several of his aunts and uncles have been deemed "National Treasures and Master Artists" by the Cherokee tribe of Eastern Oklahoma.
Ed is no stranger to Native American art. He has been painting since the age of 14. The very first art show he entered at age 16, Ed won Best of Show at the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee as a student of Tahlequah's Sequoyah Indian School. His most prestigious award was for 1st Place in the sculpture division at the Cherokee National Historical Museum's 25th annual Trail Of Tears Art Show in 1996 for his bronze of a deer hunter entitled, "I Will Honor Your LIfe's Giving's."
Using the advice of his wife Paula to turn his talent into a full time career, Ed decided to go back to school to further the education he had begun before starting a family. He enrolled at Rogers State College to complete his art degree, begun at Bacone College in Muskogee under the tutelage of renowned Cheyenne artist Dick West and Native American artist Ruthe Blaylock Jones.
As a 1994 graduate, Ed achieved the honor of returning to RSC's Arts and Humanities Department as the instructor for the new Native American Studies Program. As a student, Ed was elected president of the very successful award winning Native American Student Association, and as instructor, served as advisor and sponsor for the organization. His credits include being awarded the distinguished "Outstanding Academic Achievement Award" for art at the annual RSC Graduation Awards Ceremony.
While teaching, he continued his education, attending the University of Tulsa's School of Art as a sculpture major and was an honor roll student while working on his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Ed served as the president of TU's very active student organization the American Indian Cultural Society during his years as student.
The Claremore Powwow Club also earned many years of success due to the efforts of Ed and his family as he served as President for that organization also. Ed has been on numerous television and news programs as well as being featured in many local news publications in recognition of his work. He has donated time and artwork to various deserving community projects, feeling a strong responsibility to his people and the rest of society. "We are given a task in life, this is hard to do, but if you have faith within all earth's soul, it will be so. Through college, education, and determination, I have strengthened my talents to help educate others and to better understand this great culture of mine", says Rackleff.
Never one to travel the conventional road, Ed always blazed his own path artistically throughout his life's endeavors. Ed's many talents as an artist cover a wide variety of mediums. Prolific as a painter, silversmith, and sculptor, anything he works on becomes art as a visual dimension of that project. With ingenuity and vision, he creates and portrays traditional and contemporary Native American art through any medium he chooses.
Ed learned the art of bronze sculpture as an apprentice for the nationally known sculptress Sandra VanZandt. He not only learned the complex process of lost wax casting, but also how to produce a bronze monument from the beginning armature to the final welding and art of patina. Ed helped Sandra sculpt her 5-figure monument for the U.S. Navy, "The Spirit of Naval Aviation", unveiled at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. in December, 1994. This monument was later permanently installed in the new National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, FL. He also worked on other monument projects, including "The Cherokee Kid", a Will Rogers monument for the town of Oologah, OK, the birthplace of Will Rogers, depicting Will and his horse at the town pump.
Ed's natural ability for art and his pride of his native culture gave Ed the insight for his first bronze sculpture, a bust of the famous Cherokee, Sequoyah, inventor of the Cherokee written language and syllabary. With less than one year as a sculptor, Ed began on the larger-than-life size historic monument of Sequoyah. "I have always wanted to do something for my people that would stand out and be shared for generations."
In Ed's years since college, he as adopted a slower pace, quit the hectic art show and powwow circuit to devote his time and energy to his rural countryside home. His time is spent mostly outdoors studying the abundant wildlife, plants, trees, and especially the many species of birds. Being of the Bird Clan, he feels a connection to them. Throughout his life, the birds have "spoken" to him, and he interprets their actions and behaviors as "signs" with meanings to follow or act upon.
Now with the Sequoyah monument finished after many setbacks of personal and financial hardship, Ed feels life has come full circle, and artwork is again his main focus. Sequoyah's completion ended the many years away from his chosen field of art and believes the time has enriched his life and the understanding of his art. A deeper, more meaningful devotion to the spiritual aspects has led him to gain wisdom and introspection and he thinks his art has more depth than his earlier artistic accomplishments.
"Yv-gi" (yuh-gee), or Nail, as Ed's name translates from his native Cherokee, means, "something sharp", and can be found signed in Cherokee, BY, on his artwork.
Ed is preceded in death by his parents, Barkie Rackleff and Alta Agnes Youngbird, and siblings, William "Tootie" Rackleff and Marcella Diane Rackleff.
Survivors include his wife of 38 years, Paula Jones Rackleff; children Samuel Gene Rackleff, Brandy Jo Gibson, and Edwin Youngdeer Rackleff; grandchildren Jonathan Caine Gibson, Toney Elise Gibson, Ryder Lyfe Rackleff, Carma Ryann Rackleff, and Layla Ahniwake Rackleff; siblings Verna Rackleff, Nancy Rackleff, Sherry Rackleff, Victor "Buster" Rackleff, and Barney Rackleff; as well as many wonderful cousins, nieces, nephews, friends, and family.