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Bingham County commissioners recently gave two cherished paintings by Shoshone-Bannock artist Willie Preacher depicting native life from bygone days to the Fort Hall Business Council and Shoshone-Bannock Justice Center at a gathering last week.
The oil paintings titled "Traveling to Fish for Salmon" and "Winter Camp" were completed by Preacher in the 1970s and had been hanging on the wall of the old Bingham County Courthouse for about 20 years.
Fort Hall and Bingham County dignitaries, along with community members, were present as Bingham County commissioners Ladd Carter and Whitney Manwaring gave the paintings back to Fort Hall in gratitude of their many years of friendship.
"I have been amazed by Willie's talent since we took art classes together at Blackfoot High School," said tribal chairman Nathan Small. "These paintings were in the old courthouse to help make those people coming in feel good about themselves even though they were sometimes in a negative situation."
"Carina Poitia, a Fort Hall courthouse administrator, added, "These wonderful works will hang in these courtrooms as a reminder of the pride and heritage of the Shoshone-Bannock tribal members. These are great examples of his work and the pride in his people...past, present and future."
Tami VanOrden. a longtime employee of the Bingham County Courthouse. came to the gathering to meet Preacher, whose work she had admired on the walls of the courthouse for many years. "I have spent hours looking and thinking about those paintings," she said.
Preacher, who currently has an art gallery on Bridge Street in Blackfoot, said, "Art has always been a big part of my life. One day I hope to retire so I can paint full time."
In addition to oil painting, Preacher works in pen, ink, pastels, watercolors, pencils and scratch board.
"The reason we wanted to give these paintings back is because this [Fort Hall Justice Center] is their true home and their rightful place," said Carter. "This is in honor of our friendship and I am happy to do it."
The mural, "Traveling to Fish for Salmon" will be permanently hung in Courtroom 3 and "Winter Camp" will be in Courtroom 1.