Charcoal and Acrylic
John Francis Yammerino – Caske Ple Wkan Najin
November 14, 1948 – March 14, 2011
John’s native given name, Caske, means “Oldest Born Son.” He was the oldest of 18 children. He carried his grandfather’s name, Ple Wakan Najin, “Standing Sacred Buffalo.”
John attended Tekawitha Mission Elementary School in Lower Brule, South Dakota. He went on to middle and high school at Traverse Reservation and graduated in 1968. After spending some time in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam Era, he returned to the U.S., earned a degree in Sociology and settled in Boston with his wife, Carole.
Though I never met Caske, my mother, Aunt Ruth, and cousins would often speak affectionately of their friend, Indian John. When my cousin, Emily, asked me if I would consider doing a painting of Indian John, I was excited to do so.
As I neared the completion of this work, I asked Emily for some of Indian John’s history. Only then did I learn that Caske was from South Dakota, where my late husband and I worked and lived from 2003 to 2009. I was moved to tears knowing that as I painted Caske’s portrait in 2012, I was being reconnected to my own native roots. It was an honor to create this tribute to Indian John.
Alexis Wilson Russell