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Reyes, Lawney L. 1931–

Reyes, Lawney L. 1931–


Born 1931, in Bend, OR; son of Julian and Mary Reyes; married Joyce Meacham, 1955; has children. Education: Wenatchee Junior College, A.A., 1952; University of Washington, B.A., 1959.


Home—Seattle, WA.


Writer, sculptor. Seafirst Bank, Seattle, WA, served as interior designer, fourteen years, then as corporate art director, seven years; University of Washington, Seattle, former instructor in contemporary Indian art. Former commissioner, Seattle Arts Commission; former member, Washington Governor's Task Force. Military service: U.S. Army, two years; served in Germany.


First prize, Scottsdale National Indian Art Exhibition, 1970; Governor's Art Award for sculpture, Washington State Arts Commission, 1972; Peace and Friendship Award, 1982; University of Washington Alumnus Award, 2006; Center for Indian Art award.


White Grizzly Bear's Legacy: Learning to Be Indian, University of Washington Press (Seattle, WA), 2002.

Bernie Whitebear: An Urban Indian's Quest for Justice, University of Arizona Press (Tucson, AZ), 2006.

B Street: The Notorious Playground of Coulee Dam, University of Washington Press (Seattle, WA), 2008.


Lawney L. Reyes is a sculptor whose works draw on his Indian heritage. His sculptures have been commissioned by corporations throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. "My work is a contemporary expression of what I think and feel would have been the natural progression of Northwest Indian art from traditional to modern times had the culture evolved and expanded in an uninterrupted way," Reyes explained to a writer for the Centralia, Washington, Daily Chronicle. Reyes worked for many years as an interior designer for Seafirst Bank in Seattle, Washington.

In White Grizzly Bear's Legacy: Learning to Be Indian, Reyes recounts the circumstances of his childhood, which was marked by the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington state. The dam was part of the Roosevelt Administration's efforts to both create jobs and provide electricity to rural areas. But the dam flooded the traditional salmon fishery of the Sin-Aikst Indian tribe, and destroyed their towns and small villages. Reyes's family was devastated. He and his sister were sent to live in an Indian boarding school and lost contact with their parents and brother. Reyes details how the three siblings overcame this tragic period to reunite with their parents and each other. Gary C. Collins wrote in the Oregon Historical Quarterly: "Heartrending and inspiring, this is a story of love and strength, hope and faith, family and friendship. It is a testament to the indestructible bonds between parents and children."

Reyes writes about his brother in Bernie Whitebear: An Urban Indian's Quest for Justice. An activist for Indian rights, Bernie Whitebear (changed from the family name of Reyes) worked for Indian salmon-fishing rights before turning to such urban Indian issues as education and housing. He founded the United Indians of All Tribes, a group representing a number of Indian tribes from across the United States. Bernie Whitebear eventually served on the board of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian. Reyes's account of his younger brother's life "is uplifting and informative, offering a first-hand view of the progress of Indian rights during the last half of the twentieth century," according to Deborah Donovan in Booklist. The reviewer for Reference & Research Book News found that "Reyes, who is also a distinguished sculptor, works in three dimensions and more here, gives a full-figured account of Whitebear's remarkable achievements in the community." Writing in Indian Life, Dawn Karima Pettigrew found that, "from his humble beginnings in a loving family to his stunning record of public service, this book chronicles an amazing life. A special facet of this biography is that it is written by Whitebear's brother, Lawney Reyes." Bob Simmons in the Seattle Times described Bernie Whitebear as "a loving tribute to Seattle's most-admired Indian activist." The reviewer for California Bookwatch concluded: "Whitebear left a legacy of positive achievements, detailed here."

Reyes's twelve-foot-by-thirty-foot sculpture "Blue Jay" is located at the Daybreak Star Cultural Center in Seattle, Washington. His sculpture "Dreamcatcher" is displayed at the corner of 32nd Avenue and Yesler Way in Seattle. The twenty-foot-tall sculpture is dedicated to the memory of his brother, Bernie Whitebear, and his sister, Luana Reyes. Luana ran the Seattle Indian Health Board and founded the American Indian Health Care Association and the National Coalition of Urban Indian Health Centers. Speaking of his memorial sculpture, Reyes told Christine Clarridge of the Seattle Times: "It gives me pleasure to be able to do this for them."



Krinsky, Carol Herselle, Contemporary Native American Architecture: Cultural Regeneration and Creativity, Oxford University Press, 1996.


Booklist, March 1, 2006, Deborah Donovan, review of Bernie Whitebear: An Urban Indian's Quest for Justice, p. 59.

California Bookwatch, August, 2006, review of Bernie Whitebear.

Daily Chronicle (Centralia, WA), February 12, 1972, "Indian Sculptor Expresses Tribal Art in Door Design," p. 7.

Indian Life, September-October, 2006, Dawn Karima Pettigrew, review of Bernie Whitebear, p. 13.

Oregon Historical Quarterly, fall, 2002, Cary C. Collins, review of White Grizzly Bear's Legacy: Learning to Be Indian, p. 399.

Reference & Research Book News, August, 2006, review of Bernie Whitebear.

Seattle Times, September 23, 2002, Christine Clarridge, "To Mighty Dreams Accomplished Brother's Art Proposed as Activists' Memorial," p. B1; July 16, 2006, Bob Simmons, "A Straight-Shooting Tribute to NW Indian Icon."


Lawney L. Reyes Home Page, (May 14, 2008).

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