ESTELLE BEDARD PRIGMORE

Weechop’pi Weenoho


estelle

In 1986, at the age of 71, Estelle Bedard Prigmore applied to the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Being one-half Okanogan Indian, of the Colville Federated Tribe, she was accepted and spent the next three years working on two Associate of Fine Arts degrees, studying jewelry making, figurative sculpture, drawing, and creative writing. Her accomplishments for someone having had no former experience or training are remarkable. TheScreamOnline is proud to feature seven of her ceramic busts, six of which are of historical American Indians.

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House of Chief Aeneus, watercolor by his daughter Lena

Estelle was born in 1913 in the house of her maternal grandfather, Chief Aeneus, a member of the Colville confederated tribe in upper Washington State. He named her Weechop’pi Weenoho, which means “early morning star.” Estelle’s mother, Lena, married Phileus Bedard, a man of French-Canadian heritage. Phileus sired, with Lena and a second wife, a total of nineteen children.

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Bedard family (Estelle: front row, 2nd from left, holding first child)

Estelle graduated from high school in 1932 and taught hairdressing at the Chemawa Indian School near Salem, Oregon. She also worked at the Meyers & Frank department store in Portland. After three years working at a beauty salon in Honolulu, she married Wade Prigmore and raised four daughters while continuing to work full-time.

The amazing thing about this woman is that she has never been content to simply “settle down” and take the easy road. Between 1982 and 1986 Estelle volunteered her time at three rescue missions in Spokane, Washington. From there she went to Honduras and served a stint in the Peace Corps where she advised and instructed the people in dietary needs, good nutrition, and cooking techniques (an admirable activity, compared to some of those who merely “take up space” on this planet). Now, at age 87 — and having been inspired by one of her poems being published in a poetry compilation called The Silence Within — Estelle has just bought her first computer and looks forward to writing short stories, more poetry, and her memoirs.

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Omak, Washington, 1920

 

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