Steve Tamayo is a traditional Sicangu Lakota artist whose family originates from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. After graduating from High School in 1984, Tamayo enlisted in the US Army, serving in the 101st Airborne Division. After returning to Omaha in 1987, he studied the traditional arts of the Umonhon people under Howard Wolf. As a mentor, Wolf instilled in Tamayo a deep appreciation and knowledge of Umonhon art and culture. He learned the importance of traditional materials, construction and the history surrounding native artifacts and regalia. In 2000, Tamayo moved to the Rosebud Reservation, where he augmented his understanding of Northern Plains art; he earned his BFA from Sínte Gleska University in 2011 where he developed and taught the traditional arts program.
Tamayo currently leads study groups on his Reservation and travels to schools and museums throughout the country to study and teach historic methods of artifact construction and preservation. He is a regular consultant to the curatorial and conservation staff at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian; his most recent work there is the current exhibition, “As We Grow,” focused on traditional native games and toys. He has been an artist-in-residence and cultural consultant with OPS and teaches Native American Art History at Metropolitan Community College.
Tamayo’s honors include the 2014 NAC Governor’s Heritage Art Award for excellence in cultural artistic expression. In 2015, he and Paul High Horse won the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Award for best two-person exhibition, and were again nominated in 2016. Tamayo has exhibited at The National Museum of the American Indian, in Washington, DC, The Kaneko in Omaha, The Great Plains Museum in Lincoln, NE, the John G. Neihardt Center, and RNG Gallery in Council Bluffs, IA. Some of his most recent work includes buffalo robes for Willie Nelson and Neil Young and a tipi offered to President Obama from Bold Nebraska.