Born in 1906 (died 1980), Eugene Standingbear was the son of Luther Standingbear (1868-1939) and Laura Cloud Shield. An Oglala Sioux, he grew up on the Indian reservation at Pine Ridge, South Dakota. In his youth he traveled with his parents in the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show and in the Miller Brothers' 101 Ranch Show. He went on to work as a barnstormer, a mechanical engineer with the U.S. Navy in the Puget Sound Naval Area, a miner, cab driver and a musician. He also worked in Hollywood including as a medicine man in "Grizzly Adams." He eventually settled in Roggen/Keensburg, Colorado, where he met the donor's family.
A a self-taught artist, Eugene Standingbear's art was done in reaction to the images he saw of American Indians growing up. According to the artist he was "saddened by the cheap, inaccurate imitations of the Indian as depicted in the movies, in books, in art and on television." In his art Eugene Standingbear portrayed what he believed to be a more accurate depiction of Sioux life. The drawings in this collection include Anglo subjects, American Indians, Asian subjects and personal drawings including the artist's Christmas designs. The work represents not only Standingbear the artist but also the complex identity of the man, living in both the Anglo world and American Indian world. In addition to the drawings in this collection, he also did original paintings and prints.
, Per close friends Fred and Deb Becker, Standingbear had in his possession two books that he used as a reference for many of his drawings: 1. Curtis Western Indians 2. The Great Chiefs (Old West Time-Life Series), "In January of 2014, History Colorado received over 300 drawings by Eugene George Standingbear. A gift to Jennifer Okada from the artist in the mid-1970s, the Okada family met Eugene Standingbear in Keenesburg, Colorado in the early 1960s. Jennifer’s parents—Isamu “Sam” and Katsumi “Katsie” Okada—owned a pharmacy across the street from a bar Eugene worked at. Over many years Eugene and the Okada family established a strong bond as reflected in the time Eugene and the Okada family spent together; Eugene’s own artwork which includes images of Japanese culture ; the Okada family’s desire to donate the drawings, recognizing the significance of Eugene’s family in U.S. history; the fact that Eugene named Sam the executor of his estate; and acknowledgement by the Standing Bear family of the strong friendship between Eugene and Sam. The exact reason for the strong bond between Eugene Standingbear and the Okada family is unknown; however, it appears that in part, these families were connected by similar life changing experiences, occurring over generations, and affected by race." From Between Two Worlds: The Life and Art of Eugene Standingbear, Alisa Zahller