Arts Association

Alfred Decoteau

Alfred Peter Decoteau


Alfred Decoteau is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, the son of Walter and Isabelle Decoteau.  Born in Grand Forks, ND in 1949, Alfred attended Indian boarding schools from age 7 through high school.  He served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era and received an honorable discharge. He married Rita Martin-Decoteau in 1968 in Belcourt ND, they have two daughters Jessica and Chantel, one son Eric and two grandchildren, Brooklyn and Justice.

Alfred’s formal art training began at the University of North Dakota where he received a degree in Secondary Education with a major in Art.  He has been an art teacher in Dunseith, North Dakota on the Turtle Mountain Reservation for 26 years.

Alfred says he considers rock as having a spirit, something he tries to articulate through his work.  He is trying to describe the culture of his own Native people through the rock itself, bringing its spirit out to highlight Native culture.  When asked why the Turtle Mountain band seems to produce such fine sculptors, Alfred says, “I’ve thought about this a lot.  It seems to be inherited, something coming out of our woodland heritage.  We see the negative space in the stone. I think that in a woodland environment, unlike on the plains, to be a good hunter a man needed to be able to associate with positive and negative views, to be able to see without looking, might be a way to describe it.  It’s a right brain function, to observe a forest scene and let the negative space reveal the scene for a hunter.  That’s why our lines, our expression as Ojibwa artists is different from the Sioux, who use much more geometric lines, like you find on the open prairie.”

Alfred did his first sculpture 24 years ago, the face of a warrior with an eagle accompanied by an eagle.  His son still has that piece. He works in alabaster, marble, South African “wonderstone” and, once or twice a year, in wood.  A recent piece made from Diamond Willow was briefly on display at Five Nations Arts before it was purchased.

Alfred Decoteau has won numerous awards over the years at the United Tribes Art Expo and shows in Sioux Falls and Billings.  He is most proud of his 1st Place award for the best stone carving at the huge Red Earth Art Show in Oklahoma several years ago.  He place second in the Bronze category at the same show, the only time he has exhibited at Red Earth. 

The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa commissioned him to design and create a stone scupture that will be placed at the entrance to the new Sky Dancer Casino located west of Belourt. The scupture stands at 6 feet tall carved out of lime stone. He has titled the sculpture Kimama (Mother Earth).

Each year he and his wife Rita travel to Souix Falls SD to take part in the two day Northern Plains Art Show. Alfred usually creates 13 sculptures out of stone and diamond willow for the art show. He has been awarded many first place titles with the sculptures and is successful in selling the art sculptures.

He conitnues to talk with students from the Dunseith area encouraging them to pursue their artistic abilities.