The 1928-29 girls’ basketball team at Flandreau Indian School; Bertha Wooden Knife (kneeling, center) was a renowned horsewoman. Nellie Star Boy is standing behind her—Nellie would go on to become a well-respected artist:
Nellie Star Boy Menard was born in 1910 on the Rosebud Reservation of South Dakota. While still a teenager studying at Flandreau Indian School, she was awarded a Pendleton robe for the blanket design that she had submitted to Pendleton Woolen Mills in Pendleton, Oregon. After graduating in 1929, she was invited back to the school as a teacher of Indian arts.
Although Menard was never officially credited, she is widely known as the collector of most of the Sioux designs in the historic 1935 book Quill and Beadwork of the Western Sioux by Carrie Lyford. In 1937, Menard started the Arts and Crafts Shop in Rosebud out of a concern for the vitality of Lakota arts and for the economic well-being of Lakota artists. In 1941, she was one of four Indian representatives selected from across the nation as delegates to the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of the American Indian in New York City.
Menard operated the Arts and Crafts Shop in Rosebud until 1942, when she moved to Browning, Montana, to manage Northern Plains Arts and Crafts. After World War II, she returned to South Dakota, where she was employed by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs in Rapid City. She kept this position for the next 30 years, and attracted considerable attention for her mastery in quiltmaking.
Her other artistic skills included featherwork, tanning, quillwork, beading, crochet, and the making of handwoven shawls. In addition, she worked as a manager of craft sales and as a curator, with the responsibility of purchasing items from other craftspeople for resale and for selecting objects for museum display. In this capacity, she was highly regarded, demonstrating a deep knowledge of Native American values and traditional artistic standards.