When Katie Yates Free first saw the portrait of her late father Andrew Yates, now on display in the Osage Minerals Council chambers, it took her breath away.
“The realness and the likeness to his person brought tears to my eyes,” she said.
His portrait, funded by a Congressional appropriation of $1,000 by Congressional Speaker Alice Goodfox, was commissioned earlier this year and painted by renowned Osage artist Roxanne Red Corn. The minerals council unveiled the portrait for family and friends on Oct. 18.
Red Corn said she received a phone call from her cousin, Osage Nation Museum Director Marla Redcorn-Miller, about the project and she took it from there. An oil on canvas, she used photographs of Yates selected by his daughter to piece the portrait together.
It took Red Corn about two months to paint the portrait, she said. Because the portrait is oil on canvas, she would have to take breaks to give time for the oils to dry, so she could then layer on top of the paint without smearing it. It took her about six months to paint, from beginning to end.
“I think what was more important was watching the family observe the painting for the first time. I could see they were pleased with the work and I myself I was really delighted for the Yates family, that Andrew’s portrait hangs in the minerals council chambers,” Red Corn said. “It’s a testament to Andrew and his commitment to the Osage people.”
Yates Free said her family is forever grateful to the Osage Nation, the Osage Minerals Council, and their respective staff. She gave special recognition to Redcorn-Miller, who was instrumental in getting the portrait made. She said Redcorn-Miller and Red Corn made a great team.
“I worked closely with Roxanne … from the beginning. She wanted to perfect and refine every minute detail. We are fortunate as Roxanne met him in his college years. She knew his warmth of a personality and captured it perfectly in this portrait,” Yates Free said. “The uniqueness of the portrait is in certain details that his children and grandchildren will be able to point out. Roxanne requested I sit in for his eyes, so those eyes are my eyes and remind me of how much I resemble my father. I am honored by that.
“My cousin John HorseChief sat in with his councilman’s blanket to get the folds and creases just right. John is close in stature to my father. The watch on his left wrist is turned inward, just how he always wore it. It took a team of wonderful people to make this portrait happen and Roxanne knew from the get-go how to honor him in the highest form,” Yates Free said.
Yates passed away at the age of 60, following a short bout with cancer in February 2021.
Yates was known for his even temperament, kindness, sense of humor, and knowledge of the oil and gas industry. He served on the Minerals Council since 2010 and was part of the delegation that signed the 2011 historic Osage Trust Case Settlement in Washington, D.C. He also worked for the Osage Nation for 36 years in the Department of Natural Resources and was also a member of the Nation’s Water Rights Task Force that began negotiations with the state of Oklahoma over the Osage’s right to water on their reservation.
He also owned and operated a small ranching cow/calf operation with his wife Shelly on original allotted and restricted property south of Pawhuska, near the small community of Nelagoney.
He left behind a wife, Shelly; three daughters, Yates Free, Annabelle Eva and Josephine Mae; and a granddaughter Maddie.
Yates Free said the portrait was the perfect creation to honor her late father, “one of the most humble of leaders. We will forever miss him and his fairness.”