On Friday, November 10, 2023, Sam English, our loving son, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather transitioned into the spirit world peacefully at 81 years old with 40 years of sobriety.
Sam was born June 2, 1942 in Phoenix, Arizona to his father Samuel from the Red Lake band of Chippewa Indians in Minnesota and mother Blanche (Tootsie) English from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in North Dakota. He was raised in Ignacio, CO, spent some of his life in the Bay area, but ultimately, Sam found his home and his heart in Albuquerque, NM. Sam was a renowned Indigenous artist, activist and aesthetic healer. He spent his 20’s and 30’s working for different Indigenous organizations and began traveling the country as an Indigenous activist. For 25 years Sam had struggled through a battle with alcoholism and after 18 failed attempts in alcohol treatment facilities he finally got sober. At 39 years old, on December 10th, 1981 Sam dove head first into his artistic, spiritual and sober journey and he never looked back.
Sam said that the American Indian Movement and books like Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto by Native American scholar Vine Deloria, Jr. helped him reclaim his cultural identity. Much of his life after sobriety was spent helping other Native people get sober. Many of these people became Sam’s lifetime friends and family. The entire time crediting Creator for being alongside him on his sober journey by talking in “we” instead of I. Of this he said,
“Art is a spiritual process and when I talk about my art I include the Creator. Without the art, if I hadn’t continued to paint in my sobriety I wouldn’t be here painting, I wouldn’t be here period.”
Sam opened a gallery in Old Town called, “Sam English Art Gallery”, helped to start an Alcoholics Anonymous program specifically for Native people, began doing healing based art workshops at different Native nations, and donated the use of many of his images to Native organizations over the years. Some of the organizations Sam created art for include the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, Tribal College Journal, Mending the Sacred Hoop Technical Assistance Project in Duluth, NANACOA, Minnesota Department of Health’s Leech Lake Youth Division in Leech Lake and Southwest Organizing Project.
Some of Sam English’s recognition and awards include: a plaque for his advocacy to “Victims of Crime” given by former Attorney General Janet Reno, at a National Justice Conference, the “SWAIA Lifetime Achievement Award”, and the 1994 recipient of the “New Mexico Distinguished Public Service Award.” His artwork can be seen on the book covers of author’s like Vine Deloria Jr, Elizabeth Cook Lynne, and Gregory Cajete. Sam also has his own tabletop art book titled, “Sam English the Life, Work, and Time of an Artist.”
Over his 81 years on this earth Sam grew a giant family who he deeply loved. Sam’s art granted him the opportunity to travel all over the world and in his later years he spent his time in the sunshine outside Starbucks by UNM in Albuquerque. His spirit lives on in his family in so many forms but especially when we paint, laugh, or drink some coffee.
Sam English is preceded in the spirit world by countless friends and his father, Samuel, his mother Blanche (Tootsie), his brothers Ronald, Thomas, Robert (Skip/Skippy) English, his nephew and niece Todd English and Sequoia Taplin and his first wife Ruth Ann Baldonado. He is survived by his sister Donna English, his five children Sam English Jr.,Valerie Herrera, Michelle English, Haley English, Jonas Kanusha, and Jaqx Kanusha. His nine grandchildren, thirteen great grandchildren, seven nieces and nephews and his second wife Moya McGuill.
Pallbearers will be Andrew English, Sky English, Clinton Thunderchief, Jerry Acevedo, Antonio (Tony) Gonzales, Joshua DeLeon, Michael Herrera, Markus Herrera, Jonas Kanusha, Jaqx Kanusha.
Honorary pallbearers are A.J. English, Anthony English, Joe Baca, Leo DeLeon, Michael DeLeon.