More than 40 American Indian artifacts loaned by local educator, historian and rancher Kent Brandebery are exhibited at the Castle Rock Historical Museum, 420 Elbert St., through Aug. 1. Included are woven rugs from several tribes, baskets, a mano and metate, a musket, an umbilical amulet (beaded turtle), Indian Peace Medals and more.
Brandebery said this is the second display he has exhibited at the museum, from a collection started by his mother and father, which he has continued to expand through the years. (The first display was on the first saddle-maker in Douglas County.)
As a child, Brandebery lived in Sioux Country, Sundance, Wyo., and spent time on the Navajo and Cheyenne reservations while his mother taught there. His familiarity with American Indian arts and history has accumulated throughout a rich life.
Castle Rock has been his home since 1938, he said, but during World War II, his father and older half brother were in the service and he, his mother and sister lived in Littleton, near the cemetery, so the children could attend school there.
Brandebery remembers working at the historic Littleton Cemetery and playing his bugle in the Veterans Circle during a Memorial Day program. His Littleton ties continued later through involvement with the Littleton Historical Museum and its animals.
After post-graduate work at the University of Wyoming, he had an internship at the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyo., and taught at Sinte Gleska Sioux College. A connection with Richard Kahn, then curator of American Indian art at the Denver Art Museum, provided educational materials for his students.
Brandebery went on to become an instrumental music teacher in high school and later in elementary school, retiring in the 1990s and starting a Civil War-style brass band, the Castle Rock Band, which just performed a Memorial Day program. (It needs more members, he says.)
He has been interested in local history since 1960 and helped found the Douglas County Historical Society, which then split into a group of more local groups, including the Castle Rock Historical Society, which restored the 1875 rhyolite stone Denver and Rio Grande Depot for use as a historical museum in 1996.
Brandebery said his favorite artifacts are those from the Plains Indians — from Mexico to the Canadian border, “not from a special place.” This stems from his early Wyoming days.
He explains the inclusion of some pieces from the Tarahumara Indians from Copper Canyon in Mexico. “They are much like the early people of Mesa Verde,” he said. Someone abandoned a group of them in Denver in the late 1980s and he put them up on his ranch for a week or so until the Mexican government could work out a way to get them home. They gave Brandebery artifacts in thanks. At that time, he found a Larkspur resident who spoke the dialect to help with communications — another example of his community connections.
“All the things I do, I have to depend on the community — what goes around comes around,” Brandebery said. “I have an obligation …”