Arthur Amiotte was born on March 25, 1942 in Pine Ridge, South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He was given the name Warpa Tanka Kuciyela or Low Black Bird as an infant, but received his second Lakota name in 1972. Amiotte's parents are Walter Douglas Amiotte and Olive Louise Mesteth. lives. His great-grandfather Standing Bear (1859–1933) was at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Amiotte lived in the reservation until he was six and then visited it during summers up to the age of 15.
During his studies at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota, Arthur Amiotte attended a workshop from Oscar Howe in 1961. By this encounter, Arthur Amiotte got a concrete example of how a native artist can be a contemporary artist. Arthur Amiotte received his bachelor's degree in Art and Art Education and was subsequently a teacher at Woodrow Wilson Junior High School in Sioux City from 1964 to 1966.
Two mentors, in particular, guided Amiotte. From 1969 to 1975, his grandmother Christina Standing Bear, a sacred bundle keeper, taught him the heritage of his great-grandfather Standing Bear (Mató Nájin), who illustrated Black Elk Speaks. In the period from 1972 to 1981, Arthur Amiotte was influenced by the Lakota medicine man Pete Catches (Oglala Lakota), who introduced Amiotte to Lakota spirituality and rituals belonging to Lakota traditions.
He received his Masters of Interdisciplinary Studies in 1983 from the University of Montana-Missoula.
Amiotte was professor of Native American art history at Brandon University, Manitoba, but in 1985, he decided to dedicate himself to art and he established his studio in Custer, South Dakota in 1986.
Amiotte curated exhibitions about the culture of the tribes on the Great Plains, such as at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe, New Mexico; the Akta Lakota Museum in Chamberlain, South Dakota; the Buffalo Bill Historical Center of Cody, Wyoming; and the Museum of World Cultures of Frankfurt am Main, Germany in 2006. In 2004, Arthur Amiotte lectured Oscar Howe Memorial Lecture
Lakota philosophy and oral history form the foundation of Amiotte's artistic work. His creativity as a whole is an expression of the Lakól wicóh’an washtélaka – the love of the Lakota traditions. Amiotte promotes Lakota rituals and the visionary experiences during the traditional ceremonies also find their impact on his artistic work.
Amiotte defines his work as being bound to the reservation culture which bridges the gap between yesterday and today, a split which is often mastered in an amazing manner. Amiotte has said, "I realized that contemporary art was ignoring the whole reservation period. This had been a dynamic time. Some people were going to school in the east, to Carlisle and Hampton... People were moving onto land allotments. They were familiar with print media, exposed to lots of magazines, pictures, photographs... Daily life was infused with this mixture of nonliterate/literate. There were new technologies... it seemed to me that it was more honest to deal with all this in my art, rather than to create a fake hide painting."
His collage work is inspired by Ledger art but takes it to a new level. In a pointed and sharp-witted manner, they reveal the discrepancy of Lakota culture between tradition and modernism ("The Visit," 1995, Acrylic-Collage; Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Wyoming). He also explores experiences of Lakota people in Europe, during the Wild West show era of the early 20th century.
Amiotte has participated in over 100 exhibitions, including over 20 solo exhibitions. He has shown throughout the United States and Europe, including at the Kunsthallen Bradts Klaedefabrik in Odense, Denmark in 1994-5.
His work, ranging from painting to sculpture and textile objects, is present in 26 public and about 200 private collections. His work is included in such public collections as the Denver Art Museum, the Sequoyah National Research Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, the National Museum of Natural History, as well as the following institutions.The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund
Prince Albert, 1989, Collage and acrylic on canvas
1913 Spring/Summer 1913- Giving Away His Suit, 1990
Joslyn Art Museum
New Horse Power in 1913, 1994, acrylic and collage on canvas
Ascent of the Maiden, 1964, casein (tempera) on paper
Hood Museum of Art
"Saint Agnes" Manderson, S.D. Pine Ridge Rez, 2001, Acrylic and collage on canvas, Purchased through the Phyllis and Bertram Geller 1937 Memorial Fund
Whitney Gallery of Western Art
The Visitors from Oklahoma, 1996, Collage and acrylic
He frequently lectures at home and abroad and is a published author. In 1989 Amiotte wrote with a chapter about Sioux Arts in the important volume, Illustrated History of the Arts in South Dakota, published during the state's centennial.Amiotte, Arthur (1987). The Lakota Sun Dance - Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, in: Sioux Indian Religion. Raymond J. DeMaillie/Douglas R. Parks, Norman.
Amiotte, Arthur (1989). Eagles Fly Over, sowie: Our Other Selves, in: I Become Part of It - Sacred Dimensions in Native American Life. New York: D.M. Dooling/Paul Jordan-Smith.
Amiotte, Arthur; Runnels, Vic. Art and Indian Children of the Dakotas, Book Five - An Introduction to Art and Other Ideas. Washington/BIA Aberdeen S.D., o.J.
Indian Arts and Crafts Board of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Photographs and Poems by Sioux Children, from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, selected by Myles Libhart and Arthur Amiotte, with an essay by Arthur Amiotte, Rapid City 1971.
From 1979 to 1981, Amiotte served on the Presidential Advisory Council for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. In 1980, he was awarded the South Dakota Governor’s Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Arts. That same year, Amiotte was awarded the Bush Leadership Fellowship, which allowed him to study Northern Plains art collections in the United States and Europe at the University of Montana-Missoula.
Amiotte was awarded various fellowships and grants, including the Lila Wallace Readers Digest Artists at Giverny, France in 2002; the Bush Artist Fellowship; and the Getty Foundation Grant in 1994-5.
In 1999, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award as Artist and Scholar by the Native American Art Studies Association.
Arthur Amiotte holds honorary doctorates from the Oglala Lakota College and the Brandon University, Manitoba.