White Robe: The Story of the Sacred Journey of the Rev. John Roberts among Native Americans

About the Project

The acclaimed Irish artist Brian Whelan was commissioned by ArtSpirit, the arts initiative of the Episcopal Church in Wyoming, to produce 13 paintings about the life and work of the Rev. John Roberts, the renowned Welsh-born Episcopal priest. Roberts served among Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming for 66 years, from 1883-1949.

As a missionary-priest, he honored indigenous Native American spirituality and embraced their culture and languages. He translated Biblical texts and church material into the Arapaho and Shoshone languages with assistance from Fremont Arthur, Michael White Hawk, and Charles Lajoe. As the tragedies of The US Federal Indian boarding schools are coming to light, the life and work of the Rev. John Roberts stands out as a model of integration and cultural sensitivity.

at Grave of Sacajawea.png

The Rev. John Roberts and Andrew Basil (grandson of Sacajawea) at the grave of Sacajawea, the Eastern Shoshone guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition – Ft. Washakie, Wind River Reservation, WY

WHITE ROBE premiered at the John Roberts Festival in Ft. Washakie, Wyoming on June 3, 2023, the 140th anniversary of the Rev. John Roberts’ arrival on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, in 1883, where he served among the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes.  Beyond commemorating the extraordinary life, work and example of the Rev. John Roberts, the exhibition also draws attention to the importance of learning from the spirituality, culture and traditions of our Native American sisters and brothers.

Following WHITE ROBE’s premiere in Ft. Washakie, Wyoming, the exhibition embarked on a tour of venues in Wyoming, beginning at the Pioneer Museum in Lander, Wyoming. At the completion of the tour, the paintings will be on permanent display in Wyoming.

About the Artist

Brian Whelan grew up in London, of Irish parents. After his training at the Royal Academy of Arts, he lived and worked in the East Anglia area of England near the North Sea. His home and studio are now based in Connecticut, USA.

Known to combine the profundity of play with the intent of icons, his paintings have been exhibited in noted art spaces, cathedrals and religious institutions around the world – such as Washington National Cathedral and Villanova University of Pennsylvania in the USA, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London, St. Edmundsbury Cathedral and Norwich Cathedral in the UK, and Parador Dos Reis Catolicos, Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Whelan’s work follows in the tradition of East Anglian medieval narrative painting. For more information see: brianwhelanart.com

Exhibit Details

  • Artist: Brian Whelan
  • Gallery: Rosenthal Gallery
  • Start Date: June 7
  • End Date: August 24