Sam English is the son of Ojibwe/Anishinaabe/Chippewa parents; a mother from the Turtle Mountain people of North Dakota (where he is enrolled) and a father from the Red Lake Nation of Minnesota. He has spent most of his life in the Southwest and currently lives in Albuquerque.
Although his early life was spent in middle-class obscurity, disconnected from his Northern Woodlands heritage, his career documents many of the significant moments in contemporary Native American history. After high school, he went on to study architectural drafting at Bacone College, OK, and business at the University of San Francisco, CA. From 1968 to 1971, he worked for the National Indian Youth Council in Berkeley, CA.
As a veteran of Indian activism from the ’60’s to the present, Sam English got involved in 1968 with Indian civil rights issues because of a desire to become more aware of Indian history. To cope with his outrage, he turned to alcohol.
At the age of 39, and after 18 failed attempts at alcohol treatment facilities, he finally quit. “On December 10th, 1981, I drove my lance and decided I was not going to drink anymore.”
From that moment forward, Sam English dedicated himself to using his art to document and serve his people. He became a well‑known speaker and activist, owned and operated the Sam English Studio/Gallery, Ltd. in Old Town, Albuquerque. He continues to practice his art and pass on his spiritual journey of sobriety healing throughout the U.S. His “Healing Through the Arts” workshops in Palm Springs and the Bay Area have become legendary in the indigenous community.