Reflections on Native Realities: "Who stole the tee pee?" is a question posed by artist George Littlechild. It's another way of asking, "What happened to our traditions?" Missionaries, soldiers, teachers, government officials, and social reformers took away much of what our ancestors had. Did they steal the tee pee? Or did they create a situation in which some of our relatives were more than willing to give it up?
Works by contemporary Native American artists explore the impact of those changes-social, political, cultural, and personal. The artists look back in order to examine the processes of change, to understand what their relatives went through during the period of forced assimilation, boarding school education, and relocation to distant cities. The artists also reflect on their own realities that are still affected by those same forces of change or influenced by an entirely new set of circumstances.
The older works and historic photographs in this exhibit, taken from the NMAI collections, provide a context for understanding the artistic changes that have been born since 1900.