Grand Procession: Dolls from the Charles and Valerie Diker Collection
April 17, 2013–January 01, 2014
Grand Procession celebrates Native identity through 23 colorful and meticulously detailed objects that are much more than dolls. Traditionally made by female relatives using buffalo hair, hide, porcupine quills, and shells, figures like these have long served as both toys and teaching tools for American Indian communities. Outfitted in intricate regalia, these dolls—on loan from the Charles and Valerie Diker Collection—represent Plains and Plateau tribes and the work of five artists: Rhonda Holy Bear (Cheyenne River Lakota), Joyce Growing Thunder (Assiniboine/Sioux), Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty (Assiniboine/Sioux), Jessa Rae Growing Thunder (Assiniboine/Sioux), and Jamie Okuma (Luiseño and Shoshone-Bannock). Their superb craftsmanship and attention to detail imbue these figures with a remarkable presence and power, turning a centuries-old tradition into a contemporary art form.
Cerámica de los Ancestros: Central America’s Past Revealed
March 29, 2013–February 01, 2015
This bilingual (English/Spanish) exhibition illuminates Central America’s diverse and dynamic ancestral heritage with a selection of more than 160 objects. For thousands of years, Central America has been home to vibrant civilizations, each with unique, sophisticated ways of life, value systems, and arts. The ceramics these peoples left behind, combined with recent archaeological discoveries, help tell the stories of these dynamic cultures and their achievements. Cerámica de los Ancestros examines seven regions representing distinct Central American cultural areas that are today part of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Spanning the period from 1000 BC to the present, the ceramics featured, selected from the museum’s collection of more than 12,000 pieces from the region, are augmented with significant examples of work in gold, jade, shell, and stone. These objects illustrate the richness, complexity, and dynamic qualities of the Central American civilizations that were connected to peoples in South America, Mesoamerica, and the Caribbean through social and trade networks sharing knowledge, technology, artworks, and systems of status and political organization. This exhibition is a collaboration of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian Latino Center.
Our Peoples: Giving Voice to Our Histories
September 21, 2004–January 05, 2014
Historically, Native people have been portrayed in textbooks in narrow or inaccurate ways. In Our Peoples, Native Americans tell their own stories—their own histories—and in this way the exhibition presents new insights into, and different perspectives on, history.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida, Tapirapé (Mato Grosso, Brazil), Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma (USA), Tohono O'odham Nation (Arizona, USA), Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation (North Carolina, USA), Nahua (Guerrero, Mexico), Ka'apor (Maranhão, Brazil), and Wixaritari (Durango, Mexico)—sometimes known as Huichol—were the first communities and tribes to share their stories with visitors in the Our Peoples gallery. Two new tribal communities added their voices in 2007, when exhibitions representing the Blackfeet Nation (Browning, Montana) and Chiricahua Apache (Mescalero, New Mexico) were rotated into the gallery, replacing the Seminole and Tapirapé installations.
The main story of Our Peoples focuses on the last 500 years of Native history and shows how the arrival of newcomers in the Western Hemisphere set the stage for one of the most momentous events in human history. In the struggle for survival, nearly every Native community wrestled with the impact of deadly new diseases and weaponry, the weakening of traditional spirituality, and the seizure of homelands by invading governments. But the story of these last five centuries is not entirely a story of destruction. It is also about how Native people intentionally and strategically kept their cultures alive.
Our Lives: Contemporary Life and Identities
Our Lives reveals how residents of eight Native communities live in the 21st century. Through the stories of the Campo Band of Kumeyaay Indians (California, USA), urban Indian community of Chicago (Illinois, USA), Yakama Nation (Washington State, USA), Igloolik (Nunavut, Canada), Kahnawake (Quebec, Canada), Saint-Laurent Metis (Manitoba, Canada), Kalinago (Carib Territory, Dominica), and Pamunkey Tribe (Virginia, USA), visitors learn about the deliberate and often difficult choices indigenous people make in order to survive economically, save their languages from extinction, preserve their cultural integrity, and keep their traditional arts alive.
The main section of Our Lives centers on various layers of identity. For Native people, identity—who you are, how you dress, what you think, where you fit in, and how you see yourself in the world—has been shaped by language, place, community membership, social and political consciousness, and customs and beliefs. But Native identity has also been influenced by a legacy of legal policies that have sought to determine who is Indian and who is not. The issue of Native identity continues to resonate today, as Native people across the Americas seek to claim the future on their own terms.
Our Universes: Traditional Knowledge Shapes Our World
Our Universes focuses on indigenous cosmologies—worldviews and philosophies related to the creation and order of the universe—and the spiritual relationship between humankind and the natural world. Organized around the solar year, the exhibition introduces visitors to indigenous peoples from across the Western Hemisphere who continue to express the wisdom of their ancestors in celebration, language, art, spirituality, and daily life.
The community galleries feature eight cultural philosophies—those of the Pueblo of Santa Clara (Espanola, New Mexico, USA), Anishinaabe (Hollow Water and Sagkeeng Bands, Manitoba, Canada), Lakota (Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota, USA), Quechua (Communidad de Phaqchanta, Cusco, Peru), Hupa (Hoopa Valley, California, USA), Q'eq'chi' Maya (Cobán, Guatemala), Mapuche (Temuco, Chile), and Yup'ik (Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska, USA). The design of these galleries reflects each community's interpretation of the order of the world.The exhibition also highlights the Denver (Colorado) March Powwow, the North American Indigenous Games, and the Day of the Dead as seasonal celebrations that bring Native peoples together.
Return to a Native Place: Algonquian Peoples of the Chesapeake
Meet the Native peoples of the Chesapeake Bay region–what is now Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware–through photographs, maps, ceremonial and everyday objects, and interactives. This compact exhibition educates visitors on the continued Native presence in the region, and provides an overview of the history and events from the 1600s to the present that have impacted the lives of the Nanticoke, Powhatan, and Piscataway tribes. The exhibition was curated by Gabrielle Tayac, Ph.D. (Piscataway)