The Mu­seum of North­ern Ari­zona re­opens their Na­tive Amer­i­can art gallery with an em­pha­sis on col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Native American Art - - MUSEUM EXHIBITONS -

The Mu­seum of North­ern Ari­zona re­opens their Na­tive Amer­i­can art gallery with an em­pha­sis on col­lab­o­ra­tion.


In 1980, the Mu­seum of North­ern Ari­zona opened a gallery of Na­tive Amer­i­can art. Af­ter nearly 40 years, the space has been ex­panded and reimag­ined in a new per­ma­nent ex­hi­bi­tion ti­tled Na­tive Peo­ples of the Colorado Plateau.

The mu­seum’s pres­i­dent emer­i­tus Robert Bre­unig, who cu­rated the orig­i­nal 1980 ex­hi­bi­tion, also led the modern in­stal­la­tion, and he notes that the ap­proach to this type of ex­hi­bi­tion has shifted dra­mat­i­cally in the in­ter­ven­ing years. “Al­though we had quotes [from tribe mem­bers] in the pre­vi­ous it­er­a­tion, it was still in the third-per­son voice. ‘The Hopi do this, the Navajo do that.’ We wanted to make a shift from the an­thro­po­log­i­cal voice to the com­mu­nity voice,” he ex­plains. To ac­com­plish that goal, the mu­seum part­nered with 42 mem­bers of the Colorado Plateau tribes to se­lect the hun­dreds of items that will be on dis­play. Tribal mem­bers were also key in de­vel­op­ing the text for the ex­hi­bi­tion. A ta­ble at the cen­ter of the ex­hi­bi­tion will show­case each tribe’s ap­proach to cel­e­bra­tion, adorn­ment, food, toys and games.

“For us, tribal knowl­edge is sa­cred, and much of it can­not be shared with ev­ery­one. Tra­di­tional knowl­edge is taught by our el­ders and given when one is ready. Parts can only be known by spe­cially pre­pared in­di­vid­u­als,” says

Ophe­lia Wata­homigie-corliss, a Hava­su­pai coun­cil mem­ber who as­sisted in the cre­ation of the ex­hi­bi­tion. “Here, we are shar­ing knowl­edge that we are com­fort­able giv­ing to the world.”

More than 340 items from the mu­seum’s vast col­lec­tion were cho­sen for dis­play, from his­toric relics to con­tem­po­rary works, in­clud­ing a skate­board deck painted by Hopi artist Mavasta Hony­outi.

“Hony­outi’s deck il­lus­trates one of the ma­jor themes of the ex­hi­bi­tion— that these cul­tures are liv­ing, thriv­ing and evolv­ing—not just a part of the Colorado Plateau’s past,” says mu­seum CEO Car­rie Heinonen. “A com­mon re­frain that echoes through­out the en­tire gallery is ‘We are still here.’

One of the themes cen­tral

"All things on the [Colorado] Plateau have mean­ing, have life—have a spirit that we com­mu­ni­cate with every day when we get up, every night be­fore we go to bed." —Charley Bul­lets, South­ern Paiute

to all the tribes is how they are hon­or­ing the his­tory and tra­di­tions that de­fine their cul­ture while si­mul­ta­ne­ously liv­ing in the modern world.”

Ul­ti­mately, the ex­hi­bi­tion serves as a much-needed com­ing-to­gether. “We live in a time, where I feel very strongly that peo­ple in dif­fer­ent cul­tures need to have ac­tive di­a­logues with each other, and we need to build a land­scape of mu­tual re­spect and em­pa­thy across cul­tures,” Bre­unig says. “I hope that this ex­hi­bi­tion helps in that ef­fort.”

Na­tive Peo­ples of the Colorado Plateau opens on April 14 to tribal com­mu­ni­ties, and to the pub­lic on April 15.

1. Hava­su­pai bur­den bas­ket, 23½ x 18"

2. Apache boots, 12½ x 9"


3. The Mu­seum of North­ern Ari­zona in Flagstaff, Ari­zona.

4. Hopi pen­dant “hid­den gem,” front in­laid with mul­ti­ple stones, non-vis­i­ble gem on the back that only the wearer knew about. 4


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