Essay On Native American Arts

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1The indigenous arts of the United States have long stood in a vexed relationship with the canons of American art history.1 This brief essay covers only the highlights of this relationship, by considering some major exhibits and installations of Native art in American art museums (and, occasionally, in other exhibition spaces) during the past century. I make these comments as an art historian who has for more than three decades focused on Native American art, with some contributions to others areas of American art history as well.2

2In the last two decades, some scholars of American art have sought to incorporate Indigenous art’s history into their courses; the two major textbooks in the field provide creditable coverage of such topics,3 and the principal journals of American art published in the United States provide at least occasional coverage of Native themes and topics.4 Many important museums in the United States have a far longer history of collecting Native art than is often recognized. Yet as I will show, most continue to ghettoize Native American art, despite demonstrable efforts to include African-American, Asian-American, and Latino arts into their narratives of the history of visual art of the United States. In this essay, I divide a century of Native art history into three broad periods, in order to demonstrate how major art-historical trends were manifested in exhibitionary practice.

Native American Art in American Art Museums in the early twentieth century

3In the wake of the First World War, and in the shadow of the Second, one way the United States claimed its artistic independence and affirmed its indigenous roots was through its celebration of Native art. Assertions of Indian art as essentially “American” fill the catalogues, articles, and reviews of that era. In the 1920s, prominent artists such as Marsden Hartley and John Sloan, who spent time painting in Santa Fe, were championing the work of contemporary Pueblo painters, ensuring that it was seen, purchased, and talked about. The first exhibits of Pueblo paintings took place at the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe (1919), the Arts Club in Chicago (1920), and The Society of Independent Artists in New York City (1920, 1921, and 1922). Sloan enthusiastically proclaimed this work “the only 100% American art produced in this country,” and it was featured in many popular magazines.5 Hartley argued: “As Americans we should accept the one American genius we possess, with genuine alacrity. We have upon our own soil something to show the world […].”6 White American painters, curators, and critics saw Pueblo watercolors as source material for a distinctly American modern art and claimed them as national patrimony.

4In December 1931, The Exposition of Indian Tribal Arts, proclaimed in its catalogue’s subtitle as “the first exhibition of American Indian art selected entirely with consideration of esthetic value,” opened at the Grand Central Art Galleries in New York City. The largest touring exhibit of Native art before the 1970s,it included over 650 objects – both historical and contemporary – and versions toured fifteen American cities in 1932. Its curators sought to convince the American public that Indian art was “at once classic and modern,” representing “thousands of years of development” on American, rather than European, soil.7 Because of the success of the Exposition, Native works of art were exhibited as part of the official American Pavilion at the 1932 Venice Biennale.8 Also in 1932, the newly-opened Whitney Museum of American Art purchased a Native painting, Basket Dance, by Tonita Peña for 225 dollars – the highest price paid at the time for a Native American painting.9 Many regional American art museums were acquiring Pueblo and Kiowa paintings as well, including the Newark Museum, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Denver Art Museum, and others.

5In the spring of 1941 an ambitious exhibit, Indian Art of the United States, filled the entire Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York; it was a museological landmark, both for the imprimatur it gave to Native art, and for its cutting-edge modern installation techniques, in which Native art was elegantly presented.10 The exhibit and its lavishly illustrated catalogue were widely reviewed and unanimously lauded.11 Just as sentiment after the First World War had focused with pride on all things that were essentially “American”, thus sparking a nationalistic interest in Native American art, so too did such impulses fuel interest in Native North American art during the Second World War. For example, F.H. Taylor, director of the Worcester (Mass) Art Museum, wrote to René d’Harnoncourt, curator of Indian Art of the United States, saying “It might be a great relief and extremely popular to promote the Indian at this time when everyone is pretty well appalled and fed up with Europe.”12

6The 1950s and early 1960s were a quiescent time for Native American art in American art museums. But with the rise of the Civil Rights movement, the Feminist movement and “Red Power” in the late 1960s and 1970s, Indigenous American art was to come to the forefront again, often with little memory of its already distinguished exhibitionary history.

Multiculturalism: museum initiatives between 1970 and 2000

7In the United States, the term “multiculturalism” did not come into common usage until the 1980s, but civil rights efforts on the part of African-Americans and other minorities of the 1960s and 70s underlay this concept. “Multiculturalism” became shorthand for a liberal ideology of cultural diversity, which was expressed in the arts by greater attention to the expressive culture of women and people of color. In the 1970s, several major exhibits in art museums offered more widespread appreciation of Native art as a subject of art history rather than anthropology, in essence recapitulating some of the initiatives of the period from 1920-1941.

8In 1972, Two American Painters, an important exhibition in Washington, D.C. at the National Collection of Fine Arts (now the National Museum of American Art), exhibited the work of Fritz Scholder (Luiseño, 1937-2005) and T.C. Cannon (Kiowa-Caddo, 1946-1978).13 The title was a nod to Three American Painters, an exhibit of high modernist abstract art held in the previous decade,14 and it announced an intention to situate Native artists directly into the mainstream of contemporary American art. Both Scholder's expressionist style and Cannon's pop-art imagery explored a new Native politics of identity, subverting stereotypical images of “Indianness” familiar from the nineteenth-century paintings of Karl Bodmer and George Catlin and the photographs of Edward Curtis, as well as more recent Hollywood movies.

9That same year, ancient and historical Indigenous arts of North America were featured in an influential exhibit, American Indian Art: Form and Tradition, presented jointly by the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. This survey of more than 800 objects was accompanied by a catalogue that was widely used as a textbook in the field for many years.15 A notable early example of an in-depth examination of one artistic medium (rather than a national survey) was The Navajo Blanket, mounted at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1972, which traveled to art museums in Chicago, New York, Kansas City and Houston as well as the Kunstverein in Hamburg and the Musée des arts décoratifs in Paris. Many textiles in the exhibit were borrowed from the collections of modernist American painters Jasper Johns, Donald Judd, Kenneth Noland, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Frank Stella, and the exhibition’s curators posited an aesthetic commonality between historical Navajo weavings and cutting-edge contemporary art.16 Reviewers agreed, the New York Times reviewer acknowledging that the works “anticipate so many of the visual ideas we have learned to think of as the special province of so-called ‘advanced’ art of the twentieth century,” and that “nothing that our painting has produced in recent years exceeds in sheer visual power the strongest works in this survey.”17

10Two ambitious exhibitions in 1976 and 1977 (with more than 800 and 500 objects respectively) brought Native American art into the forefront once again. Sacred Circles opened at the Hayward Gallery in London, in honor of the American Bicentennial, and was featured in 1977 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, its organizing institution.18The Native American Heritage opened atThe Art Institute of Chicago in 1977.19 Like The Exposition of Indian Tribal Arts in 1931 and Indian Art of the United States in 1941, these exhibits received copious attention in the press, and engendered widespread interest. Indeed, many who came of age in that decade credit these exhibits for kindling their interest in Native art. In the wake of these remarkably popular surveys, more American art museums began to mount exhibits of specific Indigenous art traditions, giving aspects of Native art history the same depth and rigor of attention long afforded other artistic traditions.

11In 1983 and 1984, the Metropolitan Museum in New York held two small exhibits of historic works of American Indian art from an unnamed collector, giving rise to the hopes that this august institution would add an significant collection of Native art to its Rockefeller Wing, which housed considerable collections of African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian works.20 Yet soon thereafter, the Met turned down the potential gift of more than 700 works of Native American art held by philanthropists Eugene and Clare Thaw (the unnamed owners of the works in the 1983 and 1984 exhibits). This collection – arguably the finest in private hands – came to rest in the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York.21

12In the 1980s and 1990s, numerous shows of Native arts, both historic and contemporary were organized in American art museums, yet only a few such museums added substantial numbers of Native art objects to their collections. The National Gallery in Washington, D.C. – the government-sponsored fine arts museum of the United States – was the venue for several traveling shows of Native arts, including Ancient Art of the American Woodland Indians and Art of the American Indian Frontier.22 The Metropolitan Museum was, in 1985, a venue for the traveling exhibit, Mimbres Pottery: Ancient Art of the American Southwest.23

13The Decade Show, an influential 1990 exhibit of contemporary art in three New York City museums, included several Native artists who came to prominence in the 1980s, among them Edgar Heap-of-Birds, James Luna, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and Kay WalkingStick. This was a rare example of Native art’s inclusion in a narrative of contemporary American art.24 Not until the Columbus Quincentennial commemorations in 1992 did a strong Indigenous artistic and curatorial voice come to be a regular part of the exhibition and explanation of Native art, a trend that continues to flourish but is outside the scope of this essay.25 Other major museum exhibits in the 1990s featured collaboration between Native and non-Native curators, among them exhibits of Kwakiutl art, Plains Indian art, and Plains ledger drawings.26

Twenty-first century approaches: ‘dialogical imperatives’

14Because this essay focuses on the relationship of this field to the discipline of American art history, I am not focusing on the many important exhibitions put on by the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City (established in 1994) and Washington, D.C. (established in 2004), that consider both historic and contemporary Native art and artists. Unfortunately, the existence of the latter institution (a branch of the Smithsonian) has for some museums served as an excuse (either stated in private conversations with colleagues, or implied) to abdicate a responsibility to collect and exhibit Native art – especially contemporary Native art – as part of American art in all of its manifestations.

15When art museums of the highest caliber, such as New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, began to add installations of Native American art to their permanent Pre-Columbian, African, and Oceanic displays at the end of the twentieth century, they featured primarily historical works with only an occasional contemporary example of painting or ceramics to signal their recognition of the continued existence of Native American art-making. That this exclusionary tendency continues today is particularly striking, considering that most such institutions have been far more inclusionary of African- American arts within their American art departments. Sadly, no efforts in the United States compare with the inclusivity of the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario, for example, in which Native art history is displayed as part of the national narrative.27

16In 2010, an issue of American Art considered the topic of “Museums and American Art.” Few museum directors or senior curators who wrote for this issue mentioned Native American art as part of American art, though one remarked that, at the Art Institute of Chicago, her Department of American Art “also displays twentieth century Mexican art and works by Canadian artists.”28The curatorial chair of the Art of the Americas Department at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts wrote: “When visitors traverse the four floors of the Arts of the Americas Wing, from the foundation to the top level, they will be able to travel through time as they rise vertically through space from the eras of ancient and Native American art through the later twentieth century.”29 This articulates a resolutely ahistorical view of Native art in which objects from antiquity to the present are confined to the lowest level of the building. Contemporary painter Jaune Quick-To-See Smith’s work hangs near Mimbres pottery from 1100 CE, rather than with her late twentieth-century contemporaries.

17In most art museums in the United States, Departments of the Art of Africa, Oceania and the Americas retain the history of aggregating – and segregating – what used to be called “Primitive Arts.” Changes to this model are noteworthy – and rare. In 2002, the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City hired scholar Gaylord Torrance as the founding curator of a Department of American Indian Art (to oversee collections that had once been conjoined with Africa and the Pacific). His task was to install a Native art gallery next to a newly established Gallery of American Painting, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts, with one object – a silver gorget that was a trade item – linking the two realms. At 6100 square foot, this gallery is nearly as large as the 8000 square foot American Gallery.30 Whereas the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston visually telegraphs that Native art is not only prior, but lodged in the past, The Nelson-Atkins Museum suggests that Native and settler arts coexist temporally and geographically.

18Among those American art museums committed to collecting Indigenous American art, the Denver Art Museum is particularly noteworthy. Its Department of Native Arts, founded in 1925, has been for ninety years a leader in the field. It has recently embarked upon a major initiative of commissioning contemporary Native art and mounting important exhibits.31 In 1996, Cheyenne-Arapaho artist Edgar Heap of Birds responded to a call for proposals for a major Native work of art to be placed outside the museum’s entrance. His winning project, Wheel (dedicated in 2005),addressed the history of massacres and domination experienced by Native peoples in the region. The installation comprises ten twelve-foot tall red stanchions upon which the artist screen-printed names, words and pictographs relating to Native history.32 It evokes both the Sun Dance lodge of Great Plains peoples and the Great Medicine Wheel, an ancient construction in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming.

19The most recent addition to museums of American art in the United States is Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which opened in Bentonville, Arkansas in 2011. Founded by Walmart stores’ heiress, Alice Walton, it advertises “five centuries of American art” on its website, yet in its exhibitions Native people appear only as the subjects in works by George Catlin, Edward Curtis, Edmonia Lewis, and John Sloan, never as artists themselves.

20In 2015, the major exhibit of Indigenous art presented at American art museums was “The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky.”33 Initiated by Stéphane Martin, president of the Musée du quai Branly, to take advantage of their remarkable collection of eighteenth-century Plains material, it was developed under the curatorial direction of Gaylord Torrence. A partnership between the Musée du quai Branly in Paris and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, it was exhibited in those two cities in 2014 and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in 2015. At the Metropolitan, more contemporary art was added by Judith Ostrowitz, coordinator of the exhibit at that venue. Most notably, a four-channel video installation by Dana Claxton, Rattle (2003) was an imposing reminder that in the twenty-first century, Native art is as global and cosmopolitan as any art around. Critical response was laudatory, with the exhibit being touted as “a wondrous show” that was “exactingly selected and elegantly installed.”34

21A new generation of university-trained Native curators and artists has organized significant exhibits, yet these are most often mounted outside the structure of mainstream art museums.35 Some people see the continuing ghettoization of Indigenous arts as problematic at a time when most curatorial impulses are moving toward globalization and itinerancy as organizing narratives. In 2005 the distinguished art historian Tomás Ybarra-Frausto asked: “How can we imagine a new narrative of American art history that focuses on respect for difference and variation, but at the same time builds conviviality and two-way sharing across social divides? That is the next step. We now have stories and visions of African American art, of Asian American art, and Latino art. How can we build points of contact across them? That is what American art is all about – not an individuated ethnic base of narratives, but all these stories calling and responding to each other. Somewhere in this “dialogic imperative,” simultaneous with global tensions, are the contours of a new cartography of the imagination, of a new sense of American visual culture that is not restrictive but open and expansive; that is not national but integrates the local with the global; that offers a possibility of ongoing dialogue and two-way communication”36.

22Much work remains in order to fold Indigenous art history into the field of American art history in a way that respects its temporal priority, its varied impulses toward sovereignty, and its manifold unique visions. Despite this uniqueness, at every moment in our young nation’s history Native art was part of a cosmopolitan conversation, one that stretched beyond reservations, regions, and nations. This narrative is only beginning to be written.37 Astoundingly, a 2007 commentary on emerging themes in American art considered a range of non-canonical topics that have moved to the forefront of American art. The author was silent on the topic of Indigenous art as part of American art history.38 Significantly, the sub-discipline of Native American art history has not yet undertaken the searching self-scrutiny that, for example, historians of Latin America have been working on for decades. Commenting on “the multi-cultural shift” in Latino art, Mari-Carmen Ramirez advocates building structures, including “museums, collections, discourses, publications, archives, markets, circuits, and relationships” that empower local initiatives without subordinating them to cosmopolitan ones.39 Many such initiatives are underway to support Native art histories in indigenous cultural centers, other small regional venues, and the National Museum of the American Indian.

23In American art history during the first decades of the twenty-first century, a younger generation is transforming the field by their research on a host of topics in which American art is a manifold, complicated multi-ethnic phenomenon that is beginning to include Native art histories.40 But the first decades of the twentieth century were similarly expansive: metropolitan New York audiences were inundated by Native American art exhibits, and Native art was displayed in New York department stores, Madison Avenue galleries and the MoMA. The Hopi painter Fred Kabotie exhibited at the 1932 Venice Biennale, painted a mural at MoMA in 1941, and was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation grant. Works by American Indian painters were eagerly collected. With the rise of Abstract Expressionism, and the glorification of high modernism, we succumbed to a severe case of historical amnesia concerning Native arts and artists, and had to learn this history all over again.

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1A discussion of the differences and similarities of the art-historical trajectories of the United States and Canada is beyond the scope of this brief essay, but see Ruth Phillips, “L’Ancien et le Nouveau Monde : aboriginalité et historicité de l’art au Canada,” in Perspective, 3, 2008, p. 535-550. Her discussion of the complexities of settler colonialism and Indigenous contestation provides a useful underpinning to my essay.

2 Janet C. Berlo ed., The Early Years of Native American Art History, Seattle, 1992; Janet C. Berlo, Patricia Crews, Wild by Design: Two Hundred Years of Innovation and Artistry in American Quilts, Seattle, 2003; Angela Miller et al., American Encounters: Art, History, and Cultural Identity,Saddle River, 2007; Janet C. Berlo, Ruth Phillips, Native North American Art, New York, 2015.

3 Frances Pohl, Framing America: A Social History of American Art, London, 2002; Miller, 2007, cited n. 2.

4 See Ruth Phillips, “Reading and Writing Between the Lines,” in Winterthur Portfolio, 45/2-3, Summer-Autumn 2011, p. 107-124; Janet C. Berlo, “Navajo Cosmoscapes: Up, Down, Within,” in American Art, 25/1, Spring 2011, p. 10-13; Mark Watson, “Jimmie Durham’s Building a Nation,” in American Art, 28/1, Spring 2014, p. 16-24; Jessica Horton, “A Cloudburst in Venice: Fred Kabotie and the U.S. Pavilion of 1932,” in American Art, 29/1, Spring 2015, p. 54-81; Alexander Marr, “Scales of Vision: Kiowa Model Tipis and the Mooney Commission,” in Winterthur Portfolio, 49/2-3, Summer/Autumn 2015, forthcoming.

5 Walter Pach, “Notes on the Indian Water-Colours,” in The Dial, 68/3, 1920, p. 343-45; Edgar Lee Hewett, “Native American Artists,” in Art and Archaeology, 13/3, 1922, p. 103-112.

6 Marsden Hartley, “Red Man Ceremonials: An American Plea for American Aesthetics,” in Art and Archaeology, 9, January 1920, p. 7-14.

7 John Sloan, Oliver LaFarge, “Introduction to American Indian Art,” in Exposition of Indian Tribal Arts, (exh. cat., New York, Grand Central Art Galleries, 1931), New York, 1931, 1, p. 7-9.

8 Horton, 2015, cited n. 4; Jessica Horton, Janet C. Berlo, “Pueblo Painting in 1932: Folding Narratives of Native Art into American Art History,” in Jennifer Greenhill, John Davis, Jason LaFountain eds., A Companion to American Art History, London, 2015, p. 264-280.

9 J.J. Brody, Pueblo Indian Painting: Tradition and Modernism in New Mexico, 1900-1930, Santa Fe, 1997, p. 182. Notably, the Whitney no longer owns Basket Dance and has lost all records pertaining to it – a perfect example of our national amnesia regarding Native art histories.

10Indian Art of the United States, Frederic H. Douglas; Rene D’Harnoncourt ed., (exh. cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1941), New York, 1941; W. Jackson Rushing, “Marketing the Affinity of the Primitive and the Modern: René d’Harnoncourt and ‘Indian Art of the United States’,” in Berlo, 1992, cited n. 2.

11 Unsigned, “20,000 Years of Indian Art Assembled for New York Show,” in Newsweek, February 3, 1941, p. 57-58.

12 Rushing, 1992, cited n. 10, p. 207.

13Two American Painters: Fritz Scholder and T.C. Cannon, Adelyn Breeskin ed., (exh. cat., Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Institution, 1972), Washington, D.C., 1972.

14Three American Painters: Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, and Frank Stella, Michael Fried ed., (exh. cat., Cambridge, Fogg Art Museum/ Pasadena, Pasadena Art Museum, 1965), Cambridge (MA), 1965.

15American Indian Art: Form and Tradition, (exh. cat., Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1972), New York, 1972.

16The Navajo Blanket, Mary Hunt Kahlenberg, Anthony Berlant eds., (exh. cat., Los Angeles, Los Angeles Museum of Art, 1972), New York, 1972.

17 Hilton Kramer, “Spectacular ‘Navajo Blanket’ Opens,” in New York Times, September 29, 1972.

18Sacred Circles: Two Thousand Years of North American Indian Art,Ralph Coe ed., (exh. cat., Kansas City, Nelson-Atkins Museum, 1976), Kansas City, 1977.

19The Native American Heritage: A Survey of North American Indian Art, Evan Maurer ed., (exh. cat., Chicago, The Art Institute, 1977), Chicago, 1977.

20Color and Shape in American Indian Art, Zena Pearlstone Mathews ed., (exh. cat., New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1983), New York, 1983; Symbol and Substance in Native American Art, Zena Pearlstone Mathews éd., (exh. cat., New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1984), New York, 1984.

21 Gilbert Vincent, Sherry Brydon, Ralph Coe eds., Art of the North American Indian: The Thaw Collection, Seattle, 2000.

22Ancient Art of the American Woodland Indians, David W. Penney ed., (exh. cat., Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, 1985), New York, 1985; Art of the American Indian Frontier: the Chandler-Pohrt Collection, David W. Penney ed., (exh. cat., Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, 1992-1993), Seattle, 1993.

23Mimbres Pottery: Ancient Art of the American Southwest, J.J. Brody ed., (exh. cat., New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1984), New York, 1984.

24The Decade Show: Frameworks of Identity in the 1980s, Nilda Peraza, Marcia Tucker, Kinshasha Conwil, eds., (exh. cat., New York, Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art/New Museum of Contemporary Art/Studio Museum in Harlem, 1990), New York, 1990.

25The Submuloc Show/Columbus Wohs: A Visual Commentary on the Columbus Quincentennial From the Perspective of America's First People, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith ed., (exh. cat., Phoenix, ATLATL, 1992), Phoenix, 1992.

26 See Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch, Aldona Jonaitis ed., (exh. cat., New York, American Museum of Natural History, 1991), Seattle/New York, 1991; Visions of the People: A Pictorial History of Plains Indian Life, Evan Maurer ed., (exh. cat., Minneapolis, Minneapolis Institute of Art, 1992), Minneapolis/Seattle, 1992; J. C. Berlo ed., Plains Indian Drawings 1865-1935: Pages from a Visual History, (exh. cat., New York, The Drawing Center, 1996).

27 Phillips, 2008, cited n. 1.

28 Judith Barter, “American Art in the Rice Building: The Art Institute of Chicago,” in American Art, 24/2, Summer 2010, p. 12-15.

29 Elliot Bostwick Davis, “The Art of the Americas Wing, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,” in American Art, 24/2, Summer 2010, p. 9-11.

30 Personal communication from Gaylord Torrance, June 2015.

31 See Super Indian: Fritz Scholder 1967-1980, John Lukavic ed., (exh. cat., Denver, Denver Art Museum, 2015-2016), Denver, 2015.

32 Nancy Blomberg ed., [Re]inventing the Wheel: Advancing the Dialogue on Contemporary American Indian Art, Denver, 2008.

33The Plains Indians: artists of earth and sky, Gaylord Torrence, Fred Merril, Virginia Merrill eds., (exh. cat., Paris, Musée du quai Branly/Kansas City, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art/New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014-2015), Paris/New York, 2014.

34 Peter Schjeldahl, “Moving Pictures: Plains Indian art at the Metropolitan Museum, in The New Yorker, March 16, 2015; see also Holland Cotter, “‘The Plains Indians,’ America’s Early Artists at the Met,” in The New York Times, March 12, 2015; Thomas Powers, “A Tale of Woe and Glory,” in The New York Review of Books, May 7, 2015, p. 8-10.

35 Indeed, as this essay went to press, the Mellon Foundation released a demographic survey of art museum staff members in the United States. Of the museums that reported, zero percent of professional staff (i.e. curators, management, and educational professionals) identified as Native American, while 84% identified as White (non-Hispanic), 6% as Asian, 4% as Black, 3% as belonging to 2 or more races, and 3% as White (Hispanic), see Roger Schonfeld, Mariët Westerman, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey, New York, 2015, fig. 6: (viewed September 10, 2015).

36 Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, “Imagining a More Expansive Narrative of American Art, in American Art, 19/3, Fall 2005, p. 11.

37 See Phillips, 2008, cited n. 1; Janet C. Berlo, Arthur Amiotte, “Generosity, Trade, and Reciprocity among the Lakota: Three Moments in Time,” in Jill A. Yohe ed., Plains Indian Art from the Danforth Collection, St. Louis, forthcoming.

38 Cynthia Mills, “Emerging Themes, Emerging Voices,” in American Art, 21/2, 2007, p. 2-14.

39 Mari-Carmen Ramirez, Ybarra-Frausto eds., Resisting Categories: Latin American and/or Latino, New Haven, 2012, p. 955. Their chapter VI “The Multi-Cultural Shift” (p. 944-956) provides remarks that, with some differences, are relevant to a discussion of the “othering” of Indigenous American art.

40See for example Sascha Scott, A Strange Mixture: The Art and Politics of Painting Pueblo Indians, Norman, 2015.

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Janet Catherine Berlo, « The art of Indigenous Americans and American art history: a century of exhibitions », Perspective [En ligne], 2 | 2015, mis en ligne le 07 décembre 2015, consulté le 13 mars 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/perspective.6004

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Essays for the American Indians of the Pacific Northwest Collection

Ten essays on specific tribal groups and on cross-cultural topics were commissioned from anthropologists, historians, and teachers who have studied the rich heritage of Pacific Northwest Native Americans. These essays are intended to provide some context for K-12 students and teachers in using the primary sources found in the collection. The essays include some suggested study questions and bibliographies of additional resources.

The essays include an overview essay called "Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest: An Introduction." Five of the essays are on specific tribal/cultural groups while the other essays are on cross-cultural topics. There is also an additional section which highlights some of the collection's maps which show traditional territories or reservation boundaries.

Tribal/cultural groups:

Alaskan Tlingit and Tsimshian - Dr. Jay Miller of the University of Washington examines the Tlingit of the Alaskan panhandle and neighboring Tsimshian of the British Columbia coast.

Coeur d'Alene (Schitsu'umsh) - In the essay on the Coeur d'Alene of eastern Washington, northern Idaho and western Montana, written by Dr. Rodney Frey, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Idaho, the importance of mythology and religious teachings is reiterated.

The Lushootseed Peoples of Puget Sound Country - The meaning and value of some traditions are described in the essay written by Coll-Peter Thrush, an historian at the University of Washington, on the Lushootseed peoples of Puget Sound, the native speakers of the Lushootseed language.

The Makah Tribe: People of the Sea and the Forest - Dr. Ann M. Renker, who is the principal of Neah Bay High School and Markishstum Middle School, examines how non-native influences affected the Makah.

The Nez Perce - Revival of traditional culture has marked the recent history of the Nez Perce, described in the essay co-authored by Dr. Deward E. Walker, Jr. and Peter Jones, of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Cross-cultural topics:

Assimilation Through Education: Indian Boarding Schools in the Pacific Northwest - Carolyn J. Marr , Librarian at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle, examines the operation of northwestern Indian schools in her essay on one of the most effective means government officials used in their attempt to eradicate traditional native institutions.

Chief Seattle and Chief Joseph: From Indians to Icons - David Buerge's essay on Chief Seattle and Chief Joseph examines the impact of western history on the lives of two prominent native leaders - and their impact upon it.

Salmon, the Lifegiving Gift - Dr. Jay Miller's second essay examines the salmon, once the daily bread of groups throughout the region, but now an endangered resource and an icon of environmental fragility.

Totem Poles: Heraldic Columns of the Northwest - Dr. Robin K. Wright, curator of Native American art at the University of Washington's Burke Museum, looks to folklore for clues to the origin of their form and examines the impact of western influence upon their development.

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