Native American Culture - Essay Example

To address this topic, I will first discuss what knowledge I have gained about Native Americans.

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Identity by Design: Tradition, Change, and Celebration in Native Women’s Dresses showcases the world-renowned collection of Native American dresses held by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. The book, edited by award-winning beadwork artist and NMAI curator Emil Her Many Horses (Oglala Lakota), presents a fascinating array of Native women’s clothing from the Plains, Plateau, and Great Basin regions of the United States and Canada, dating from the 1830s to the present. The beautiful creations included in this book reveal the artistic vision of many individual makers as well as different regional styles and tribal designs. These dresses, shawls, moccasins, and accessories reflect Native history and identity during a time of intense social and cultural change.

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The museum’s holdings are rich in examples of Native ceramics from throughout the Western Hemisphere, stretching across forty centuries to the present day. In this book, four scholars introduce important and little-known ceramic figures and vessels representing the cultures of the Andes, Mexico, the American Southwest, and the eastern United States. Extensively illustrated with beautiful new photographs of objects from the museum’s collections, including many pieces published here for the first time, Born of Clay brings curatorial and Native artistic perspectives together to present a lively and concise introduction to Native American ceramics.

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Vision, Space, Desire: Global Perspectives and Cultural Hybridity, which grew out of an international art symposium held by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in December 2005, features a lively exchange of ideas and opens new possibilities in contemporary art practice and engagement. Noted museum professionals, artists, critics, and scholars from around the world explore indigenous artistic and curatorial practices in relation to the ever-changing realities of the contemporary art scene and discuss new strategies to frame the ways Native contemporary artists are regarded in the international art world.

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When the Rain Sings: Poems by Young Native Americans was created in partnership with Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers and includes some of the notable talents from Wordcraft’s Mentoring Initiative, a national program created to cultivate the writing abilities of Native youth. NMAI, with support from Wordcraft’s founding director Lee Francis (Laguna Pueblo), asked Native participants from Mentoring Initiatives throughout the United States to use objects and historic images from the museum’s unparalleled collections to spark their imagination. The uplifting, sometimes aching, responses of these poets, who range in age from nine to seventeen, invite readers into a world colored by joy, sadness, and memory.

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Native Americans from six diverse cultures—Northern Plains, Tuscarora, Cherokee, Makah, Quechua, and Western Apache—share personal accounts of their origins, the effects of European-American settlement on their communities, and their commitment to preserving cultural values for future generations. This book unites compelling narratives with archival photographs and a rich selection of objects chosen by the authors from the collections of the National Museum of the American Indian. Pottery, baskets, textiles, beadwork, and other items highlight the beauty of Native artistic expression while they represent a spiritual quality that transcends the purely aesthetic dimension.

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Seven leading thinkers on the presentation of Native American history and contemporary cultures discuss how the essential ideas behind the creation of the National Museum of the American Indian initially were implemented and potentially could evolve. In addition to honoring the leadership and contributions of the museum’s founding director, W. Richard West, Jr., the authors explore such topics as repatriation, the representation of Native voices in exhibitions and programs, and the museum’s ongoing effort to develop its intellectual authority. Synthesizing the papers presented at a symposium of the same name hosted by the museum in October 2007, Past, Present, and Future takes a candid look at the National Museum of the American Indian’s complex genesis and future challenges.