Curatorial Residency at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, or New York, NY—applications due April 15, 2014
Patricia Scott, NMAI Cultural Resources Center, 4220 Silver Hill Road, Suitland, MD 20746-2863
By Patrick Watson
Mentor Rebecca Rae introduces Latrell Davis, Tenika Davis, Gabrielle Lucero, Kiley Taptto. The students presented their group research on housing assistance and recommended that the use of traditional building materials, community involvement in planning, and housing assistance for everyone who needs it be incorporated into housing programs.
On Monday, June 24, the National Museum of the American Indian welcomed a group of students from the Summer Policy Academy II, a program of the Santa Fe Indian School Leadership Institute. SPA II gives students the opportunity to travel to Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs to research and write policy papers on issues that affect their Native communities. Students are admitted into the program based on nomination by leaders in their communities. At the end of the program, the students travel to Washington, D.C., to present their research and recommendations to their congressional delegates. This year, they made a stop at NMAI to share their work with some of the museum’s staff.
The students in the group on health issues were Latrell Davis (Zuni Pueblo), Tenika Toya (Jemez/ San Felipe Pueblo), Gabrielle Lucero (Isleta Pueblo), and Kiley Taptto (San Felipe/ Santa Ana Pueblo), assisted by mentor Rebecca Rae (Jicarilla Apache). The group began by highlighting some of the historic factors that have contributed to the decline in health among their communities, such as the loss of practices through which Pueblo people provided their own sustenance and the introduction of, and resulting dependency upon, nutritionally inferior government rations. The group also addressed government sequestration, explaining that even slight cuts in the Indian Health Service’s funding would significantly set back the health of the Pueblo people. Specifically, they requested that the proposed 5 percent cut in IHS spending be reduced to no more than 1 percent. The group made it clear that the programs dedicated to improving well-being in their communities are vital to the mental, physical, and spiritual health of the Pueblo people.
Students Jacob Shije (Santa Clara Pueblo), Honey Garcia (Santa Ana Pueblo), Trishana Garcia (Santo Domingo Pueblo), Desiree Quintana (Santo Domingo Pueblo), and staff mentor Christie Abeyta (Santa Clara/Santo Domingo Pueblo) addressed the urbanization of Native communities. Drawing from their own, varied experiences, the group pointed out that the environment of traditional pueblos is conducive to the sense of community that is so vital to Pueblo culture, while government funded, subdivision-style housing creates isolation within the community and is detrimental to Pueblo traditions and core values.
Jacob said exactly how they want to address the issue: “We’re asking for the consideration of changes that would include flexibility for the use of traditional materials and involvement in planning to minimize impacts on cultural and social aspects of Pueblo life.” The group cited the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 as an example of a program that would help the housing situation in their communities. They touched on some issues that are applicable beyond the context of Native communities as well, such as the need for housing assistance for all families with inadequate housing, rather than just those that fall within a certain, low-income bracket, and the need for varied designs and sizes to accommodate families with different sizes and circumstances. Community-oriented housing is important so that the Pueblo people may continue, as Jacob put it, to “maintain [their] living history.”
Pretty Water Duran, Kaitlyn Coyazo, Teran Villa present their research on the protection of land, natural resources, and sacred sites. Their group recommended revisions to existing laws to further protect sacred sites.
The issues surrounding sacred sites and their protection in the face of industrialization and development were tackled by students Teran Villa (Jemez Pueblo), Pretty Water Duran (Pojoaque Pueblo), and Kaitlyn Coyazo (San Felipe Pueblo), along with mentor Veronique Richardson (Laguna Pueblo). The group explained that sacred sites remain important to the Pueblo people’s way of life. As Kaitlyn said in introducing the issue, “Our ancestors fought to protect their religion and sacred sites. We are here to carry on their legacy.” One of the biggest issues in protecting sacred sites is that the sites themselves can range from a particular point to a collection of sites to an entire landscape.American Indian Religious Freedom Act.” Pretty Water also added some personal context: “A sacred site to me is a kiva. A kiva is just like a cathedral, a place where we, as Natives, go and pray and do our ceremonies. Without a kiva, we would lose our language, culture, tradition, and our core values. Even if part of the kiva was destroyed, that is enough to destroy our religious practices.” Teran summed up the group’s recommendations on how to deal with the issue: “It is vital for us Native Americans that the government revisits and amends the American Indian Religious Freedom Act by incorporating the Native American Free Exercise of Religion Act that will enforce restrictions and consequences upon harm of our sacred sites.”
Focusing on educational issues were Autumn Billie (Navajo/Taos and Acoma Pueblo), LaVonna Gachupin (Zia Pueblo), and Eric Jenkins (San Felipe and Santo Domingo Pueblo), along with mentor Preston Sanchez (Navajo and Jemez Pueblo). The group broke the educational issues facing Native students into three categories: access to higher education, transitioning into higher education, and lack of Native history, culture, and language in education. On the subject of transitioning into higher education, Eric stressed the significance of programs like SPA that offer students the opportunity to do serious work on culturally important issues. He said, “SPA gives us the privilege to use our cultural core values to learn about policy.”Building upon Unique Indian Learning and Development Act and the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act. Additionally, they proposed their own measure, Building Capacity and Retention to Increase Native American Faculty, which would involve mentorship programs in universities to promote faculty and teaching careers for Native students.
LaVonna shared a personal anecdote about a teacher who suspected she was lying when she needed time to attend to some tribal responsibilities. She said, “[The teacher] came to my house, and she wanted to see if I was actually fulfilling my tribal obligations, and she was shocked that I wasn’t lying.” Having just completed her first year at the University of New Mexico, Autumn said of her experience, “I did not have a single Native American professor,” and that is an apt example of what the group sees as one of the biggest issues with education for Native students.
These students have put in time researching and thinking about the issues that affect their Native communities, but their involvement is much deeper than that. These students do so much more than think about these issues, because they are living them. These are not theoretical matters. They are the realities that American Indians face every day, and it is inspiring to see the commitment to a better reality that drives these students.
All photos by Maria E. Renteria, NMAI
Patrick Watson is a member of the Chickasaw Nation and an intern with the National Museum of the American Indian’s Office of Public Affairs. He is pursuing a BA in Plan II Honors and English from the University of Texas at Austin and expects to graduate May 2015.
Maria Esmeralda Renteria is an intern with the National Museum of the American Indian’s Office of Public Affairs. She is pursuing an MA in Museum Studies from the San Francisco State University and received her BA in both Latin American Studies and Spanish at UCLA.
Last summer singer, songwriter, and producer Rob Lamothe helped kick off the opening of the exhibition Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Culture at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York. He and his band will return to perform at the museum Thursday, April 25, at 6 p.m. Supporting Rob are talented band members bassist Ryan Johnson, guitarist Ronnie Johnson, drummer Zander Lamothe, and vocalist and pianist Rose Lamothe. Together they will take the stage in the Up Where We Belong gallery and pay tribute to the artists featured in the exhibition with a set of iconic songs and some of their own personal favorites. The concert is free and open to the public; invite friends to attend via the museum's Rob Lamothe event page on Facebook.
For the past 30 years, Rob has enjoyed an award-winning career with songs on the Billboard charts in the U.S. He has shared stages with everyone from Gun 'n' Roses to Ron Sexsmith. His songs are heard on hit TV shows like Melrose Place and the long-running Australian soap opera Paradise Beach. And Rolling Stone Europe has said he's got an "out-of-this-world soulful voice.”
In the last several years, Rob has devoted much of his musical energy to working with some of North America's pre-eminent Native artists. Rob has recorded with award-winning artist David Maracle (Aboriginal Peoples Choice Awards, Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, National Aboriginal Achievement Awards, etc). Rob teaches at Interprovincial Music Camp with Juno Award-winner Derek Miller from Six Nations Mohawk territory and internationally renowned guitarist, producer, and American Idol music director Stevie Salas (Apache). Rob's deep commitment to community is reflected in his work with young people from the Nimkee Nupigawagan Healing Centre in Muncey, Ontario, and in his job running the Emergency Housing Program for the province's Haldimand and Norfolk counties.
The band's up-and-coming young bassist Ryan Johnson has opened for musicians Derek Miller, Pappy Johns Band, and others on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border. Inspired by classic rock bands from the ’60s and ’70s, Johnson and his band earned a 2010 Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards nomination.
Guitarist Ronnie Johnson (unrelated to Ryan Johnson) hails from the Six Nations of the Grand River territory, where he grew up hearing blues and rock. By creating music that makes people dance—playing bass, rhythm guitar, and lead guitar with The Blues Brigade and Midnight Lightning for the past five years—Ronnie has “followed in the storied tradition of legendary Six Nations blues musicians.”
Named “Drummer of the Year” at the 2012 Hamilton Music Awards, Zander Lamothe has rocked in numerous Canadian and European tour shows. With his drumming featured behind artists City and Colour, Melissa McClelland, and others, this zealous artist has drummed his way from California to New York.
Beginning her musical career, 16-year-old Rose Lamothe accompanies the band with her singing and piano skills. Rose has been honored to be mentored by musicians such as Bernard Fowler from the Rolling Stones and Donna Grantis from Prince.
The music will kick off at 6 p.m. on the Up Where We Belong gallery stage at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York, located at One Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan. This show is guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser and a real treat for visitors who want to experience a concert inside of a gallery surrounded by the history of Native icons of music.
Aimee Beltramini is an intern in the Public Affairs and Visitor Services Departments at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York.
Native Sounds Downtown! with Rob Lamothe, Ryan Johnson, Ronnie Johnson, Zander Lamothe, and Rose Lamothe
Thursday, April 25, at 6 p.m.
National Museum of the American Indian in New York
In 2009 and 2010, basketweaver Deborah McConnell (Hoopa/Yurok/Quinault); cultural heritage specialist Robert McConnell (Yurok); and Briannon Fraley (Tolowa), a former summer intern at the National Museum of the American Indian, joined members of the museum's Conservation Office in a program centered on Northern California basketry and its broader cultural context. This is the last post in a series that presents multiple perspectives on their collaboration. To read earlier posts in the series, see:
1. Introduction to the Project, Acknowledgments & Contributors
2. NMAI Internship Programs
3. The Collections Visit, Consultation & Workshop
4. Practices and Beliefs
5. The Visit to Northern California
When Deborah and Robert McConnell and Briannon Fraley came to the museum to conduct a basketry consultation and workshop their goal was to introduce conservation fellows and interns to the greater context of baskets in Native cultures. Consultants and conservators connected through the materials and processes as basketry techniques were taught in a hands-on workshop. The opportunity to share museum experiences and methodologies, such as storage, cleaning, re-shaping, and repair, was also of interest to Ms. McConnell and Ms. Fraley. The workshop provided a fertile environment for an exchange of ideas that may lead to new treatment solutions incorporating Native expertise, which has often been overlooked.
The conservators' understanding of basketry's cultural context was further enhanced through a visit to Northern California to experience current cultural issues, the socio-political environment, and land management/resources challenges, all of which impact basketry production today. Conveying the interconnectedness of a museum object and the culture that craeted it is paramount to understanding: There is more to a basket than just materials and techniques.
Asked to assess the value of this educational experience, Anne Gunnison, an Andrew W. Mellon fellow in the Conservation Office from 2008 to 2010, commented:
Not only participating in the consultation with Ms. Fraley, Ms. McConnell, and Mr. McConnell at NMAI, but also attending the California Indian Basketweavers Association gathering in Ione, California, and being invited to the Brush Dance and to visit Hoopa, was an invaluable experience. This opportunity was made possible by the mandate of conservation programming at NMAI and by the generosity of the McConnells and Ms. Fraley, who were so willing to share their own experiences and comprehensive knowledge of the physical and cultural landscape of Northern California. It has underscored the importance of forging and fostering relationships and partnerships in order to best approach the conservation and care of Native American cultural material in museums and institutions. It is my intention, following my time at NMAI, to develop similar types of relationships with invested community constituents to guide my work in the care of collections.
To read more short essays by the NMAI Conservation Office staff, fellows, and interns, scroll through the Conservation archive on the NMAI blog.
In 2009 and 2010, basketweaver Deborah McConnell (Hoopa/Yurok/Quinault); cultural heritage specialist Robert McConnell (Yurok); and Briannon Fraley (Tolowa), a former summer intern at the National Museum of the American Indian, joined members of the museum's Conservation Office in a program centered on Northern California basketry and its broader cultural context. This is the fifth post in a series that presents multiple perspectives on their collaboration. To read earlier posts in the series, see:
The June 2010 trip to Northern California exposed us to the complex and interrelated social, political, economic, and cultural aspects of caring for indigenous collections. Participating in the California Indian Basketweavers Association (CIBA) Gathering with Native weavers, attending a traditional Yurok Brush Dance ceremony, and spending time on Hoopa tribal lands with the McConnell family elucidated aspects of Native survival, cultural determination, resilience, and self-reliance. The realities of living in the 21st century while simultaneously maintaining and practicing centuries-old cultural traditions are evident in the McConnell family, who live on their ancestral homelands and actively work to reclaim and maintain access to their natural resources for the continuance of their people.
Formally organized in 1992, CIBA is the oldest association of its kind in the United States. CIBA describes its vision as, "[T]o preserve, promote, and perpetuate California Indian basketweaving traditions while providing a healthy physical, social, spiritual, and economic environment for basketweavers." CIBA’s goals include accessibility to and protection of natural resources used in basket-making, and discouraging the use of pesticides in areas where materials are gathered. Overall, the organization strives to act in a manner that respects their elders and Mother Earth. Although CIBA is open to weavers and nonweavers, and to non-Native supporters of California Indian basket weaving, its cultural importance is to promote solidarity and broaden communication among Native American basketweavers. CIBA publishes the newsletter Roots & Shoots and hosts the annual gathering specifically to enlarge "the network of weavers and their supporters, . . . enabling the continuation of the art and its passage to the next generation."
The 20th Annual CIBA Gathering, in Ione, California, included weaving circles, presentations, displays, demonstrations, and sellers’ booths. Handouts available to participants addressed pesticide and land management issues. Representatives from the USDA Forest Service and IDRS Inc.—Indian Development Resources and Services, a national Indian-governed non-profit organization that works with tribes and government agencies to assist in conflict resolution—spoke on ensuring tribal input in forest planning with federal organizations; staff members from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spoke on better communication and a chemical data availability study. The available literature and speakers illustrated the ways in which CIBA provides a forum where the voices of basketweavers can be heard and creates partnerships with federal agencies and allied organizations.
Accomplished weavers taught basketry techniques in weaving circles. This provided another valuable opportunity to study with Ms. McConnell. Space in her circle quickly grew past capacity, a reflection of her reputation as a skilled weaver and teacher. In her circle, we learned how to add more willow sticks, (warps) to a basketry start to expand the circumference of the basket. Ends of the willow sticks were chewed slightly to flatten them before inserting them into the start. This small chewing action illustrated an important component of contemporary basket-weaving: If the willow is treated with pesticides prior to collection, the act of flattening can, in fact, be toxic to the weaver. This underscores the importance of the inclusion of basketweavers in the management of land where basketry materials are collected, as well as the extent of the issues surrounding the procurement of these resources.
We also gained more experience with the overlay design technique using white bear grass, alder bark-dyed woodwardia fern, and black maidenhair fern. The technique calls for even more dexterity and design foresight than that needed simply to twine the willow-root weavers (wefts) over the sticks. Trying our hand at this type of weaving has given us an even greater appreciation of the expertise required to weave the baskets in the NMAI collections.
Following the CIBA Gathering, we attended a Yurok Brush Dance at the McConnells’ invitation. The dance was held at Sumêg Village in Patrick's Point State Park. Yurok tribal members and local park staff built the village on land traditionally used by the Yurok for seasonal encampments and dedicated it in 1990 to be place for seasonal ceremonies and an educational component of the park. Seeing dance regalia actively used in its traditional ceremonial context, as opposed to preserving it statically in museum storage or on exhibit, was an instructive juxtaposition. The sound and the sight of the regalia as danced and worn gave us a more complete understanding of its form and function, its communal, spiritual purpose. The dance—with the aromas of the surrounding woods and the fire in the dance area, the tinkling and swooshing sounds of the regalia in motion as the dancers approached, the group and solo singing, the reflected light on the abalone shells as the dancers moved around the fire in their regalia—was a sensory feast. Nothing in the museum context could begin to compare. The cultural impact of using older ceremonial regalia for the dances was brought home to us. It was made all the more relevant because many ceremonial items from the NMAI collection were about to be repatriated to the Yurok Tribe and would immediately go back into active use.
During our time with the McConnells and Briannon Fraley in Hoopa, we were able to see materials we had used in the basketry workshop, as well as some materials used to make dance regalia, in their natural context. Ms. McConnell pointed out ferns and other basketry materials that were growing in the fields and the forest as we drove the Bald Hill Road into Hoopa Valley. When the McConnells took us down the Trinity River on their boat, they pointed out willow used for basketry sticks and weavers, and the pines trees on the bluffs that produce the pine nuts used in dance regalia. As we visited the ceremonial sites along the river where the dances are held, the valley’s resources surrounded us with impressive beauty and proximity. We were reminded of the impact of interconnectedness on these communities: When healthy, resources are plentiful, life is abundant, and cultures are sustained.
—Susan Heald and Marian Kaminitz, NMAI
All photos by Marian Kaminitz, NMAI.
Handouts available at the CIBA Gathering included:
California Indian Basketweavers Association and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Pesticide Program, Pesticides. . . What Basketweavers Should Know, (undated).
United States Environmental Protection Agency, The National Pesticide Tribal Program: Achieving Public Health and Environmental Protection in Indian Country and Alaska Native Villages, (Washington, DC: Office of Pesticide Programs, October 2009).
United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Working Together: American Indian Tribes and the Forest Service: Improving Forest Service Policy, Programs and Projects through Consultation, (Washington, DC: USDA, September 2005).