The Heard Museum

heard museumYesterday was the National Gallery Free Museum Day. All museums are open for no admission. The larger museums require advance registration.

The Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ has a large collection of ancient and modern American Indian art.

Hopi clown katsina doll

Don’t get me started on “They are Native Americans, not Indians!” The term “Indian” was forced on the native tribes by the white man. But guess what, so was the descriptive “Native American”!

Heard’s entrance to the Indian School exhibit

Every Indian I know prefers to be identified by their tribe. So rather than get caught up on semantics, whenever possible I refer by the tribal designation. Otherwise, Indian is shorter and easier to type.

One of the travesties visited upon the native tribes at the turn of the 20th century was the development of the Indian schools. I purpose of the schools was to integrate the tribes into Anglo culture. Children were taken from their homes and enrolled in schools where they were taught English and not allowed to use their native tongue. They were stripped of their cultural attire and forced to dress like “civilized” people. They were indoctrinated into Christianity. Their hair was shorn, a disgrace in their culture.

Modern bronze sculpture, circa 1950’s

The Heard has an entire wing dedicated to the Indian Schools. These schools continued well into the 1970’s. The law of unintended consequences ruled, however. This forced exile caused the tribes to band together to preserve their heritage. The outlawed dances and ceremonies continued in secret.

Today, thankfully, there is an effort to celebrate the ancient traditions, and the powwows and dances are now held openly and the public is invited to view and to learn.

The Heard Museum does a splendid job of educating the public on American Indians from across the country. Of course there is an emphasis on local tribes, the Apache, the Navajo and the Hopi.

This short post only hit one a few of the many exhibits. If you are even in Phoenix, this is a must see museum.

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