Native Voice: Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

This D.C. and New York-based museum approaches the native story in an enlightened and exciting way, using the native voice to demonstrate that native history, culture, art and life are part of the shared cultural heritage of all Americans. Behind the scenes at the Maryland-based Cultural Resources Center, thousands of objects, arranged by tribe, are given “traditional native ” care, such as air, light, water or food. Featured objects include 3000 year-old duck decoys; a Cheyenne feather bonnet; a priest-like Caribou hunting gown; beetlewing jewelry; cradleboards , dolls and miniatures; Pomo feather baskets; Pueblo dough bowls; Pacific Northwest Tlingit hats; Osage pipes; Valdivia figurines, the oldest depiction of human beings in the Western Hemisphere; and a collection of nearly 2000 pairs of moccasins.

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Cradling the YoungView larger

Cradling the Young

Native people took very seriously how they educated and raised their children. Babies stayed in cradle boards for the first two years of their lives, surrounded by beauty and symbols that were important to their lives.


Shields and SymbolsView larger

Shields and Symbols

This shield is decorated with buffalos – the red one earthly and the green one supernatural. The tongues sticking out indicate that a big fight is about to take place.


Cheyenne Feather BonnetView larger

Cheyenne Feather Bonnet

This Cheyenne feather bonnet is typical of what most people imagine when they think of Indian people. The war bonnet was originally worn only by the great chiefs of Plains Indian tribes. In time many tribes adopted headdresses as a convenient way of showing their “Indianness” to accommodate the expectations of Europeans.


Haida HatView larger

Haida Hat

From the Pacific Northwest, this basket hat with the raven design was made somewhere around the turn of the 20th century. These hats, woven out of cedar bark, are a perfect example of symmetry, texture and artistry.


The Beauty of Everyday ObjectsView larger

The Beauty of Everyday Objects

In tropical South America, nature provides native people with a very different artistic palette for creating the objects of everyday life. This man’s headdress, created about 1930, is from the Shuar people, who lived in Peru and the interior of Ecuador. They typically used bird feathers and insect parts as personal adornment.


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