November 28, 2009

Nine Native cultural centers to visit

Discovering Native Cultural Centers

It’s Native American History Month. Here are 9 places in North America where you can see and learn some of that history close-up.

By Crai S. Bower
As children, many of us first learned about Native American culture in November, when we were instructed to draw, recite and perform scenes from the original Thanksgiving Feast, when "Indians" emerged from the wilderness shadows to feed (and save) the starving Europeans. Our only other window into the native world, save for a few dioramas at the local museum, came from Hollywood, source of countless "us vs. them" westerns and Tonto, the Lone Ranger's obsequious sidekick.

Today's children enjoy access to a wealth of information about the diverse cultures of Native American and Canadian First Nations people. ... From southeastern Connecticut's Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center to Florida's Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum to the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage, indigenous people share their culture and philosophy, entertain and educate visitors about their experience and wisdom living on the North American continent for many thousands of years.
The nine Native cultural centers:
  • Iroquois Indian Museum
  • Mid-American All Indian Center
  • Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center
  • Skwxwú7mesh Lil'wat7úl (Squamish Lil'wat) Cultural Centre
  • The Institute of American Indian Arts
  • Heard Museum
  • National Museum of the American Indian
  • Alaska Native Heritage Center
  • Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum
  • Comment:  The only places I've been to on this list are the Heard Museum and the NMAI (both the NYC and Washington DC facilities). The main NMAI in Washington is an interesting experiment, but it's not entirely successful. The Heard Museum in Phoenix is the real thing--a must-see for anyone interested in Indians.

    Thanks also to Bower for stating the obvious. Except for a few museum dioramas or a Thanksgiving pageant in school, most people have no exposure to real Indians. They learn about Indians from the media. From product advertisements, sports broadcasts, and Hollywood portrayals of Indians in everything from old Westerns to the Twilight saga.

    For more on the NMAI, see Pix of My 2009 Washington DC Trip. For more on Indians in museums, see Indians in Natural History Museums, Autry Museum vs. Southwest Supporters, and Museums Yes, Casinos No.

    Below:  "The Iroquois Indian Museum pays tribute to the extraordinary past of the Six Nations."

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