Great Basin Baskets

The Great Basin Culture Area includes the high desert regions between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains. It is bounded on the north by the Columbia Plateau and on the south by the Colorado Plateau. It includes southern Oregon and Idaho, a small portion of southwestern Montana, western Wyoming, eastern California, all of Nevada and Utah, a portion of northern Arizona, and most of western Colorado. This is an area which is characterized by low rainfall and extremes of temperature. The valleys in the area are 3,000 to 6,000 feet in altitude and are separated by mountain ranges running north and south that are 8,000 to 12,000 feet in elevation. The rivers in this region do not flow into the ocean, but simply disappear into the sand.

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Plateau Indian Reservation Life

The Plateau Culture Area is the area between the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and Western Montana. From north to south it runs from the Fraser River in the north to the Blue Mountains in the south. Much of the area is classified as semi-arid. Part of it is mountainous with pine forests in the higher elevations.

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Yup’ik Masks

For the Central Alaska Yup’ik Eskimo, spirituality was focused largely on the need to secure food for hunting. As with other animistic hunting peoples, animals were felt to have souls which would be reincarnated. Thus, rituals sought to appease the soul of the animal so that it would give itself to the Yup’ik hunters who needed its meat.

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Ancient America: Columbia River Pictographs

For more than 10,000 years Indian people have lived adjacent to the Columbia River. In the Columbia Gorge area, hundreds, if not thousands, of archaeological sites provide silent testimony to this long period of human occupation. Rock art, in the form of petroglyphs and pictographs, is found throughout the area. The area along the Columbia River from the present-day city of The Dalles to the confluence of the John Day River with the Columbia River contains one of the largest collections of rock art in North America. Archaeologists James Keyser, Michael Taylor, George Poetschat, and David Kaiser, in their book Visions in the Mist: The Rock Art of Celilo Falls, report:

“More than 100 individual rock art sites have been found and recorded in the area and others are discovered each year. The smallest of these are single images but the largest contain more than 1,000 different motifs.”

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Some Arctic Artifacts

The Artic Culture Area includes the Aleutian Islands, most of the Alaska Coast, the Canadian Artic, and parts of Greenland. It is an area which can be described as a “cold” desert. Geographer W. Gillies Ross, in his chapter in North American Exploration. Volume 3: A Continent Comprehended, writes:

“The North American Arctic is usually considered to be the region beyond the northernmost limit of tree growth.”

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The First People in the High Desert

The High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, has a gallery which takes visitors on a journey through some of the most dramatic periods in the High Desert. According to the Museum display:

“Thousands of years ago, more than one hundred Native American tribes inhabited the High Desert. During the early 1800s, newcomers began arriving—starting with fur traders and continuing with homesteaders through the early 1900s. A diverse array of immigrants added their stories to the region’s history.”

One of the dioramas in this gallery shows the Paiutes.

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Plateau Indian Beadwork in the Maryhill Museum

The Maryhill Museum located near Goldendale, Washington, has a display of Plateau beadwork. The Plateau Culture Area is the area between the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and Western Montana. From north to south it runs from the Fraser River in the north to the Blue Mountains in the south. Much of the area is classified as semi-arid. Part of it is mountainous with pine forests in the higher elevations.

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Plateau Indian Spirituality

The Plateau Culture Area is the area between the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and Western Montana. From north to south it runs from the Fraser River in the north to the Blue Mountains in the south. Much of the area is classified as semi-arid. Part of it is mountainous with pine forests in the higher elevations.

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Some Northwest Coast Artifacts

The Northwest Coast culture area stretches along the Pacific coast between the Cascade Mountains and the ocean. It extends north of California to Alaska. This is an area which is the home to many Indian nations who traditionally based their economy on the use of sea coast and river ecological resources. The Northwest Coast culture area stretches from the Tlingit homelands in Alaska to the Tolowa homelands in northern California.

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Inuit Art

The Artic Culture Area includes the Aleutian Islands, most of the Alaska Coast, the Canadian Artic, and parts of Greenland. It is an area which can be described as a “cold” desert. Geographer W. Gillies Ross, in his chapter in North American Exploration. Volume 3: A Continent Comprehended, writes:

“The North American Arctic is usually considered to be the region beyond the northernmost limit of tree growth.”

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The Northern California Jumping Dance

Throughout the world it is common to find ceremonies in which the participants seek to renew the world, its resources, and thus continue their prosperity and good fortune. Among the Indians of Northern California—Karuk, Yurok, Hupa, Tolowa, Wiyot –the World Renewal or Big Time ceremony seeks to renew the world through a series of complex dances, speeches, and displays of high status items. The ceremonies are held to prevent sickness, to bring happiness, and to bring good weather. The death and rebirth of the world can be seen in the ceremonial rebuilding of ceremonial structures such as the sweathouse, ceremonial house, and dance areas.

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Ancient America: American Indians at Rancho La Brea

For thousands of years, American Indians used the asphalt from the tar seeps of Rancho La Brea in what is now Los Angeles, California, for many different things. The displays at the La Brea Tar Pits Museum show many of the Native uses of the tar and display some of the artifacts which archaeologists have recovered from the site.

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Plateau Indian Containers

The Maryhill Museum located near Goldendale, Washington, has a display of Plateau containers. The Plateau Culture Area is the area between the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and Western Montana. From north to south it runs from the Fraser River in the north to the Blue Mountains in the south. Much of the area is classified as semi-arid. Part of it is mountainous with pine forests in the higher elevations.

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Arctic Baskets

The Artic Culture Area includes the Aleutian Islands, most of the Alaska Coast, the Canadian Artic, and parts of Greenland. It is an area which can be described as a “cold” desert. Geographer W. Gillies Ross, in his chapter in North American Exploration. Volume 3: A Continent Comprehended, writes:

“The North American Arctic is usually considered to be the region beyond the northernmost limit of tree growth.”

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Aztec Figurines

In major museums, only a small fraction of the artifacts held by the museum are on display and interpreted for the public. Most of the museum’s artifacts are in vaults where they are available only to researchers. The Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History maintains a Visible Vault in which visitors can view hundreds of archaeological artifacts. The Visible Vault includes archaeological treasures from Ancient Latin America, including a number of Aztec figurines.

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