Traditional Northern Plains Warfare

After the Indian Nations on the Northern Plains acquired the horse in the eighteenth century, warfare became more common. Northern Plains warfare, however, was very different from the warfare waged by European countries and later by the United States: it was not usually waged by one tribe against another. War was not waged to conquer other nations. While there were battles in which people were killed, the purpose of war was not to kill people.  

Warfare was carried out by small, independent raiding parties rather than by large, organized armies. The motivation for war was personal gain, not tribal nationalism. Through participation in war an individual gained prestige, honor, and even wealth. Since wealth among the Indian nations of the Northern Plains was measured in horses, warriors could increase their wealth by capturing horses from other tribes.

Honor and Prestige:

For Plains Indian warriors, warfare centered around counting coup. “Coup” is a French word indicating “blow,” but for the Indian warrior coup was a war honor. A warrior did not count coup by killing the enemy or collecting scalps or capturing sexual slaves. While it was not uncommon for warriors to kill their enemies in battle, this was not in itself considered to be a particularly noteworthy act of valor.

The actual act of counting coup varied somewhat from tribe to tribe. Among the Cheyenne, for example, the act of counting coup involved touching an enemy with a stick (known as a coup stick), bow, whip, or the open palm of the hand.

Among the Blackfoot, the highest war honors were given to capturing an enemy’s gun. Also ranked high was the capture of a bow, shield, war shirt, war bonnet, or ceremonial pipe. The taking of a scalp ranked below these things.

During the nineteenth and much of the twentieth century many of the written and popular media accounts of Indian warfare stressed the practice of scalping. Yet among the Plains tribes, a scalp was not highly valued: it was simply an emblem of victory. Taking a scalp was not the goal of combat.

Warfare, according to Sioux writer Dr. Charles Eastman was about personal courage and honor:

“It was held to develop the quality of manliness and its motive was chivalric or patriotic, but never the desire for territorial aggrandizement or the overthrow of a brother nation.”

Wealth:

In addition to the acquisition of honor and prestige, war was about gaining personal wealth. An individual who had many horses could gain a great deal of prestige, particularly if he also gave away many horses. Wealth was something that was shared, it was not hoarded nor was it passed down to family members. Wealth had to be earned as it could not be inherited.

Since the objective of many war parties was to capture horses, it was common for the party to leave their camp on foot. If they were going to capture horses, there was no use in taking horses with them.

Religion:

Plains Indian warfare was closely intertwined with religion, but not in the manner of the Europeans. Warfare was never waged because of religious differences. First of all, Plains Indian religions were generally based on animism rather than theism. In animistic religions, spiritual entities communicate with the people through dreams. Thus, a war party might form because a warrior would announce: “I had a dream…..” and those who felt that the dream was strong would join the war party. These dreams of war would usually describe where horses might be captured.

Success in war was generally attributed to the warrior’s individual spiritual power, not to the superiority of a religion, religious belief, or god. Religion, like warfare, was a highly personal thing. War medicine was often acquired through dreams and fasting. War medicine often involved a war song, face paint, and a sacred object to be worn during raids.

Military Strategy:

The military strategy for Plains Indian warfare involved the avoidance of unnecessary risks. From the viewpoint of Indian warriors, craft and cunning were superior to courage. To raid an enemy camp and to capture horses without being detected was a primary goal. Thus the American Corps of Discovery lead by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark lost half of their horses to a raid by Crow warriors and yet they never saw the warriors.

While war parties had nominal leaders, each warrior really fought alone. The goal was personal glory, not tribal victory. If a warrior saw a sign that indicated failure, the warrior might turn around and go home. This was a personal spiritual experience and no-one, including the war party leader, could insist that the warrior continue with the party.

Since surprise was a key element in Indian war strategy, war parties often travelled at night, attempting to avoid detection. The war party would travel in single file with the war leader taking the lead and young men on their first raid traveling in the rear. During the day they would try to stay hidden.

Warfare and the United States:

When the United States military first encountered the Indian nations of the Northern Plains in battle, the army did not understand either Indian military strategies or Indian motivations for fighting. The Indian warriors were not following the rules of war as understood by the Americans. The idea of warriors as individuals who did not follow orders and who could leave the field of battle whenever they wanted created in the minds of the military a stereotype of Indian warriors as cowards.

On the other hand, when Indian warriors first encountered the U.S. Army, they were baffled because the U.S. did not follow the well-established rules of war. The Army fought in the winter; it required soldiers to follow orders even when following them meant sure death; it sought to kill people rather than acquire honor; and it sought to obtain land and religious conversion.

The Indian Removal Act

During the first part of the nineteenth century, the American policy was to remove Indians from east of the Mississippi River and to “give” them reservations in Indian Territory. While this idea had been proposed by President Thomas Jefferson, it was not enacted into law until 1830 with the passage of the Indian Removal Act. Under the terms of this act, Indian tribes were to be moved from Ohio and Mississippi valleys to the western plains. The primary argument in favor of Indian removal claimed that European Christian farmers could make more efficient use of the land than the Indian heathen hunters. This argument conveniently ignored the fact that Indians were efficient farmers and had been farming their land for many centuries.

Removal was essentially a racially motivated idea. In the nineteenth century, most Americans tended to view Indians in racial terms and ignored cultural differences. They viewed all Indians as the same. Unfortunately, many Americans in the twenty-first century hold this same view. Today there are still some historians, in their attempt to justify removal, who continue to portray Indians as hunters and as such, hindrances to the development of the land.

One of the voices of dissent in 1830 was that of New Jersey’s Senator Theodore Frelingbuysen who pointed out to the Senate that Europeans had found Indians:

“exercising all the rights, and enjoying the privileges, of free and inde¬pendent sovereigns of this new world. They were not a wild and lawless horde of banditti, but lived under the restraints of government, patriarchal in its character, and energetic in its influence.”

In making the case for Indian removal, Lewis Cass, the Secretary of War, wrote in the North American Review:

“A barbarous people, depending for subsistence upon the scanty and precarious supplies furnished by the chase, cannot live in contact with a civilized community.”

In a series of newspaper essays intended to build public support for Indian removal, Baptist missionary Isaac McCoy claims that Indians are not sovereign nations and that Indians had not really been a party to the treaties in contractual terms. He also defends the doctrine of discovery which gives the European nations the ownership of North America. He wrote:

“Civilized nations have long since divided the continent of America among themselves. So the nations have adopted the practice of settling their territories without asking the natives to leave it by the formalities of a treaty.”

Indian agents were told to inform the tribes that if they delay their removal they will be responsible for all provisions and costs themselves. The rationale for removal, rather than “civilizing” the Indians in their homelands, was explained in one letter to the Cherokee agent:

“An Almighty hand has stamped upon every creature a particular genius, propensity and leading traits of character. The polish of education may improve, but cannot change, for the imperishable seal is there; bars and dungeons, penitentiaries and death itself, have been found insufficient, even in civilized society, to restrain man from crime, and constrain him to the necessity of moral and virtuous action. How then are we to look for, or expect it, in a community made up of savage and illiterate people?”

It is interesting to note that at this time the Cherokee have a higher literacy rate than do the Americans. However, the Cherokees were literate in Cherokee which in the minds of the Americans didn’t count as literacy.

With regard to the passage of the Indian Removal Act, President Jackson said:

“It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the Government, steadily pursued for nearly thirty years, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation.”

The President went on to say:

“It will relieve the whole State of Mississippi and the western part of Alabama of Indian occupancy; and enable those States to advance rapidly in population, wealth, and power. It will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites; free them from the power of the States; enable them to pursue happiness in their own way and under their own rude institutions; will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening their numbers, and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the Government and through the influence of good counsels, to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community.”

Jackson was not one to let the facts interfere with political goals. He exploited an enduring stereotype to push the Indian Removal Act through Congress.

In a report for the Niles Weekly Register, Colonel Gold (whose daughter was married to Elias Boudinot, the editor of the Cherokee Phoenix) reported that the Cherokee afford

“strong evidence that the wandering Indian has been converted into the industrious husbandman; and the tomahawk and rifle are exchanging for the plough, the hoe, the wheel, and the loom, and that they are rapidly acquiring domestic habits, and attaining a degree of civilization that was entirely unexpected, from the natural disposition of these children of the forest.”

In order to facilitate the removal of the Cherokee, President Jackson ordered federal troops to be withdrawn from Cherokee lands in Georgia. This left the Cherokee at the mercy of state residents at the time when Georgia was surveying the Cherokee lands to open them for non-Indian settlement. In response the Cherokee sent a delegation to Washington, D.C. but the Secretary of War refused to recognize them as a legally constituted delegation as they had not come with authority to discuss a removal treaty.

In Georgia, the state governor issued a proclamation prohibiting Indians from taking any more gold from their lands. According to the proclamation, the state had the right to all gold and silver found on Indian lands.

The actual physical removal of the Indians, often carried out under military force and brutality, turned out to be one of the most shameful periods of American history.

 

A Taste of Native America (Photo Diary)

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During 2012, the Clark County Historical Museum in Vancouver, Washington had a display exploring the food and related cultural artifacts of the Native American people throughout Washington. Indian people traditionally harvested, prepared, and shared meals together and thus food was, and still is, an integral part of cultural unity.  

The traditional Indian diet was diverse and based on the seasons. According to one of the displays:

“Our ancestors ate more complex foods and received a greater variety of vitamins and minerals in their diet. Eating many types of foods also preserved the diversity of the environment, which helped uphold the entire ecosystem by avoiding overharvesting of any one resource.”

Shown below are some of the items from this display.

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Berries were an important part of the diet of the Indians of the Lower Columbia River area. Shown above is a basket used for gathering berries and some dried Huckleberries (Vaccinium membranaceum). Huckleberries are small to medium sized shrubs which are found in the moister mountain areas, particularly in areas with acidic soils and areas which have been burned by forest fires. Women usually did the gathering of the huckleberries and could gather one or two basketfuls in a day’s work (about 2-4 liters). Huckleberries were often dried over a slow fire that had been set in a rotten log. This drying created a raisin-like product that could be kept indefinitely.

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Shown above is an old photograph of an elder filleting salmon so that it can be cooked on a plank.

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Shown above is an old photograph of an elder drying the huckleberries in the traditional way.

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Another important food was bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva), shown above with a gathering bag (known as a sally bag). In the Upper Chinook Kiksht language bitterroot is known as ibi-uk-ee. The taste of the bitterroot (it’s “bitterness”) is determined by where it is grown. The stored starch in the root makes the roots both nutritious and tender. The white fleshly interior (seen in the photos above) is easily exposed by peeling the outer root coverings. The white interior is then boiled, baked, or powdered to make meal.

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Camas (shown above) was also an important food plant. Camas (Camassia quamash) is a lily-like plant whose bulb can be fire-baked to make a sweet and nutritious staple. Camas is very high in protein: 5.4 ounces of protein per pound of roots. In comparison, steelhead trout (Salmo gairdneri) has 3.4 ounces of protein per pound.

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Wapato or Indian potato is shown above.

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Shown above is a digging stick used in gathering root plants such as bitterroot and camas.

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Shown above is an open weave Salish basket which was used for gathering clams and mussels.

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Fish were an important food source and shown above is a model of a traditional fish drying rack.

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Shown above is an old photograph of a fish trap.

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Shown above is an old photograph of the fish being cooked in the traditional manner.

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Shown above is a drawing of Governor Isaac Stevens at a traditional meal with the Nez Perce in 1855.  

Fifty Years Ago, 1963

Fifty years ago, the United States government was still focused on a program of terminating its relations with and obligations to any Indian nations. Treaties were seen as historic documents rather than legal agreements between sovereign nations. There was very little concern for Indian rights and a general feeling that Indians, like other immigrants to the United States, should assimilate into the stereotype of mainstream American culture. The government continued to transfer wealth in the form of resources from Indian reservations to corporations.  

President John F. Kennedy:

In Washington, D.C., the leadership of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) met with President John F. Kennedy. Jacqueline Kennedy then invited the delegates to return the following day when they were given a tour of the White House. The delegates, dressed in traditional regalia, performed Indian dances for Caroline, John Jr., and other children at the White House school.

Water and Mineral Rights:

In Arizona versus California I the Supreme Court reaffirms the Winters Doctrine and earlier Indian water rights cases by granting five lower Colorado River tribes sufficient irrigation water. According to the Court:

“In our view, these reservations, like those created directly by Congress, were not limited to land, but included waters as well.”

In addition, the Court found that the quantity of water reserved for the tribes must be enough to satisfy the future needs of the Indians. This meant that tribal water rights were to be defined by the amount of land that could be watered by modern technology, not by the techniques available when the reservation was established.

In Arizona, the San Carlos Apache asked that the subsurface rights for the area known as the Mineral Strip be restored to them. They noted that there was opposition to the restoration of the surface rights. The Department of the Interior restored the subsurface rights, noting that this would allow the tribe to develop the mineral potential of the area.

Fishing Rights:

In Washington, rangers from the Olympic National Park burned down a Makah smokehouse and canning structure at the mouth of the Ozette River. The tribal council protested the action as a violation of their 1855 treaty.

In Oregon, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation filed suit against the Oregon State Police and the State of Oregon. The tribes asked for a judgment that the state restrictions on salmon and steelhead fishing do not apply to Indians. They also asked for an injunction to keep the state from enforcing their restrictions against tribal members. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declared that the state could not impose its rules on the Indians unless those rules were clearly indispensible to fish conservation. According to the Court, the State had not even come close to showing such a need. The ruling was considered a major victory for the tribes as it impeded the states’ efforts to place a disproportionate share of the conservation burden on Indians.  

Sacred Sites:

With the completion of Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell in northern Arizona, the once remote Rainbow Natural Bridge National Monument, a sacred place for the Navajo, became more accessible. The National Park Service provided a boat and dock service for tourists.

In Oregon, Fort Rock Cave was dedicated as a National Historic Landmark. Fort Rock Cave is among the oldest prehistoric sites in the northern Great Basin.

In Massachusetts, Dighton Rock, an ancient petroglyph site, was moved and protected with a coffer dam.

In Idaho, the Cataldo Mission, a Jesuit mission among the Coeur d’Alene, was designated by the National Park Service as a Registered National Historic Landmark.

In California, the state legislature recognizes that California Indian culture was neither sufficiently understood nor adequately chronicled. However, no action was taken other than a request that archaeological sites be reported to the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Racism:

South Dakota enacted a law which gave the state civil and criminal jurisdiction on reservations. Despite the high Native population in the state, there were no Sioux representatives in the legislature and the Sioux clearly opposed the notion. In signing the new law, the state governor stressed equal rights in the manner of politicians who advocated the termination of Indian reservations:

“We’ll be giving the Indian equal protection under the law. We hear a lot about civil rights. But until all South Dakotans are treated the same, we’ll never achieve the full potential of our state.”

In response to the new law a new organization – United Sioux Tribes – was formed and a petition drive was started to allow state voters to vote on the issue. In two months they gathered the 14,000 signatures necessary to have the matter considered on a public referendum. In their campaign, the Sioux focused on the voters’ sense of fairness: the state law was wrong simply because the Sioux never consented to it. The referendum passed with 79% of the vote and the law was thus overturned.

In Louisiana, the Houma in Margie Willa Naquin, et al v. Terrebonne Board of Education won a court order mandating school desegregation.

Land Claims:

The Indian Claims Commission awarded California Indians an additional $29 million for lands taken from them.

The Indian Claims Commission and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) reached a compromise agreement to include the Pit River Indian land claim in with the general California Indian land claim. This compromise was rejected by the Pit River Indians. In a referendum conducted by the BIA, the Pit River Indians voted against the compromise. In response, the BIA conducted an absentee ballot which resulted in a 24 vote margin in favor of the compromise.

The Indian Claims Commission awarded $3 million to the Kalispel in Washington state. However, before the money could be awarded, the Kalispel were required to come up with a plan for spending the money. When the Kalispel put forward a plan to use the money for youth development, a community building, housing, and industrial development, acceptance of the plan was stalled in Congress because the plan did not call for the termination of the reservation.

In Washington, D.C., a bill was introduced in Congress which would provide the conveyance of federal lands to the Pascua Yaqui Association (PYA) in Arizona for the purpose of preserving and enhancing Yaqui culture. The bill called for 200 acres of Bureau of Land Management land to be deeded to the PYA.  The bill was opposed by termination-minded officials in Washington, D.C.

In South Dakota, the federal government declared land taken from the Oglala Sioux on the Pine Ridge Reservation to be used as a bombing range during World War II to be surplus. While the government no longer needed the land, they did not return it to the tribe.

Dam Indians:

Congress took up consideration of House Resolution 1794 regarding the relocation of the Seneca caused by the construction of Kinzua Dam. The Pennsylvania Railroad had received the final payment of its twenty million dollars to relocate railroad tracks six months before Congress began to concern itself with the Seneca.

In New York, the Seneca had to remove 42 graveyards which were to be flooded by Kinzua Dam. Two new cemeteries were established for the estimated 3,000 graves.

In Oregon, the Corps of Engineers completed work on the Cascade Locks in-lieu fishing site for the Mid-Columbia tribes. This was the fifth of the six sites which had been promised to the tribes when Bonneville Dam was constructed. The Corps still had $40,000 left in the in-lieu fishing site budget, but it had no prospects for the sixth site and the 360 additional acres which had been promised to the tribes.

Tribal Government:

In Florida, the Seminole adopted a Bill of Rights which included religious freedom. Under this provision, the tribal council was forbidden to interfere with traditional religious practices. The new Bill of Rights recognized that a significant number of Seminoles still held traditional religious beliefs and there was a fear of the possibility of religious persecution from the growth of Christian influence on the reservations. In some areas Baptist congregations had already forced the traditional Green Corn Dance off the reservation and there was talk about a religious test (Christian) for participation in tribal government.

In Wisconsin, the Winnebago reluctantly reorganized according to the guidelines of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. They retained their chief-clan structure which is based on four Sky clans and eight Earth clans.

Termination:

In Wisconsin, 800 Menominee adults-a majority of the tribe’s adults-signed a petition asking the federal government to end the termination of the tribe. The federal government ignored the petition.

Book:

Book of the Hopi, by Frank Waters, was published. This is considered to be a pioneer of New Age Indianism and had a great deal of influence over the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s. The new book built upon earlier themes to represent mystical Indians as the prophets both of imminent crises and of the eventual coming of a glorious era, the ‘New Age.’ The book pretends to be the collective voice of thirty Hopi elders rather than the work of a single non-Indian author. This book can be seen as laying the foundation for New Age spirituality among non-Indians.

Art, History, Tourism:

In New York City, the Association of American Indian Affairs established the New York City American Indian Arts Center to exhibit and sell art by Indian artists.

In Colorado, the Southern Ute purchased Lake Capote and opened it to the public for fishing. This new business was intended to increase tourism on the reservation.

The Cherokee National Historical Society was founded.

Ancient America: Mesoamerican Art

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Prior to the European invasion, Mesoamerica was the home to many highly developed civilizations. Geographically this is a region that extends from central Mexico to South America. Shown below are some of the items from these ancient Mesoamerican cultures which are on display at the Portland (Oregon) Art Museum.  

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Shown above are some labrets: these are plugs which are inserted in a hole in the lower lip.

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Shown above is a piece from the Omec.

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Ancient America: South American Art

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Prior to the European invasion, South America was the home to many highly developed civilizations. Homo sapiens have lived in South America for at least 15,000 years and possibly longer. By 2000 BCE some highly developed civilizations had emerged in the region. There was a dramatic increase in population during this time and the economies became more dependent on stable, intensive agricultural systems.

The Inka Empire was the dominant state at the time of the Spanish conquest. The Inka had expanded out of their home in Cuzco to control an empire which spread from modern Ecuador in the north to central Chile in the south. The expansion of the Inka Empire began about 1438 and grew by military conquest.

The ancient civilizations of South American are well-known for their metalwork, particularly their work in gold which the Spanish often melted down; their pottery, which includes realistic portrayals of men and women (including men and women engaged in sexual intercourse); and finely woven textiles. Shown below are some of the items from these ancient South American cultures which are on display at the Portland Museum of Art.

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Shown above are clothing pins.  

Instant racism for your Android device

A developer known as KimberyDeiss produces Android apps to change a user’s photo in specific ways, apps which are available free at Google Play. Titles include “Make Me Frankenstein”, “Make Me Old”, and “Make Me Punk”, among others. These aren’t the only changes that a user can make to his or her photo, however; there are also apps called “Make Me Indian” (by which they mean Native American, not from the subcontinent of India) and “Make Me Asian”. Each of these latter two transforms the user’s photograph into one of a man with racist, stereotypical elements: a “Fu Man Chu” mustache, slanted, narrowed eyes, yellow skin (about as jaundiced as I’ve seen on a kidney patient), and a conical woven straw hat in the case of “Make Me Asian”, and a hipster headband, widened nose, feather, and “war paint” under the eyes in the case of “Make Me Indian”.

To Amazon’s credit, neither of these racist titles is available in their Android app store, nor are any other apps by this developer. The apps are available on Google Play, the largest and the default source for Android apps, on a site called Lisisoft, and on another called Appbrain. Their availability on Google Play is the most troubling, since it is so ubiquitous and installed on all Android devices.

These apps make me furious; they’ve made a lot of people furious. The photo above was taken from Change.org, where an angry DC pastor named Peter Chin has started a petition to pressure Google to take them down. Over 8,000 people have already signed the petition; please share it with your networks to increase the number of signatures.

An article appearing yesterday on Seattle public radio station KUOW’s website discusses the growing outrage over these racist apps. WSJ columnist Jeff Yang, quoted in the article, is right: publishing this sort of thing helps mainstream stereotypes that harm the group being stereotyped. That they are available for free means that young people may be able to download them without letting their parents know that they have installed them. Several reviews of these apps on Google Play indicate that after the first minute of use, porn appears at the bottom of the screen, another obvious problem.

The user is able to not only transform his or her photo (or any other photo) but to share photos from the app on Facebook, via email, or via MMS message. The broken-English description for each encourages sharing transformed photos. Impressionable young people may get the idea that this sort of racism is harmless and fun, especially when the young person can share the racism with his or her friends.

Spreading racism is never good. Please sign Pastor Chin’s Change.org petition and help get these apps off Google Play, where impressionable young people looking for social networking fun can find them. You might also want to contact Google Play’s tech support by logging onto Google Play at play.google.com, scrolling to the bottom of the screen and clicking “Help”, and then, under “Contact Us”, select the “Android apps” link. Google Play’s call-me-back support feature usually brings a return phone call within two minutes and they’re open 24/7. Please be polite, but let them know what the issue is, what you intend to do about it if anything, and the action you’d like them to take.

Thanks.

Southwestern Art (Photo Diary)

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The Southwest Culture Area is a culturally diverse area. Geographically it covers all of Arizona and New Mexico and includes parts of Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Texas as well as parts of the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua. Much of this area is semi-arid; part of it is true desert (southern Arizona); and part of it has upland and mountain ranges which support conifers. Culturally, the area can be divided into four basic cultural traditions: Pueblo, Athabascan, Piman, and Yuman.  

In northern Arizona and New Mexico there are several Indian tribes who have traditionally lived in compact villages. The Spanish used the word pueblo which means “town” in referring to these people. The Pueblo people are not a single cultural tradition, but are in fact several distinct cultures. They share some features – farming, housing – and are very different in others.

Around 1400 CE a new group of people began to enter the Southwest. These Athabascan-speaking people – the Navajo and the Apache – migrated from the area north of Edmonton, Alberta.

The Sonoran desert of Arizona and Sonora is the home of a number of Piman-speaking groups, primarily the Tohono O’odham (Papago) and Akimel O’odham (Pima).

The area along the Colorado and Gila Rivers was the traditional home to a number of Yuman-speaking tribes



Pottery:

The pottery traditions of the Southwestern Pueblos are well-known to museums, art collectors, and others. For many centuries, Pueblo people have made and used a wide variety of pottery containers, including bowls, jars, cups, ladles, and canteens. Pueblo pottery is traditionally formed with a coil technique in which coils of clay are circled around the base of the pot to form the walls of the vessel. Shown below are some examples of Southwestern pottery on display at the Portland Art Museum.

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Perhaps the best known Pueblo pottery is María Martínez of San Ildelfonso Pueblo. Examples of her black-on-black pottery are shown above.

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Basketry:

All of the Indian nations in the Southwest produced basketry.

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Carvings:

During the past century, the carving of katsina “dolls” called tihu by the Hopihas become a major art form which is well-recognized in the art world. These are carved by relatives of little Indian girls and presented to these children at Katsina dances to teach the children the features and meaning of the Katsinas. Traditional carvers feel that those who carve the katsina “dolls” should be able to speak Hopi because knowledge of the language is required to truly participate in Hopi ceremonies. Without full participation in Hopi ceremonies, the carvers cannot know the true spiritual intent of the katsina. Some of the carvings displayed in the Portland Art Museum are shown below.

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Note: while the term “kachina” is commonly used, the tribe prefers the designation “katsina.”

Southwestern Art (Photo Diary)

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The Southwest Culture Area is a culturally diverse area. Geographically it covers all of Arizona and New Mexico and includes parts of Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Texas as well as parts of the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua. Much of this area is semi-arid; part of it is true desert (southern Arizona); and part of it has upland and mountain ranges which support conifers. Culturally, the area can be divided into four basic cultural traditions: Pueblo, Athabascan, Piman, and Yuman.  

In northern Arizona and New Mexico there are several Indian tribes who have traditionally lived in compact villages. The Spanish used the word pueblo which means “town” in referring to these people. The Pueblo people are not a single cultural tradition, but are in fact several distinct cultures. They share some features – farming, housing – and are very different in others.

Around 1400 CE a new group of people began to enter the Southwest. These Athabascan-speaking people – the Navajo and the Apache – migrated from the area north of Edmonton, Alberta.

The Sonoran desert of Arizona and Sonora is the home of a number of Piman-speaking groups, primarily the Tohono O’odham (Papago) and Akimel O’odham (Pima).

The area along the Colorado and Gila Rivers was the traditional home to a number of Yuman-speaking tribes

Pottery:

The pottery traditions of the Southwestern Pueblos are well-known to museums, art collectors, and others. For many centuries, Pueblo people have made and used a wide variety of pottery containers, including bowls, jars, cups, ladles, and canteens. Pueblo pottery is traditionally formed with a coil technique in which coils of clay are circled around the base of the pot to form the walls of the vessel. Shown below are some examples of Southwestern pottery on display at the Portland Art Museum.

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Perhaps the best known Pueblo pottery is María Martínez of San Ildelfonso Pueblo. Examples of her black-on-black pottery are shown above.

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Basketry:

All of the Indian nations in the Southwest produced basketry.

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Carvings:

During the past century, the carving of katsina “dolls” called tihu by the Hopihas become a major art form which is well-recognized in the art world. These are carved by relatives of little Indian girls and presented to these children at Katsina dances to teach the children the features and meaning of the Katsinas. Traditional carvers feel that those who carve the katsina “dolls” should be able to speak Hopi because knowledge of the language is required to truly participate in Hopi ceremonies. Without full participation in Hopi ceremonies, the carvers cannot know the true spiritual intent of the katsina. Some of the carvings displayed in the Portland Art Museum are shown below.

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Note: while the term “kachina” is commonly used, the tribe prefers the designation “katsina.”

Eastern Woodlands Art

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The area of the United States east of the Mississippi River is often referred to as the Eastern Woodlands. This is an area in which American Indians practiced agriculture for at least a millennium prior to the European invasion. Shown below are some examples of Eastern Woodlands Indian art on display at the Portland Art Museum.

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Woven History, Part 2 (Photo Diary)

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Old baskets are fascinating. They reflect traditions and skills, as well as changes to culture and lifestyle. They speak to us from the past and can tell us much about the weaver’s life and society’s values.

The display of Native American baskets at the Clark County Historical Museum in Vancouver, Washington, includes baskets from many of the tribes of the Pacific coast, Columbia Plateau, and Northern California areas. Shown below are some more of the items which the museum has on display.  

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Weaving was used not only in making baskets, but also in making hats as can be seen in the woven woman’s hat shown above.  

Unknown American Indian Painting

Hello,

Can anyone tell me anything about this painting? I bought it in 1990 in San Antonio from an estate sale the owners had died and an estate liqidation company was running the sales. The owner was an Anthropologist.

Any help would be apprecieated.

William Ussery

jackieussery@gmail.com

I can send you a picture if you give me your email address. Does not look like this forum lets you post pics.

Northwest Coast Textiles (Photo Diary)

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The Northwest Coast peoples have a wide variety of garments which are worn during ceremonies and for special occasions. Sometimes the clothes are decorated with crest designs that show the wearer’s clan. Shown below are some examples of Northwest Coast textiles and weaving which are on display at the Portland Art Museum.  

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Some neckpieces are shown above.

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One of the best examples of Northwest Coast weaving can be seen in the Chilkat Dancing Blankets or Robes (example shown above). These blankets combine the twining of mountain goat wool and cedar bark with the images of mythological creatures. According to some experts, The pattern of the Chilcat blanket came from the Tsimshian and was adopted by the Tlingit, the Chilcat people specializing in its production, owning to the ease with which mountain goat’s wool could be procured in their district.

Traditionally, it would take a year or more to make a Chilkat Blanket. The blankets are woven by the women, but the designs are painted by male artists on special pattern boards.

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A pattern board for a Chilcat robe is shown above.

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This is another woven robe.

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A woven rain hat or canoe hat is shown above.

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A button blanket is shown above. This is a Tlingit blanket made about 1900 with pearl buttons and wool cloth. Button blankets were developed during the 19th century. Most are made of dark blue wool with a red pattern. The buttons are sewn individually to create the desired pattern.

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A pair of leggings is shown above.  

Plains Indian Art (Photo Diary)

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The Great Plains is the huge area in the central portion of the North American continent which stretches from the Canadian provinces in the north, almost to the Gulf of Mexico in the south, from the Rocky Mountains in the west to the Mississippi River in the east. This is an area which contains many different kinds of habitat: flatland, dunes, hills, tablelands, stream valleys, and mountains. It is a dry region and lacks trees except along rivers and streams. Plains Indians are those which are most often stereotyped by movies and other media as representing all Indians. The buffalo, the horse, and the tipi are all important items in Plains cultures. Shown below are some of the items from the Plains First Nations which are on display at the Portland Art Museum.

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While the moccasins shown above are common on the Plains and are frequently highly decorated, it should be pointed out that now all Indian cultures in North American used moccasins.

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While the Hollywood stereotype of the Plains Indians shows them riding their horses barebacked, virtually all good museums of Plains Indian cultures will include traditional saddles, such as that shown above.

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The ceiling in the Plains Indian exhibit area is interesting in that it seems to invoke the circular form of the tipi or the form of the Sun Dance Lodge.  

Genocide

Looking at the numerous conflicts-military, religious, social, economic, linguistic-between the Native peoples of North America and the invading Europeans, it is not uncommon for writers to describe these conflicts with the word “genocide.” At the same time, there are many who vehemently deny that there was any genocide and feel strongly that genocide is not a concept which should be applied to the conflicts between European nations and Indian nations or between the United States and Indian nations. To look at the possibility of genocide, we must first start with a definition of the concept and then look at the historical evidence.  

“Genocide” is a relatively recent word in the English language and emerged during World War II to describe the deliberate destruction of Jews and other peoples by Nazi Germany. In 1948, when the United Nations formally classified genocide as a crime against humanity, genocide was identified as an activity against a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group which includes one or more of the following: (1) killing members of the group, (2) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, (3) inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction, (4) imposing measures to prevent births within the group, and (5) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

There are some writers who insist that actions against the target group must be intentional: that is, the perpetrators must be shown as actually intending to commit genocide. From the viewpoint of the International Criminal Court, showing intent is critical in proving genocide.

Any cursory survey of American Indian history will uncover a number of examples of genocidal intent. One example of intent can be seen in 1851 when California governor John McDougall told the California legislature:

“That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races until the Indian race becomes extinct, must be expected… the inevitable destiny of the race is beyond the power or wisdom of man to avert.”

We see genocidal intent in 1866 in a letter from General Sherman to President Grant:

“We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women and children.”

At this same time (1866) a bounty was placed on Indians: the scalp from a man was worth $100; from a woman $50; and from a child $25. Genocide was the clear intent of this action. Following an attack on a friendly Shoshone camp in which 18 Indians, including six women and children, were killed, a letter to the Idaho Statesman said:

“We long to see this vile race exterminated. Every man who kills an Indian is a public benefactor.”

There are also those who feel, some quite strongly, that genocide can be said to occur only when all, or at least most, of the intended victims have been actually killed. Writers who espouse this position will often claim that there was no genocide against American Indians by the United States because American Indians survived. On the other hand, the International Criminal Court has made it clear that genocide has no lower limit: even if only one person was killed, it may still be considered genocide.

In 2012, the U.S. Senate rejected a resolution on American Indian Genocide and Recognition. Republican senators objected to the word “genocide” claiming that since there were still some American Indians left there had been no genocide. The Republican senators, however, had no problem in passing resolutions regarding genocide in other countries where there are survivors of the genocide.

There are also those who insist that genocide can only occur when the state-that is, the United States government in the case of genocide against American Indians-takes deliberate military action to eradicate the target group (i.e. Indians). Unfortunately, the historic records show numerous accounts of military “battles” in which the goal of the United States was the total eradication of American Indians. The expression “nits make lice” was one way of explaining why the military killed women and children (including infants who were not yet walking). “Nits make lice” in reference to Indians reflects a genocidal attitude as well as intent.

According to the United Nations definition of genocide, the forcible removal of children from their homes may also constitute genocide. When Indian children were removed from their homes by the tribal police and by the U.S. army, and then imprisoned in boarding schools where they were not allowed to speak their Native languages, to practice their Native religions, and to wear their Native clothing, this constituted a form of genocide. The idea, as expressed in the motto of America’s premier nineteenth century Indian boarding school, was to “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” In other words, the purpose of education was to destroy Indian culture.

Another form of this type of cultural genocide involves the adoption of Indian children by non-Indian families. State agencies are particularly prone to declare Native families as “unfit,” then adopt the children out to non-Indian families which will raise them with no reference to their tribal cultures. While the boarding schools no longer function as a genocidal vehicle, adoption, particularly forced adoption, appears to fit this definition.

While the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is intended to give the tribes a voice in the placement of Indian children into foster homes, the State of South Dakota continues to seize Indian children and place them in non-Indian homes. In 2012, a group of tribal directors of ICWA programs on the Sioux reservations completed a report showing that while Indian children make up on 14% of the children in South Dakota, they make up 50% of the children in the state-run foster care. The state appears to equate “poverty” with “neglect” and thus seizes more Indian children. After a state supreme court upheld the ICWA provisions, the state legislature passed a series of laws making it easier for the state to take Indian children and more difficult for Indian parents to get their children back.

Applying the 1948 United Nations definition of genocide retroactively to the treatment of Native Americans by the American government it appears that genocide has occurred. The United States did not ratify the convention on genocide until 1988, so genocide prior to this would be a moot point legally. Since 1988, the only actions against Native Americans which might be considered genocide center on the adoption of Indian children.

Northwest Coast Carvings (Photo Diary)

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The Northwest Coast is a region in which an entrenched and highly valued artistic tradition flourished. Northwest Coast art-carving and painting-has a very characteristic style. Most commonly, art is used for portraying the family crest and heraldic figures. Shown below are some examples of Northwest Coast carvings which are on display at the Portland Art Museum.  

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Shown above is a potlatch serving bowl. It is about 12 feet long. The potlatch is an expression of social stratification and so the lower ranking members of the society would be fed from the bowls at the knees and the highest ranking members would be fed from the head. During the several days of the potlatch, the hosts provide the guests with two large meals per day.

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Shown above are some of the decorated wooden boxes. One of the unique items among Northwest Coast Indians are kerfed boxes in which the sides of the box are made by scoring and then bending a single board to form the sides of the box. The single side seam is then carefully fitted and sewn together with spruce root. The bottom of the box is also carefully fitted and sewn to the sides. These boxes are waterproof and some are used for cooking. The watertight boxes can be filled with water and when hot stones are dropped into the box the water can be brought to a boil.

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Shown above are some examples carved serving spoons.

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Shown above are some carved bowls.

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Shown above is a drum with an orca design.

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Shown above is a cedar box drum. This drum was made by Tsimshian artist David Boxley about 1990.

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Shown above is an orca carving.

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One of the media used by Northwest Coast artists is argillite. Argillite is a soft stone which is found in the Queen Charlotte Islands. Shown above are some argillite bowls and carvings.

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Shown above are some large carved panels.

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A carved hat is shown above.  

California and Great Basin Art (Photo Diary)

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California and the Great Basin is an area of great cultural diversity. With regard to art, this is an area well-known for its basketry. Among some of the tribes, such as the Hupa and Maidu, woven baskets were used for cooking. The weaving on the baskets is so tight that they can hold water. When they were filled with water, hot rocks were used to bring the water to a boil. Shown below are some of the items from the California and Great Basin First Nations which are on display at the Portland Art Museum.  

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Reservations

Flathead Sign

It is not possible to talk about Indians in the United States today without reference to reservations. Most Americans are aware that as the European population expanded across the continent Indians were confined to “reserved” areas which were set aside for exclusive Indian use for “as long as the grasses grow and the rivers flow” or until Congress changes its mind. While there are about 324 federal Indian reservations in the United States, these reservations are not all the same: each reservation is unique with regard to its tribal heritage, its relationship to the land, and its legal relationships with the United States.  

Before talking about the different kinds of Indian reservations, it is important to point out that not all Indians live on reservations: less than half of the Indians who are enrolled members of federally recognized Indian tribes live on their reservations.

It is also important to point out that not all Indian tribes have reservations. The federal government has officially recognized only 566 Indian tribes and there are several hundred tribes which do not have an official relationship with the federal government. These unrecognized tribes do not have reservations.

One of the stories which is often told by history books and the popular media is the removal of Indian tribes from east of the Mississippi River and their resettlement in what is now Oklahoma. While the stories of removal need to be told, and retold, they lead to the stereotype of Indian reservations as places far from the indigenous homelands. While many tribes were removed from their homelands, many tribes have reservations which include their traditional homes.

Following the Constitution of the United States, the federal government negotiated treaties (international agreements) with Indian nations. These treaties often established Indian reservations which were territories which the Indian nations reserved for themselves. The treaties indicated these reservations were to be for the exclusive use of the Indians.

Originally, reservations were often areas in which non-Indians were to have only limited access.  In the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie which established the Great Sioux Reservation, for example, article 2 states that the reservation:

“set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the Indians.”

As with all treaties, the United States refused to enforce treaty obligations against non-Indians. Reservations were often invaded illegally by non-Indian miners, ranchers, and farmers who demanded that the United States government remove the Indians and give them title to the land.

By the 1880s, the federal government was offended by the communal ownership of reservation land and began a policy of dividing up the reservations into small, individually owned plots of land. It was felt that individual land ownership would help Indians to assimilate into American society by helping them value the accumulation of wealth. In addition, surplus land could be transferred to non-Indians. As a result, on many reservations today the Indians are a minority on their own land. While the reservation boundaries were unchanged by the infamous Dawes Act, the land within the reservation boundaries could now be privately owned by non-Indians.

The United States government also declared that it could unilaterally change reservation boundaries. Thus many large reservations, such as that reserved by the Sioux, were broken up into smaller reservations and large areas opened up for non-Indian settlement.

Like many people today, the nineteenth-century government treaty negotiators viewed Indians through a racial lens which simply saw Indian/White. They failed to understand that Indian as a racial construct fails to recognize that there are many very different tribal cultures. While the Anishinaabe, Lakota, Kootenai, and Tohono O’odham are all Indians, they are not the same. In establishing reservations through the treaty process, the federal government often assigned Indians from very different cultural traditions to the same reservations, assuming that all Indians were the same. As a result many shared reservations today are homes to tribes which have very different cultural traditions.

In 1934, Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act which allowed tribes to reorganize their tribal governments. However, the federal government took the view that reservation and tribe were the same, ignoring the fact that many reservations contained dissimilar tribes. As a result, those reservations wishing to reorganize their tribal governments had to create confederated governments. As a result of this, some smaller tribes have lost their individual identity and have become a part of a new “confederated” tribe.

Since the United States stopped making treaties with Indian nations in 1871, reservations have been created by Presidential Executive Order, by Congressional Action, and by court actions.

Most reservations today are no longer areas reserved for the exclusive use of the Indians. Unfortunately, many of the non-Indians living on the reservations, or close to the reservations, have little understanding of the history of these areas, the cultures of the tribes, and the special body of law which governs them.

Woven History, Part 1 (Photo Diary)

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Old baskets are fascinating. They reflect traditions and skills, as well as changes to culture and lifestyle. They speak to us from the past and can tell us much about the weaver’s life and society’s values.

The display of Native American baskets at the Clark County Historical Museum in Vancouver, Washington, includes baskets from many of the tribes of the Pacific coast, Columbia Plateau, and Northern California areas.  

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One of the primary First Nations who lived along the Columbia River and along the Pacific Coast in the Vancouver area are the Chinook. Shown above is a drawing of a typical Chinook village scene.  

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Shown above is a stone mortar and pestle which was used in processing some foods.

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The people living in the lower Columbia River area were fishing people. Shown above are some of the stone net weights that were used to hold their fishnets down.

Shown below are some of the items which the museum has on display.

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More items from the museum’s collection will be shown in Part 2.  

Woven History, Part 1 (Photo Diary)

CM4775

Old baskets are fascinating. They reflect traditions and skills, as well as changes to culture and lifestyle. They speak to us from the past and can tell us much about the weaver’s life and society’s values.

The display of Native American baskets at the Clark County Historical Museum in Vancouver, Washington, includes baskets from many of the tribes of the Pacific coast, Columbia Plateau, and Northern California areas.  

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One of the primary First Nations who lived along the Columbia River and along the Pacific Coast in the Vancouver area are the Chinook. Shown above is a drawing of a typical Chinook village scene.  

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Shown above is a stone mortar and pestle which was used in processing some foods.

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The people living in the lower Columbia River area were fishing people. Shown above are some of the stone net weights that were used to hold their fishnets down.

Shown below are some of the items which the museum has on display.

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More items from the museum’s collection will be shown in Part 2.