Museums: I used to think they were haunted houses…

In Minneapolis' 8:00 Morning rush hour; what's that?

Was I really in Minneapolis?  Yep, but just for the weekend of March 24th through the 26th.  I was one of the grant awardees to receive the First People’s Fund “Artist in Business Leadership” program.  For three days, several Native American artists from around the country met for a marketing seminar in Minneapolis at the new “All Our Relations” gallery/coffee shop facility.

"Twilly", Roni and Lauren were crammed in the back seat of our escort's cushy van!

During the afternoon of the first day, we visited the Minneapolis Institute of Art.  I am not one who enjoys visiting museums.  I have this ingrown pattern of thought that I think stemmed from our own local Alaska State Museum in Juneau, where as a child, the museum was dark, grungy, lifeless with stale air and I saw no purpose in looking at these dark mysterious objects, let alone hang out in spooky “haunted house” of sorts.  Like the only thing to do in a museum was to tell ghost stories and play boogie man! – Thank goodness I have grown out of that mode!

The entry to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Our tour guide was the Associate Curator of Native American art, Joe Horse Capture originally from Montana.  Joe’s father was the first Native American curator.  Joe is presently the only Native American curator of a significantly large museum in the nation.

Joe Horse Capture introduced the drift-wood mosaic created by Annishnabe artist George Morrison

A close-up of the wood mosaic by George Morrison - I liked this piece immediately even before Joe Horse Capture pointed it out to us

I’ve kept the text to a minimum in this blog entry; I want to show images of a few pieces of work collected for this museum.

At the introduction of the tour, Joe Horse Capture explains how he curated the entire display of Native American art at this museum organized by region and not by the political state or national boundaries. The map has no reference to geographical borders, no division of lands, nor reference to Canada, Mexico and the U.S. - The map is laid out with reference to the location of tribes

A carved ceremonial headdress by George Hunt in the foreground; a reproduction of a carved and painted house screen by Gordon Locksley in the background - the museum is hoping that George will eventually donate the house screen..

1st People's Fund Executive Director Lori Pourier, Program Coordinator Miranne Walker, and Montana Cheyenne artist Alaina Buffalo Spirit take a rest

Joe Horse Capture says he has collected 42 pair of Plains Indian tribe moccasins - there are approximately 22 pair displayed in the glass case

A close-up of some of the moccasins - notice the child moccasins in the center

A beaded, leather Plains Indian "war shirt" stood in the center of the round of moccasins

Two cradle boards from the late 1800's; the one on the left is quillwork, the one on the right is beaded - the beaded bonnet is modern day

A beaded, leather travel satchel from the 1930's

Lauren, Miranne, Carol and Stephanie prepare for the group photo shoot

Group shot


  1. The replica is of the Yaay Hít of the Ghaanaxhteidí, the Whale House, Séew Xh’éen, Rain Wall, painted by Shkeedlikháa, one of the greatest artists of all time, Native or otherwise. I think replicas are great for learning, but this is the cultural and intellectual property of the Ghaanaxhteidí clan, and moreover, it’s by a specific, individual, and great artist who should be recognized for himself. I know George Emmons speculated that the artist of the Séew Xh’éen was Tsimshian, but there were three good sources for Shkeedlikháa: Emmons himself, though he doubted his own sources, Yeilxáak, Louis Shotridge, and William Paul.

    • Morning Ishmael: Thank you for the information on the Whale House Rain Wall. I thought the image looked familiar!

      • Cya, I am sure Gordon Lockesly is a very good and very established artist. I just don’t understand why artists think that doing replicas are good practices for anything but learning to become an artist, especially when we’re dealing with cultural property, and if we know the artist. But anyway, thanks, and take care! This doesn’t happen in any culture unless it’s students, like copying Da Vinci or Van Gogh, we copy Khajis’du.áxhch and Shkeedlikháa to learn. So it’s not only good cultural practices to refrain from copying, it’s good form for an established artist to create their own work from their own hearts and minds. Anyway, thanks, and take care!

        • Morning Ishmael: Thanks for visiting my blog. My blog is not necessarily what I’d really like it to be, as I am involved in many other things, but it will do for now. – In response to your latest response, I understand and know your feelings of protection. It is hard to protect our cultural property. Hard to protect what is left of our way of living. Yet, our culture has been “exposed” to the entire world in ways we could not have imagined even 100 years ago. No culture in the world is isolated anymore; it is very difficult to hang on to what we have and protect the preciousness and unique way we were and in ways, still are. Yet, like many, I believe, things move in a circle and we will eventually come back to where we once were, but not exactly, because that is how creation lives; even when things come full circle it is always slightly different. – When I look about the world, In every culture and because we are human, it is our nature to copy as this is how we learn. There isn’t one of us who refrains from copying. We emulate many things (more positive than negative hopefully) from our environment. A beginning artist will always copy. When we see something that inspires us, whether it be a visual art, a performing art, the written art, etc., we are motivated not only to copy, but to eventually put our own twist to the art, making it our own style. I am STILL an artist that is constantly learning, constantly “copying.” It is the way I learn; I learn from others all the time, whether the artists are dead or alive. And even so in my learning, others are copying me, and I would envision so, as it is the way we continue to evolve as artists, always assisting, inspiring and motivating us to become more of what creation is about. As we create and share, the art creates us, with our own individual “twist.” Like every human being, which in itself is a work of art, there has not ever been any two artists exactly alike. We all have our individuality, just like a snowflake. – okay, Spring is here, yeah! I’ll be seeing you soon. It’s another beautiful day! Clarissa

          • Cya, it’s just how every culture has always worked. You copy to learn. You create from your own heart and mind, though it comes from a tradition, and you might “steal” ideas here and there, which is most often healthy. That’s how every culture works, pretty much. So it’s not necessarily feeling an idea to protect Native cultural and intellectual property, I’d probably feel the same way if someone copied, say, the Sistine Chapel, and did it very literally, and then used it as their own work. Even if you credit Michaelangelo (though it looks like Shkeedlikháa is not credited, but he is on par with these greats, which is why I use the comparison), it’s still not good form for an established artist to do it. Maybe you have ironic pop art that uses the Mona Lisa and puts a moustache on her or something like that, but that is a limited field, but at least it’s someone’s idea. Literal copying is useful for a learner. Especially if you don’t credit the original artist, you’re crossing the line, and that’s how it is in any culture. Anyway, thanks for your thoughts!

  2. But anyway, this looks like it was a lot of fun, and lots of good artists! 🙂