The Iowa Native Spaces project, led by graduate students and faculty from UI’s History Corps, works closely with tribal partners to help prevent the erasure of Meskwaki and Ioway history and bring Native perspectives to more Iowans.
During American Indian Heritage Month, it is good to remember all of the excellent Native-run museums, archives, and galleries across the country that work hard to preserve cultural heritage and to educate the general public. The Heritage Center at the Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation is a great example.
In October of this year, The Heritage Center announced the acquisition of new work by Bobby C Martin (Creek), an artist, curator, and educator from Oklahoma, the Lakota artist James Star Comes Out, Tasha Abourzek (Mandan/Hidatsa), and Aloysius Dreaming Bear (Lakota), of Pine Ridge.
From The Heritage Center’s website:
The Heritage Center collection began with the purchase of three prize-winning pieces from the Red Cloud Indian Art Show in 1969, and has grown today to include nearly 10,000 pieces of the Native American contemporary and historical Lakota art (all recently catalogued thanks to generous funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the Bush Foundation). The collection includes paintings, textiles, traditional art, historical items, pottery and sculpture, as well as a library and historical archives.
The Heritage Center is one of the oldest such archives located on a U.S. reservation. It is a model of Native-centered cultural sovereignty, promoting contemporary Indian artists and crafts people, and providing a space for visitors to discover the connections between time-honored Lakota creative traditions and their 21st-century forms.
Directions: The Heritage Center is located on the campus of Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.
The Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School 100 Mission Drive
Pine Ridge, South Dakota 57770
Native American tribes are waiting for the return of their sacred items from the collection of a Massachusetts seminary.
In a recent blog post (Archive Journal) reviewing the American Historical Association’s recent conference in Denver, Molly Hardy, Digital Humanities Coordinator at the American Antiquarian Society, observed in passing the new digital collection of Great Basin indigenous cultural material sponsored by Great Basin College.
Funded through a partnership among rural Nevada’s Great Basin College, the University of Utah, and Barrick North America, the Great Basin Indian Archives (GBIA) provides “a tool to engage learners of all ages and backgrounds by offering a 24/7 information resource about Great Basin’s native peoples and their rich culture. The GBIA hopes to provide a mechanism and forum for peoples of Great Basin heritage to tell/curate their story in perpetuity.”
The GBIA draws its strength from community buy-in, the central curatorial role of Great Basin individuals, and its innovative use of the Great Basin College’s new Virtual Humanities Center (VHC), where “select assets from the Great Basin Indian Archives are now available . . . in an archival and fully searchable repository.”
The Great Basin Indian Archives was initially conceived in 2001, and the like the efforts of the Shoshone an Arapaho at Wind River Reservation (see “What is Theirs”), its goal is to reinvigorate the younger generation of Great Basin peoples by giving them hands-on access to Native language recordings and material culture objects that have played a critical role in sustaining the some 50-plus communities who still live and work as federally recognized tribes in the Great Basin.
As with their Eastern Shoshone relatives at Wind River, language is a key component to this project of cultural revitalization. The Great Basin Indian Archive sponsors The Shoshone Community Language Initiative (SCLI), a four-and-a-half week summer program for Shoshone high school students.
But there is one component to this Native-sponsored archival project that impacts all Americans—”The intent for the GBIA program is to exist on the GBC website and to provide a “virtual linking archives” for easy accessibility to the General Public as well.”
This sharing of information is critical, the participants in the GBIA believe, so that educators—both in Nevada and in the country as a whole—have “a credible insertion point in the curriculum with a substantial reference/resource base. The archives wants to encourage term papers and projects related to the curriculum that could also become deposited in the GBIA.”
Thus this indigenous online archive was not founded on the needs of Native communities alone, but also on the idea that knowledge of Native history and all that entails is essential for all students’ preparation. American Indian history, like that of the original 13 British American colonies, or of Britain or Rome, is a core element in the humanities, which is in turn central to critical thinking. It is worth quoting at length from the GBIA’s website:
Faculty at GBC had believed for some time that humanities were not being emphasized enough in our curriculum. We realized that our students are not proficient in many of the important skills that the humanities encourage, such as the ability to think critically about what they are reading or to connect the ideas in that reading to a larger context. As teachers we work with students struggling to use facts to support their opinions — sometimes even to differentiate between fact and opinion—and to present their ideas clearly and cogently. Our students, and students in general, often cannot recognize the validity of other perspectives or value the diversity of viewpoints and ideas that surround them.
None of this would have been possible, however, without a lot of work. Great Basin serves a rural population and a huge geographic area:
For GBC the solution to this dilemma would have to take into consideration the realities of our situation: a service area that has grown to 87,000 square miles of Nevada, a mission to serve the mostly rural residents of that vast expanse, a strong distance education infrastructure relying on interactive video and online instruction to reach our students.
But where could a remote rural college go for help in the exploratory work needed to brainstorm and implement a virtual learning center that could bridge the gaps its students were experiencing in finding the larger context for their ideas, so that they could “differentiate between fact and opinion—and to present their ideas clearly and cogently?”
The answer is simple, they applied to the National Endowment for the Humanities:
In 2011, a group of faculty began to discuss applying for a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Jeannie Rosenthal Bailey gathered those ideas into a challenge grant which was submitted to NEH in 2013 . . . The GBC Foundation had agreed to support the grant and to go beyond the 2-to-1 match to a 3-to-1 match, meaning that the $500,000 from NEH would realize a total contribution of $2,000,000 to GBC for the project over five years.
A mining company dedicated “to contribute to the welfare of the communities and countries in which we operate” (Barrick North America), a state university in Utah, a rural college in Nevada—all brought together in common cause by a federal program now under attack for its supposed elitist preoccupations, its failure to demonstrate its worth beyond urban areas and left-leaning voters.
The peoples of the Great Basin might just disagree.