Native Americans have been creating striking, culturally expressive art – including baskets, paintings and silverwork – for thousands of years. Much of this art draws on Native Americans’ connection to nature, to each other and to tradition. Seeing this art in person is a great way to understand more about native cultures.
If you’re planning a vacation, consider stopping at one of the following destinations and taking in some of the best of Native American art:
Located on the Big Cypress Reservation in Clewiston, Fla., the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is a repository of Seminole art and cultural objects. You can view the embossed silverwork, as well as the simpler coin-and-bead necklaces, for which Seminole silversmiths were once famous. The museum also has a large collection of work by painter Noah Billie, whose oil paintings feature vibrant colors and strong, geometrical shapes. The subject is often a Seminole man poling a canoe through Cypress trees, but Billie also painted wildlife and other scenes. All of Billie’s work addresses Seminole history and identity, and his paintings will leave you with a clearer understanding of the Seminole culture.
The National Museum of the American Indian
The National Museum of the American Indian, which contains modern and ancient native art and artifacts, is dedicated to preserving and disseminating native art and culture. In the museum, you’ll witness the past speaking to the present in works like Gail Tremblay’s “Strawberry and Chocolate.” Tremblay alters the traditional art form of basket weaving, which is common in many native cultures, by substituting 16mm film for sweet grass and ash splints to create her modernized basket. Temporary exhibits like “Artic Journeys/Ancient Memories: The Sculpture of Abraham Anghik Ruben,” feature Native American art from other parts of the country. Ruben’s work portrays the Inuit people enduring physical and spiritual journeys.
The Chicksaw Cultural Center
The nation’s largest tribal cultural center, the Chickasaw Cultural Center is a state-of-the-art campus that strives to preserve and share Chickasaw history, culture and art. In the Chickasaw Poya Exhibit Center, you can view a large collection of Chickasaw artifacts and art objects, including pottery, clothes and jewelry. The Anoli’ Theater offers you the rare opportunity to screen Chickasaw films and even allows you to interact with the films’ creators.
The Chickasaw Cultural Center also pays homage to the Chickasaw Nation’s reputation for natural, artistic and functional architecture. You’ll notice that each campus building is crafted from native stone, wood and copper. The buildings in the Chikasha Inchokka’ Traditional Village, including two summer houses, two winter houses and a council house, are historically accurate re-creations. At the Chickasaw Cultural Center, you’ll be able to experience many forms of traditional and modern Chickasaw art, from pottery to cinema to architecture.
Native American people have a rich artistic past, and their creativity continues to flourish today. You can witness this creativity for yourself at dedicated museums and cultural centers throughout the United States. Plan your next vacation to include a stop at one of these repositories of art and culture, and gain a deeper understanding of Native American culture and art.