Winter 2017

Inside NMAI: Down the Inka Road

The exhibition is open. The book is published. Does that mean the work is complete? Sometimes. But in the case of large projects that encompass more than an exhibition gallery, the work often continues long past the opening date. For the Inka Road project, the exhibition The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire is but one component of a project at least a decade in its duration.

Storytelling on Film: Convening an Industry

During the wave of 1970s activism that produced the occupations of Alcatraz, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Wounded Knee, Indigenous people learned the power of media to convey their message to the world. The first Native film festivals emerged to present nascent Native moviemaking. From a start in San Francisco in 1975, these conclaves have burgeoned into major forums allowing Native peoples to tell their own stories in their own voices.

Herbert Dickey in the Devil’s Paradise

"I haven’t had an adventure and don’t expect to have,” Dr. Herbert Spencer Dickey wrote in 1929 about his full-time career exploring the unknown interior of South America. He criticized many of the much-publicized Amazon expeditions of the early 1900s as “sport,” not science. On his own travels on the eastern side of the Andes, he made contact with an unknown tribe, witnessed a Jivaro head-shrinking ceremony and searched for the source of the Orinocco River, all the while minimizing “real danger.” Partly sponsored by Gorge Gustav Heye and the Museum of the American Indian, he brought back some of the finest items still on display at the NMAI.

Taíno Survival: Back into History

No exhibition has actually addressed the topic of the survival of Native peoples in the Caribbean after 1492. The Native peoples of the region, represented by the durable elements of their material culture, are contained in museums within the pre-colonial moment. To frame an exhibit that emphasizes the survival and contemporary vitality of these indigenous peoples and their legacy is an intimidating task. But such is the upcoming Taíno: Native Heritage and Identity in the Caribbean, now under preparation for the National Museum of the American Indian – Smithsonian in New York City.

Winter 2017

This bench from Rio Uaupes at the headwaters of the Amazon was collected in the early 1920s by Dr. Herbert S. Dickey (1876–1948), a full-time explorer and ethnologist funded by George Gustav Heye and the Museum of the American Indian (predecessor to the NMAI). Earlier in his medical career, Dickey reported on the corporate atrocities of the Putumayo rubber boom, putting his life in greater danger than he ever felt from unknown territories or tribes. See page 30 for his hair-raising story.