Field Museum Opens New Permanent Exhibit Highlighting Contemporary Native American Stories

On May 20, 2022, the Field Museum presents a new permanent exhibition Indigenous Truths: Our Voices, Our Stories. More than four years of preparation, the groundbreaking exhibit was created under the direction of an advisory board of 11 Native American scholars and museum professionals, and in partnership with 130 contributors representing more than 105 tribes. Visitors can experience Indigenous-told stories of self-determination, resilience, continuity and the future brought to life through historical and contemporary beads, ceramics, murals, music, dance and Moreover.

A special program celebrating the opening of Indigenous Truths: Our Voices, Our Stories and Indigenous Collaborators will open the exhibit on Saturday, May 21. The schedule includes:

10:00 a.m. Menominee Peace Tree Ceremony at the Indigenous Rice Gardens

1:30 p.m. Opening program at the James Simpson Theater Guest speakers:

  • Julian Siggers, President and CEO, Field Museum
  • Alaka Wali, Ph.D. Curator Emeritus of North American Anthropology, Field Museum
  • Brian Vallo, Indigenous Advisory Committee Member
  • W. Richard West Jr., Chairman Emeritus, The Autry Museum of the American West
  • Cynthia Chavez Lamar, Director, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution

2:20 p.m. Procession through the American Indian Center to Stanley Field Hall

2:30 p.m. Ribbon cutting and dance of the Pieds-noirs

In addition to the main opening celebration on Saturday, May 21, a strong lineup of programming continues throughout the weekend. Native Truths artists and collaborators – including Lydia Chavez, Kelly Church, Max Early, Karen Ann Hoffman, Michelle Sylliboy, Jason Wesaw and students from Stillwell High – offer workshops, demonstrations, artist talks and poetry Friday May 20 and Sunday May 22.

© Field Museum photo by Jay Young

Native Truths: Our Voices, Our Stories breaks the mold of a traditional exhibit and instead of focusing on objects, it will be guided by the stories, both historical and contemporary, told by Native Americans in their own voices. These stories are supported by contemporary art, poetry, photography and historical objects from the Museum’s collections. Along with a special section dedicated to Chicago’s Native community, other galleries in the exhibit will rotate through the years, making way for new stories of Native Americans across the United States and Canada.

“The exhibit will feature Native American voices telling their own stories,” said Jaap Hoogstraten, director of exhibits at the Field Museum. “This required the Field Museum to fundamentally change the process of co-curating exhibits with communities.”

© Field Museum photo by Jay Young
The exhibition is “as necessary as ever”

Indigenous Truths: Our Voices, Our Stories highlights historical and current Indigenous stories of sovereignty, resilience, continuity and the future. Visitors will have the opportunity to get a close-up look at California basket weaving traditions passed down through generations, experience music through the eyes of a young Lakota hip hop artist, follow the process Meskwaki efforts to revitalize Heirloom and ancestral plants, Delve into the history and significance of Chaco Canyon, and visit Pawnee Earth Lodge in a new context.

Meranda Roberts, PhD, postdoctoral researcher and one of the exhibit’s co-curators and citizen of the Yerington Paiute Tribe, says she hopes Native Truths will be a starting point for the field and the Chicago community to discuss of colonization and how Indigenous communities have been harmed, and for Indigenous peoples to tell their stories on their own terms.

“This exposure is as needed as ever,” Roberts said. “Our country is at a precipice thinking about how to come to terms with the heinous ways it has treated our people, how to approach this story, and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I think this exhibit does a beautiful job at highlighting how Native people should be celebrated and talked about in public places, like the Field Museum.”

© Field Museum photo by Jay Young
“A vibrant story of resilience and innovation”

Visitors will see objects from the Field’s collection, such as traditional badges and pottery, and understand their historical significance, as well as exclusive works of art created especially for this exhibit by Indigenous artists, including poetry, music and murals depicting their experiences today. Multimedia interactives will showcase unique skills like basket weaving, as well as some of the most pressing contemporary issues facing Aboriginal people.

“I think visitors will be blown away by how the items from our collection and the contemporary pieces we have borrowed, commissioned or purchased specifically for this exhibition work seamlessly together to tell a dynamic story of resilience and innovation. coping with trauma and the continuity of knowledge traditions across generations,” says Curator Emeritus of North American Anthropology Alaka Wali, PhD. “This is not a timeline of events, but rather a short story and all-around perspective on First Nations American and Native experiences, worldviews and aspirations. »

Exhibit collaborators were intentional in telling Indigenous stories to provide visitors with an understanding of Native American experiences and culture, perhaps correcting stereotypes or prior beliefs.

“For Indigenous visitors, I also hope there’s an instant connection. I hope they see each other, see their loved ones, grandparents, aunts and uncles,” says Debra Yepa-Pappan, community engagement coordinator for the renovation project, who is Jemez Pueblo and Korean. “For non-native visitors, we’ve worked to make it an immersive experience that allows them to come into our home – to learn about us, not just about us. I hope they will have a better understanding of indigenous peoples and see the humanity in us to begin to challenge the stereotypical images they may see in the city and in the country.

© Field Museum photo by Jay Young
A “new way forward”

The exhibit is the result of years of work and collaboration between Indigenous advisors and artists, as well as Indigenous and non-Indigenous Field Museum staff, which will set a precedent for future projects.

“I feel truly privileged to have worked with talented curators and developers on the ground over the past four years, and to add my voice to the wise and caring Indigenous advisors on this project,” says Patty Loew, Ph.D. ., member of the board committee who is from the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe. Loew is the director of the Native American and Native American Research Center and a professor in the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

“I think visitors will really get a real sense of Indigenous truths when they experience this new exhibit,” Loew added.

“With the reimagined Native North American Hall, the Field Museum is breaking new ground and setting a precedent for future galleries,” says Julian Siggers, president of the Field Museum. “Working with our Indigenous partners at every stage of the exhibition process has not only provided a rich and rewarding experience for all of us, but has also opened a new path for how The Field and other museums work in partnership with living communities.”

Nohemi M. Moore