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ERIC Number: EJ944297
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 36
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0095-182X
"We Don't Live like that Anymore": Native Peoples at the Smithsonian's Festival of American Folklife, 1970-1976
Walker, William S.
American Indian Quarterly, v35 n4 p479-514 Fall 2011
In the summer of 1970, the Smithsonian's Festival of American Folklife, an annual event on the National Mall featuring tradition bearers from around the country, premiered a new American Indian program that combined presentations of Native traditions with panel discussions of contemporary social, political, and economic issues facing Native communities. More than three decades before the National Museum of the American Indian opened in Washington, the Smithsonian debuted a type of exhibition that involved American Indians interpreting their own histories and cultures. The Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife's American Indian presentations offered an experimental, even radical, alternative to conventional museum displays. No doubt inspired by what was occurring among Native communities on reservations and in cities in the late 1960s and 1970s, the festival's American Indian programs from 1970 to 1976 invited Native people to interpret their own cultures and traditions on the National Mall for hundreds of thousands, even millions, of Smithsonian visitors. Conceptualized by Clydia Nahwooksy, a Cherokee woman from Oklahoma who worked in the federal bureaucracy, the festival's American Indian programs marked a significant departure from the Smithsonian's previous modes of displaying Native peoples. Instead of static ethnographic displays designed by white male curators, the festival was a dynamic "living exhibition" curated by both Native and non-Native peoples. Because it relied on presentations by actual people rather than featuring exhibits of objects, the festival bore a superficial resemblance to the ethnographic displays popular at the world's fairs of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which the Smithsonian had played a large role in organizing. In this article, the author examines festival organizers' earlier attempts at presenting American Indian traditions and explores Nahwooksy's efforts to create a new approach to the display of Native cultures at the 1970 festival. (Contains 2 figures and 98 notes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A