As we finish renovation of a third floor room this month we are adjusting to the closure of the Lincoln Library and the four rooms adjacent to the library while paint dries. Because of the closure of these spaces I have placed some collections in other areas of the museum. One of these temporary exhibits is of select items from the American Indian collection. I simply could not allow tour participants to miss this wonderful group of objects while the room is off limits.
Alice T. Miner collected a wide variety of wonderful American Indian objects between 1910 to her death in 1950. Unfortunately, the museum does not know the provenance of most of these objects. We do hold a large number of stone implements donated to Alice for her museum by Lynn, Massachusetts mayor Ralph S. Bauer in the 1920s. It is likely that Alice Miner already possessed the wonderful baskets, pottery pieces, dolls and beaded works by the time she received the Bauer Collection.
This new exhibit offers a sampling of pieces for visitors to learn about and enjoy, including; a group of spear and arrow points, four baskets, a basketry women’s cap, a beaded Plains Indian doll, a clay pipe stem, two southwestern pottery pieces, a northwest coast Indian dance rattle (written about previously in this post – The Rattle Connection), a beaded tobacco bag, a small bow with eight arrows, and a Nez Perce woven bag.
The Plains Indian doll is sixteen inches tall and comprised of a leather body, head and clothing with beaded decoration and bead & metal jewelry. The face has some application of red pigment on the cheeks with eyes created from beads.
The baskets in the exhibit are Klickitat, Hupa and Yurok-Karok in origin, therefore all were made in California, Oregon and Washington states. The Yurok-Karok and Hupa baskets are similar to each other and were likely made by related peoples in California. They are made of woven willow, pine root, bear grass and maiden hair fern – with a weave so tight and fine they are said to hold water. The Yurok-Karok cap is made in a similar way with the addition of a fabric lining.
The Klickitat baskets are large burden baskets woven of red cedar root, cattail leaf, or beaver grass with geometric designs and rawhide straps. The Klickitat, or Qwu’lh-hwai-pum (prairie people), lived along the shores of the Colombia River between the present day states of Washington and Oregon.
The Nez Perce cornhusk bag is woven from dogbane or silkweed and decorated with colored fibers. Later yarn and corn husk were also incorporated in weaving these utilitarian bags or baskets. The addition of a rawhide strap made for easy carrying. The Nez Perce were also inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest of Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
The two pottery objects included in this exhibit are from the southwestern U.S. and Northern Mexico. They are both polychrome decorated vessels with geometric designs.
The pitcher was made at Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico using both mineral and vegetal based paints. The design uses a characteristic white background allowing Acoma potters to produce crisp black and polychrome designs. This pitcher is nine inches tall. Acoma Pueblo has been occupied by descendants of the Mogollon and Anasazi people for over 800 years, making it one of the oldest continually inhabited communities in the U.S. I could not resist including this wonderful photos of one of the houses at Acoma today.
The other pottery piece is a wonderful little polychrome pottery bowl made by Indians in the Casas Grandes region of Northern Mexico, in the modern day state of Chihuahua. Casas Grandes, also known as Paquimé was settled by people descended from the Mogollon. It is only about 4.5 inches tall and has holes pierced in the top for hanging or carrying.