Lived History – the Story of the Wind River Virtual Museum

– [Announcer] Your
support helps us bring you programs you love. Go to, click on support and
become a sustaining member, or an annual member. It’s easy and secure. Thank you. (speaking in foreign language) (slow tranquil music) (mid-tempo dramatic music) – [Narrator] This program
was made possible by The Matthew and Virgie O.
Dragicevich Foundation. Early in the European
exploration of North America, collectors took an interest
in Native American arts, weaponry and attire. Sometimes they
purchased artifacts. Sometimes stole them and
sometimes killed for them. Over the years, pipes,
moccasins, roaches, cradle boards, and
parfleches accumulated in museums and
private collections. The items purpose and
how it was acquired was often forgotten. Many of the artifacts have
disintegrated over time. Those that have been turned
over to quality museums have often been
restored and preserved. But thorough knowledge
is sometimes lacking. Many artifacts remain in
the vaults and display cases of museums far from
their place of origin. And far from the people who
might best appreciate them. Some have attempted to return these artifacts to reservations. Recently, there
has been a movement to retrieve artifacts virtually, through digital images
that can be shared. A virtual museum. With the help of tribal leaders, and reservation historic
and cultural societies, Northern Arapaho and Eastern
Shoshone collaborators have been identified to
build a virtual museum, so that these
items can be viewed by the people on
the reservation. Key tribal elders with an
interest in the project volunteered to travel
to Chicago to create The Wind River Virtual Museum. (slow rousing music) – The artifacts that
we’re gonna see, I’ve seen some of them before. When I was growing up. My grandpas, grandmas, they
used some of those things. – Those items they tell
a story in themselves about the things that
we did and how we lived. – I’m well informed of
my grandfather’s ways. I was born in the 40’s. They were still alive,
they were old men. They could still relay stories
of pre-reservation days and that’s where I learned. – I’m 17 years old and I
am definitely interested in learning more
about the old ways, and to keep it going
because it is who you are. No matter what, that’s
where you came from. – [Narrator] The Wind River
Virtual Museum project is an attempt to provide
two tribes of Wyoming, the Eastern Shoshone
and Northern Arapaho, with an archive of
high definition images of ancestral artifacts
presently inaccessible to tribal members. Many items were not filmed
at the request of elders who volunteered to
preserve their observations and wisdom for
future generations. – A lot of artifacts and
items are sacred items used for spiritual purposes. – I think the artifacts
that we’re gonna see is something that people
would wanna hear about, but they would all
be very cautious. We can have some of our
elders really clear the way with prayer with
cedar, sweetgrass. – So good to meet you, Alaka. – [William] Alaka. – Welcome. – [William] Thank you. – We’re very honored
to have you here. My name is Alaka Wali, and I’m Curator of North
American Anthropology here at The Field Museum. Jamie’s gonna be here
with you all day. We’ve been honored
to have the visit of two different groups from
The Wind River Reservation, from the Arapaho Nation, and then visitors from
the Shoshone Nation. – Most of the bones that
you see there are original. – It’s rare that we
get this kind of visit. They’ve been looking
at our collections, and describing for the Virtual
Museum what the objects are, what they mean, how they
might have been used. Our records of these
objects are very episodic. So some things we have
a lot of information on and other things we
have virtually nothing. Often times what we have is
the version of the document from the ethnographer or
the person who collected it, and not from the
people who lived them. – And we’ve pulled
some artifacts for
you to take a look at. – The fear that I had
with the artifacts was I thought there’d be more
designs that weren’t Shoshone. – These are a couple of the
roaches that we pulled for you. – What I saw right away was
something good, something good, and the more closer I got to
it, you know I was thinking you know, this is Indian. This is a Shoshone. – It’s really, really
critical for the future of these collections that
we have this kind of record. (speaking in foreign language) – Ahh. – We were just discussing that
that set of porcupine quills is probably collected
in the summertime ’cause they’re longer and
they’re more yellowish, and if you collect it
in the winter weather, they’re more whitish. – What amazed me was
how much they know. – [Man] Sound speed, all right. (machine beeps) – [Man] Got it. (machine beeps) – [Interviewer] So what
are these items called in common, what do people
commonly call them? – This here is what we
call, (foreign language). That means it’s a fan. – Well if you come right
down to the nitty-gritty they just call
them rawhide bags. – A drum, it’s the heartbeat
of the Arapaho Tribe. – Now this is a
real good basket. You know, those designs are
kind of rattle snake designs. – [Narrator] Tribal
elders selected the items to be included in
The Virtual Museum. Some of the items had not
been removed from storage for more than 100 years. They were taken out of boxes, and placed with great
care before the camera. A few were suspended so they
could be filmed from all sides. Trained museum staff
assisted the film crew in treating the items
respectfully and cautiously during the filming process. Commentary on each item’s
use, design, and history was recorded both in English
and in their native language, so that viewers can choose which
language they would prefer. (speaking in foreign language) – This is a baby cradle. They used to pack
the babies with it. (speaking foreign language). – This one is the
addition to a roach. – This is a head
roach worn by the men. This roach is major
during the time that they were having
wars with each other, wars with Arapahos,
Crow, or Sioux. They wore this one here,
and tied it, you know, under the neck over here so
it won’t be flopping around. – And during the war time, they were used as a
camouflage head piece. If you’re down in the grass, a lot of the grasses
looked like this. That roach was there hiding you. – The wing of an eagle, the right wing of an eagle. Fans similar to this one
are used in our ceremonies. Our traditional dancers
carry them today. The craftsmen that puts them
together, he has a purpose, some wishes, it’s in
a form of a prayer. He prays for the individual
that it’s gonna utilize this. He prays for the future,
maybe in educational pursuits, maybe in employment,
maybe in health. All of these things,
he takes time as he puts these
objects together. This fan is going to take
care of this individual, comparable to the
Christianity, a guardian angel. That’s the way that
they pray today. – This is most generally
used for children. They fill them with
sometimes sweet pine, or sugar pine, and
sage or mint leaves, so that a child can have
that around their neck so their neck won’t get cold. They’re less likely
to catch a cold, or you know, have a sore throat. And that’s partly the
reason for these decorative type of necklaces
that they wore. (speaking foreign language). – A lot of the things
that I saw here today had forgot about it, but
then when I saw I today well then, it brought back
memories of my mother, and my aunts, and my dad, and the ones that used
to do different things. – I was interested the roaches. That was the old style, and you very seldom see
those type of roaches. We see a little bit of it today at our dances
in our powwows, and our sun dances, you know. They look very similar. – I really like looking
at the quill work. It’s from porcupine
quills and they’re boiled, the sharp part is taken off. You have to have a lot
of patience for it. And the cradle boards, I never really saw an
Arapaho cradle board, and I thought it was
really interesting. – When you see
these objects here, you begin to, through them, understand the lived
history of people. Then I think you gain
a deeper appreciation of that connection between
objects, the material world, and the beliefs that
inform the life ways. – This is some type of a holder. Possibly a woman can
put her haul in there. – Well, most generally your awl is used like a leather punch, they use it to poke
holes in materials that, you know, they couldn’t
run a needle through. – When Ralphaelita and
Philbert were talking about the awl holder, there is a way of
thinking that’s embedded in the use of that awl. It informs how you
think about the leather and it forms how you
think about the animal that that leather came from. Having those things
allowed people to hold on to culture when so much
was going against them. Indian people have
been displaced and forcibly removed
from their culture. People actively tried to
take their culture away, and to get people not
to speak the language. – What they wanted to do, they wanted to transform
the whole tribe. They wanted to
de-Indianize them, take the Indian out of the man. Kill the Indian in the man, and produce a image similar
to that of a non-Indian. – When these objects
were collected they were collected
because the anthropologist, or the collectors of that time thought these people
are disappearing. They will not be here, and their way of life
will no longer be here, so we better collect
their objects so we can record
and have a document of what their life was like. And look, they’re still here. (slow gentle music) – This item is commonly called
a parfleche, is that correct? – Yeah, parfleche. – Parfleche yeah. I don’t know, I think
that’s French though. These items here were
used to pack things away for transport or for storage. Now everything from food
items such as dried meats, and other dried foods,
and also personal items such as clothing, medicinal
items, used as containers. – It’s rawhide from
animal skins, deer, elk. It’s quite a process to do that. I used to fix hides,
I used to soak it. Soak it takes maybe
what about a week or so, and then take the hair off. And then we stretch
it and stretch it, had to pull on it
and then work on it, and then later on
it becomes buckskin. – When objects are made for
use they’re made for use. And so the people who
made those objects, whether they’re the wooden
spoons, or the parfleches, or objects of every
day life in particular, they were not meant to survive for hundreds and
hundreds of years. They would be used and then
when they were old and beaten up they’d be recycled right? By bringing them
into the museum, we changed that condition, and we’ve try to make
it so that the object is preserved for all time,
that’s our obligation. That’s our mission because
we think that in the future people will still
value these things, and will want to have them
to look at and to appreciate. – The term used for this
one would be a hide scraper. It has a metal piece on the
front that they sharpened so that it peels the
hair off from the hide. Depending on the degree of
pressure you put on there you could make a thick
hide, a thinner hide, or if you wanted to, you
could flesh out the inside so that you can dry it. – Before they had
the metal pieces they were just nothing but bone. Then they had to sharpen
that edge to the bone to get it real sharp like this, but then the bone
would wear out. But once you got a hold
of some metal like this, this is where they
applied it, right there. – The lady folks were the ones that had to do all of the hide
scraping in the old times. And then later on when
the men folks found out that there was some
monetary gain in it, well then they took over, and started using
the hide scrapers, and what have you (laughs). – I decided to show you
the objects that are here. – I had a chance to bring
my daughter along with me and she was able to see some
of the old time bead work. When she got to see
it today she said, “Oh, so that’s what
you were talking about. “Well, that’s a different
type of bead work, “you know, I’ve just
never seen before.” And she said, “I was
glad to be here today, “see it like that.” You can tell this one
took a long time to make. You can see that the
colors on the beads, so over here they’re
more orangey, and over here
they’re more reddish. Made me feel like I at least
got to show her something that I couldn’t
let her visualize without seeing an
item that was there. Maybe the younger
people they can see it, and take pride in
where they come from. – What I always hoped for
the young Indian people is that they can navigate between different
understandings of the world. And seeing that the elders
have struggled so hard to keep this knowledge for them, that that imparts to them
the resilience of people. – Our young people, to the
greatest extent possible, should be informed
about their past. They should be able to gain
some insight and some knowledge of how things used to be. – I think the most
emotional part of today was seeing the old
pictures of our ancestors our relatives, our family. – We also have pictures
in here further on of scenes that were
taken in the field by probably some of
the anthropologists who were out there at the time. – Seeing them in
those photographs modeling our
dresses, our regalia, they went through a lot. What I learned today
and from this trip, it motivates me and inspires me to learn more about it
and to keep it going, and educate my generation,
the younger generation. It’s life changing almost. – If we take this home– – I was very moved by
the comments of Icky John said this is for the young
people, and on the one hand they want their young
people to get educated, and go to college and
on the other hand, they want them to have
this traditional knowledge. – So many of our youngsters
they have never seen bead work like they
had on display here. And to talk about it, well
it probably went in one ear and out the other, it
just didn’t register. And if they can see an artifact, I think it would be more
interesting for them. (slow hypnotic music) – I did hear very directly
from at least one of the elders that they’re irritated
that these objects are here and they don’t belong here. They belong with them. He definitely associated
their presence in the museum with the history of
displacement and disempowerment. I don’t think it matters
to him or to people who want objects back, whether
they were bought or stolen, or however they were acquired. It was not right and I think
there is that perspective, not everybody in Indian country agrees with that perspective. – When I first learned
about this trip to Chicago I was kind of anxious to
see what I could learn, and be able to apply
that to our museum, if and whenever we get one. – There was the idea to build
more museums on reservations so that the people would
have the conditions to take care of these objects. Some of these things are very
fragile and they’re very old, so you cannot just
put them on a shelf and expect they’ll be okay. And a lot of effort goes
into caring for them, so it requires a
lot of resources. – I think it’s
been over 40 years that we’ve been trying
to get a museum set up, but in the process we’ve
been kinda left in the dust when it comes to funding. – If the items were here, I think it would give us
more of an opportunity to learn about how
we used to do things. And I know we know a
lot, but it would help if we had those
artifacts with us. – [Narrator] The Wind
River Virtual Museum will become a place holder until the artifacts can be
brought home to the reservation. This visual record will
serve as a teaching tool for younger members of the tribe to learn about their ancestors
and a past way of life. (slow soothing music) (mid-tempo gentle music)

9 thoughts on “Lived History – the Story of the Wind River Virtual Museum

  1. I can't seem to share this to Facebook, that's a shame as I have a friend who is Native – American and I would like her to see this. Too much Google greed or is it for some other reason?

  2. During the 50s and 60s my grandparents gave museums family baskets and weaving materials…..I wish the family could have a museum to put this in…..our native word for dry met is “sletcus”. Spell check? Oh well……hey…..

  3. Very interesting. I wish we could give it all back. It is nice to see these artifacts and to have an understanding of what they went through and how they lived.

  4. Unfortunately they preserved them..because the white elites were planning in advance to wipe certain tribes out and made history that way. They steal most artifacts way before a tribe gets killed. This happened all over the world. They kill those who have natural powers. Fearing them..i am happy many are still alive..

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