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Native American Museums (A-Z by State)

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  • Native American Museums (A-Z by State)

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    Monah Museum (Museum of Native American History)
    A Surprise in Bentonville, Arkansas
    Steven Cooper, Kingston Springs, Tennessee

    While Bentonville is just a small city in the northwest corner of Arkansas, it is a place with a fascinating history. It was named in honor of Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton who promoted Arkansas statehood in the early 1830’s. The downtown was burned to the ground during the Civil War. The Peoples Bank of Bentonville was robbed by the infamous Henry Starr Gang in 1893. One hundred years ago this city was dominated by apple agriculture. Benton County produced and processed more bushels of apples, 2.5 million of them, than anyplace else in the nation. There was a large button industry extracting pearls from mussels in the White River. Bentonville was even the county seat, even though Rogers, Arkansas was the largest town in the region. Rogers even tried to have the county seat moved there in 1904, but failed in the attempt. And most recently, in 1950, Sam Walton’s first store, Walton’s Five and Dime opened in the town square of Bentonville. The rest is history. In 1962 the first Wal-Mart opened in nearby Rogers. The region boomed, and today Bentonville is home to more than 30,000 people, triple the population of 1990. Besides Wal-Mart, other industries have moved here, including Tyson chicken and J.B. Hunt trucking.

    Today, Sam Walton’s original five and dime store is being turned into a museum. And perhaps museums may be the true legacy of Sam Walton. Planned for a grand opening in late 2011, the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville will rival the major museums of the world in scope and art.

    But another museum is already open in Bentonville. It too is an art museum. And it will become a do not miss attraction once world attention is finally placed on Bentonville. The Museum of Native American History presents a dazzling display of artifacts and art of the original inhabitants of the Americas.

    What is on display in this museum will be new to most visitors. While you may think you learned all about the American Indian in school, this museum will open your eyes. It seems there is a lot more to the Native Americans than just tepees and buffalo. The artifacts on exhibit challenge the long held notion that the Indians were savages, devoid of culture and lacking civilization. After a visit here, you will be asking yourself why this artistic heritage has remained hidden for so long.

    Stepping through the doors, you are immediately greeted by two massive tusks coming from the skull of a mastodon, a huge Pleistocene animal. The first inhabitants of the Americas would have hunted these some 13,000 years ago. This full size reproduction is on loan from the collection of the University of Arkansas. The museum has access to the more than two million artifacts in the U of A collection, which, currently is in storage and until now, without any public accessibility.

    As you continue into the museum, you pass by a huge painting depicting our traditional view of Native Americans. It is a scene that could have easily come right off the Dances with Wolves movie set.

    The visitor then acquires a portable handheld listening device from the museum desk, and that’s when the walk back into time adventure begins.

    We live our modern lives, but we rarely think about natural hardships. We drive to the grocery, buy clothes at the mall and spend our spare time watching a football game on a widescreen television. Most people don’t realize the difficulties early man would have had to overcome just to have food each day. Utilizing hundreds of artifacts and artwork, the museum tour takes us back to these early times where the only resources were stone tools and human ingenuity. Game was abundant, but the process of killing it was challenging. Large animals could slay several hunters in an instant. Man had to be resourceful and smart. The visitor discovers the beginning of the arrowhead with the development of Clovis, Cumberland and Folsom points. These uniquely American tools allowed them to take advantage of the large animals and gain a foothold on the continent.

    Arrowheads have been a part of our popular culture since farmers first plowed their fields. The museum is attempting (for the first time anywhere) to bring together every known arrowhead type. Arrowheads are far from crudely shaped stones made just to kill bison. The truth is many are wondrous works of art. The visitor passes by a unique display utilizing cast hands to show the production elements of making an arrowhead, a process known as flint knapping. By removing one flake of rock after another, the arrowhead takes shape and evolves from a simple cobble into a tool. The skills of these ancient flint knappers were simply astounding. While we all know the classic arrowhead shape, the museum collection shows there are many forms, sizes and styles. Some are so skillfully made they cannot be reproduced today. Several are smaller than a fingernail and made of clear gem stones. Others have large and thin graceful designs that exceed any usefulness and could only have been created for artistic purposes.

    While the journey into the world of arrowheads is fascinating, the tour is just starting. We’ve all seen pottery found at Mesa Verde and throughout the Southwest. But few have seen the pottery of the Midwest. Created by a culture known as the Mississippians, the museum‘s displays show the fine skills of these long gone potters. Since the Native Americans didn’t use a pottery wheel, all of their pottery was made by coiling strips of clay one on top of another. The results were quite remarkable. While they made common utility pottery, their efforts also included animal effigies, whimsical forms and miniature versions of larger pieces. Fish, otters, owls, bears and just about every wild creature has some sort of pottery portrayal. But perhaps the most interesting creations of all are human heads fully sculpted in the round. These are known as “head pots.” With only 138 authentic examples known, the museum shows seven; the largest grouping ever put on display. Some are so real you expect them to move their eyes. Several are large and elaborately tattooed, while others are small with childlike serene faces as if asleep. Most show signs of being held and used, possibly in ceremonies celebrating warfare, ancestors or fertility. We actually do not know their use, as these people left no written records of any kind.

    The historic aspect of these ancient peoples started in 1492, when Columbus first landed and European culture began its expansion across the continent. An entire wing of the museum is dedicated to this period, highlighted by real war bonnets, tomahawks, peace pipes and moccasins. One unique object is a huge buffalo robe from the Dakota people known as “Lone Dog’s Winter Count.” Painted in a swirling circle are pictorial symbols for each winter, an ancient traditional way of counting years. It is literally the story of the tribe from 1801-1871, a tool to provide the foundation for an oral history of the tribe. Luckily, Smithsonian anthropologists interviewed the Indian who made it, Lone Dog, during his lifetime and wrote down the oral history behind each symbol. The visitor can view these interpretations and remarkably, in a matter of minutes have an understanding of the struggles of two hundred years ago.

    As mentioned before, the museum has access to the University of Arkansas collection. For the first time, many of its most unique and historic artifacts have found a place to be displayed. Included is a large painting on cloth by White Swan, a Crow Scout who rode with the 7th Calvary. He was present at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876 where he was severely wounded in the fighting. The painting, known as a pictograph, is of a battle scene. Soldiers are shown shot, Indians are attacking and a village is off in the distance. This is a very exciting find, as the battle is rarely seen from the Indian point of view. This incredible object was rolled up in a tube, possibly not viewed since it was acquired over 100 years ago.

    The battle of Wounded Knee in 1890 marked the end of the non-reservation Indian. At that time, the Plains Indians were being influenced by a new religion whose goal was to bring back the buffalo and return the world to the way it was before the white man. This was to be accomplished with a “Ghost Dance.” They created shirts for this dance said to be impervious to bullets. Ambushed in North Dakota by the US Calvary utilizing Gatling guns, the shirts proved to be ineffective and a slaughter ensued. After this horrific moment, the Indians finally became resolved to live on the reservations. The museum has one such “Ghost Dance” shirt is on display, beautifully made and decorated with long locks of human hair.

    Another section of the museum highlights the similar artistic styles of all ancient peoples of the Americas, with wondrous artifacts from Central and South America. Gold jewelry, pottery and even an Incan stone mace with its wooden handle still intact are on exhibit. The displays continue into the modern age including a fine array of Navajo sandpainting textiles, rarely been seen by the public. Actual sandpaintings were made on the ground from sand by a shaman as part of a religious healing ceremony and held great power. They were always destroyed when the event was over in order keep their images from being stolen and utilized for evil. But the modern world has led to a loss of many of these traditional religious practices. While it was once considered forbidden to copy or record these images, there are those now who fear without some preservation they will be lost forever. This brought about the creation of these rugs. Those on display are remarkable in their complexity and size. Only the most skilled rug makers can create them, since the transfer of the ground images are difficult and painstaking to weave into the cloth.

    While many museums may have a small room dedicated to Native American art and artifacts, there is really no other museum in the world that showcases the entire story in such an elaborate fashion. If your journey brings you to Bentonville and the newly opened Crystal Bridges Art Museum, a stop at The Museum of Native American History should absolutely be on the trip agenda. You might actually find yourself spending more time here than at Bentonville’s other attractions. It has always been said that history is fascinating, and this museum is proof of that!

    The Museum of Native American History is located at 202 SW ‘O’ Street, Bentonville, Arkansas 72712 phone: (479) 273-2456. There is no admission charge. Hours are 9 AM – 5 PM Monday through Saturday

    Steven R. Cooper currently lives in Kingston Springs, Tennessee. He holds a degree in History and is the Editor-in-Chief of the Central States Archaeological Journal, published quarterly since 1954. He is an avid collector of prehistoric artifacts and his collection has been pictured in several publications.

    Used by permission of the publisher
    To learn more about or to join the Central States Archaeological Society, click here:

    Museum of Native American Artifacts
    Various artifacts from Arkansas on display: Collection of David Bogle, Bentonville, Arkansas
    Steven R. Cooper
    Originally published in the Central States Archaeological Journal, Vol.55, No.4, pg.204

    Above are four fine Caddo engraved bottles. The workmanship and quality of these bottles is extraordinary. All are highly burnished, with exquisite engraving. At top left is a Hodges Engraved bottle from Hempstead County, Arkansas. It stands 7 ¾ inches high and is 6 ½ inches wide. It features a series of cross-hatched bands and an interesting circular motif in the center. At top right is a fabulous 8 inch tall Haley style water bottle with engraved scrolls and tick marks to create a complicated design highlighted with red ochre. It is from Hempstead County, Arkansas. At bottom left is another Hodges bottle. It stands 7 ¼ inches tall and is almost 5 inches in diameter. It has an elegant design filled with red ochre, and was found at the Davis Site in Pike County, Arkansas. At bottom right is a Natchitoches Engraved bottle from Miller County, Arkansas. Over 5 inches tall and 4 ½ inches wide, it features quite exceptional complex engraving utilizing scrolls, crosshatched areas and ticked lines.

    The collecting and display of Indian artifacts goes back a long way in time. One of the first collections was that of Ephraim Squire, who in the 1840's documented the earthworks of the Midwest in the tremendous work, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley. He put together a fabulous collection of artifacts including perhaps the finest grouping of Hopewell pipes ever assembled. When he tried to find a home to house the vast collection, he discovered that no American institution wanted it. The Smithsonian, which had published the book, rejected it outright. The other institutions he approached maintained they didn't have a place to show it. Eventually he sold the collection to William Blackmore of London, and today these artifacts sit in the British Museum.

    Up until the 1970's, many museums displayed the artifacts of the prehistoric Native Americans. However, the American Indian movement of the 1980's discouraged display and the showing of any artifact that was ancient. The focus was on historic and modern Indians. Many museums changed their displays to reflect this new thinking and their wonderful artifact collections found a new home in their basements, stored and packed away.

    It would take someone with foresight and a Cherokee Indian heritage to change things. David Bogle of Bentonville, Arkansas bought a collection of arrowheads from his former Boy Scout leader, the late John Fryer in 2002. What started out as a collection of local arrowheads soon became an obsession. David began to build a collection of artifacts from all time periods. This rapidly grew, and he started to concentrate on assembling the rarest and finest he could locate.

    Many collectors would be satisfied just owning the collection and showing it to friends. However, David had a novel idea. Instead of just being a collector, why not share his collection with everyone? Furthermore, he thought it would be great to encourage others to share their collections too. Soon the idea of a museum open to the public was born. David felt certain that if he shared his artifacts in this way, others would develop the same fascination and respect he had for the artwork and skills of Native Americans.
    David opened his Museum of Native American Artifacts in 2007, utilizing a converted house to display the collection. However, the plan was to go much further, and on July 10th, 2008, the museum opened in a new location utilizing 5,000 square feet of exhibit space.

    In order to insure a high standard for this effort, David brought on board Bob Winkleman, who used to be heavily involved with the University of Arkansas Museum. That facility had closed, due to funding issues, and the collection moved to a huge storage facility. David made contact with the University, and he was given access to the two million artifacts in their collection. Now these artifacts could again be on display for the public to see. Finally, he hired Matt Rowe as a curator and exhibition developer. Matt's knowledge of artifacts is a great asset to the museum.

    Above left is a flint knapping display that shows the reduction stages or "life" of a point, along with 3D hands coming out of the wall showing how knapping is accomplished (pressure and percussion). In the middle is the bannerstone and birdstone display. To the right is a hardstone display that contains various axes, gouges, celts, chisels and other woodworking implements. The beautiful mural shown at the museum entrance (previous page at the top) was painted by very talented local artist, Kelly Green. She also painted other murals throughout the museum.

    Native Americans have been in North America for more than 14,000 years. Realizing that they left behind virtually millions of artifacts, David has decided the museum should contain the best that can be located. Not only does this make the collection more appealing, but it also makes the museum significant. Rather than just display a history of the Native American presence in North America, the museum will display this history with their finest achievements.

    The exhibition Hero, Hawk and Open Hand is the museum's model for excellence. This 2004 traveling exhibition attempted to bring together the finest artifacts of Prehistoric North America in a concise and modern way. The Museum of Native American Artifacts will continue in the footsteps of that exhibition, providing a compelling and visual history of the achievements of Native Americans.

    The museum houses everything from Paleo to Historic items. On display is some of the finest pottery ever to come out of Arkansas, including the largest grouping of rare Arkansas "headpots" ever shown at one time. It is located at 202 Southwest ‘O’ Street, which is just west of downtown Bentonville off of State Highway 72.

    [Note that since this article was published, the museum is now operating as “The Museum of Native American History and with increased opening times]
    It is open from 9am-5pm Monday thru Saturday.
    Admission is free. Phone: (479) 273-2456

    The museum's pottery display features treasures from the museum collection, private collections and the University of Arkansas collection. On the right is a portion of the display of Mississippian pottery vessels. Above is a view of one of the exceptional Quapaw exhibits.

    The museum also has on display artifacts from some of the premier private collections, many never before available for public viewing. Above are two pieces on loan from the Kent C. Westbrook collection. At the left is the Quapaw effigy teapot known as "The Screaming Quapaw". Considered one of the masterpieces of prehistoric Quapaw artistic achievement, this vessel utilizes paint, engraving, cult symbols and the human form to create an amazing image. It is unique and visually stunning. It measures more than nine inches in length and is from White County, Arkansas. Next to it is a "Dog" teapot effigy vessel. It is painted in the Avenue Polychrome style with additional artistic enhancement of the facial area. It is from Lee County, Arkansas and measures fifteen inches in length.

    Above is a very rare Otter Effigy Teapot vessel from Lee County, Arkansas in the museum collection. The museum has been utilizing modern techniques to further understand and explore the work of prehistoric man. First, thermoluminescence dating techniques were utilized to establish the age of the piece. This technique measures how much time has passed since an object was last heated. This provided a date of 200 — 400 BP Then they had a CT scan made of the vessel. The CT scan technique utilizes computerized x-ray images to produce cross sectional views and three dimensional images. The CT scan of this vessel (shown above) clearly reveals drilled holes and some attempted salvage work by its prehistoric maker.

    Also at the museum are some of the fine Arkansas points on display at the museum. At the top right are a group of 13 Agee gem points plus one Hayes point all made of Novaculite. These were all found by Glenn Kizzia at the Kidd Site. They each measure approximately one inch in length. Below those is an extremely rare Ozan Creek point. It is the type example that is pictured in Perino's guide. It was found by Rick Steed in Ozan Creek near Blevins, Arkansas. It is made of Novaculite. An unusual aspect of this style is that they are flaked and then ground. They are associated with Late Archaic Period Poverty Point culture. Below that on the left is a fantastic serrated Alba point from the Crenshaw Mound site in Arkansas. To the right of that is a translucent Hayes point made of Novaculite also from Arkansas. To the left of this grouping is an incredible Dalton style point found in Arkansas that measures over 7 3A inches long. The oblique flaking on this late Paleo point is truly superb.

    The above grouping presents some of the finest Quapaw pottery ever created. At top left is a beautiful teapot utilizing a fawn as its effigy form. At center left is a concentric circled teapot from Yell County, Arkansas. Traces of the original black pigment are still visible. At bottom left is a teapot in the form of an otter. Both are from Lee County, Arkansas. At top right is a polychrome long necked bottle utilizing a stylized mace motif as its decoration. The fine effigy teapot in the center right is from Phillips County, Arkansas, and utilizes unusual concentric circles and a "daisy" around the hole on top. The polychrome long necked bottle at bottom right has concentric bands and is from the Hudnall Site in Lee County, Arkansas. It and the effigy above it both have visible traces of the original black pigment remaining.

    At top are a group of four Alba points from a cache found at the Crenshaw Mound Site in Miller County, Arkansas. Next to it at top right is a beautiful Quapaw sunburst motif bottle from Lee County, Arkansas. At right bottom, is a long necked polychrome bottle in the form of a melon from Cross County, Arkansas. Bottom left is a wonderful pedestal water bottle decorated with the Nashville Negative painting technique. This involves covering the vessel with a waxy substance and then scraping away the wax except for the design pattern. Then the rest of the surface is painted. Once the vessel is fired, the wax disappears and the light design will stand out against the dark painted background. These vessels are rare to find exhibiting their original painted condition, as the design features fade rapidly when exposed to sunlight.

    All of the artifacts on this page were personally found in Arkansas by the late Gregory Perino. The clay elbow pipe at top left was found on the White River. At top right is a Mississippian Period Nodena melon effigy red -and- white striped water bottle. It was found by Gregory Perino at the huge Rose Mound site in Cross County, Arkansas. It has a noticeable stain of copper residue, due to a copper object resting against it. The two effigies at bottom left are very rare specimens that were found together by Greg at the Barton Ranch site in Northeast Arkansas. The larger clay effigy is of a hummingbird and the smaller one is of a turtle. The small turtle has a hole through the neck of it, so it could be worn as a pendant. At the bottom right is an unusual Mississippian double-disc pipe found in Arkansas.

    Used by permission of the publisher
    To learn more about or to join the Central States Archaeological Society, click here:

    NOTE: for those who don't know him, the Matt Rowe referred to as a curator and exhibition developer for the museum is our very own esteemed member and all-round nice-guy with the user-ID "Hoss" on this site.
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    I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.

  • #2
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    I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.


    • #3
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      I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.


      • #4
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        Not actually a museum for Native American artefacts as such, but interesting nevertheless... The Museum of the Fur Trade is dedicated to preserving the rich history of the North American fur trade. Located three miles east of Chadron, Nebraska the museum stands on the site of James Bordeaux’s trading post, established for the American Fur Company.

        The trading post was established in the fall of 1837 on orders of Frederick Laboue, a trader for the American Fur Company and known to the Sioux as “Grey Eyes.” The company had just purchased Ft. Laramie, a hundred miles southwest, from William Sublette, and Laboue was anxious to maximize its trade in prime buffalo robes by establishing satellite posts in the protected valleys where the Indians wintered. As post manager, Laboue selected Jim Bordeaux, a Missouri Frenchman called “The Bear” by the Indians. He was married to two Brulé Sioux sisters whose brother, Swift Bear, was chief of the Corn Band.

        The range and scope of the museum’s collection are simply dazzling. It represents every type of object exchanged by Europeans and Americans with the native people of North America. The obvious kinds of artifacts such as guns, blankets, beads, axes, knives, and kettles are represented, but many unusual goods such as gimlets, quill smoothers, playing cards, trunks, tobacco boxes, and jewelry may be seen as well. The collection includes a complete type set of trade goods sold by each nation operating in the various trading areas of North America.

        The museum website is here:
        There are galleries of interesting items representing a tiny portion of the museum’s collection here:
        Clothing -and- Textiles
        Gun Accessories -and- Hand Weapons
        Ornaments -and- Art Supplies
        Tools -and- Utensils

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        NEW YORK
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        The New York State Museum houses what remains of a major collection of items of mid 19th century Iroquois material culture:

        The Lewis Henry Morgan Collection at the New York State Museum

        The Lewis Henry Morgan Collection of mid-nineteenth century Iroquois materials was made by Morgan between 1849 and 1850 for the Historical and Antiquarian Collection of the New York State Cabinet of Natural History, which was to become the New York State Museum (NYSM). Morgan, now often described as "The Father of American Anthropology," collected or had made approximately 500 objects, representing all aspects of Iroquois life. In this, he was aided by members of the Seneca Iroquois William Parker family, particularly son Ely S. Parker, who is best known as aide-de-camp to General Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War. Morgan's 1848, 1849, and 1850 reports, detailing the traditional production and use of these objects, were pathbreaking ethnographic documents. Tragically, a 1911 fire in the State Capitol destroyed much of the collection, making the remaining pieces particularly rare and significant.

        In 2000, the NYSM received a matching grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to provide conservation treatment for the eleven most fragile objects remaining in the Morgan Collection, to produce custom-made supports for the remainder, and to help acquire new storage cabinets for the collection. All objects were photographed, and the Museum's database was updated with complete descriptive and background information for each piece. Also in 2000, the Museum acquired, through the generous donation of Mr. William Guthman, a set of watercolors painted in 1849 that depict 35 of the objects collected in that year.

        This webpage describes the history of the collection, the individual objects still in the collection, and the recent project to conserve and rehouse them, and provides images of objects as they appeared at the time of their collection and as they are today.

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        I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.


        • #5
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          O-S (OHIO - SOUTH DAKOTA)
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          I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.


          • #6
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            T-W (TENNESSEE - WYOMING)
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            I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.