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      Collection

      Native American Art

      PEM’s Native American art collection celebrates a continuum of Indigenous creative brilliance and honors a multiplicity of worldviews.

      Native American Art

      PEM houses some of the oldest active collections of Native American art in the Western Hemisphere, commencing with the museum’s founding in 1799 and continuing through today.

      Spanning more than 10,000 years of Indigenous visual expression in the Americas, these works cross boundaries of region, period and medium, and emphasize the continuum of creativity and character of change that undergird Native American art. This distinguished collection is a vital testament to thousands of individual artists from hundreds of distinct Native nations, each with its own history, language and artistic expressions.

      Native communities grow out of a deep relationship to place. Place shapes how Native people know themselves; it holds memories, people and ways of being. These lands have borne witness to changes over time, from a massive glacial retreat to human explorations and colonizations.

      The majority of PEM’s Native holdings date to the 19th century, a period of intense colonization on the continent. East India Marine Society sea captains collected works during trade voyages to the Pacific Northwest, South America, New England and the Canadian Maritimes. Federal Indian agents, missionaries and members of exploring expeditions also augmented the collection during this time. Many of these objects are significant for their singular nature, superior quality and known provenance. They reflect cultural interactions, power dynamics and the conscious and unconscious attitudes of their collectors.

      In the late 20th century, PEM began to help create critical bridges between the historical and contemporary in Native art and culture. We have focused on acquiring modern and contemporary Native art to complement our superlative early works. Our collection now includes hundreds of late 20th- and 21st-century works of Native art, including new media installations, fashion, photography, textiles, paintings and works on paper.

      By embracing visual expressions of Native cultures as art — the fluid crystallization of current trends of thought, rooted to the personal and cultural life experiences of the individual — and framing Native artists as agents of constant change, we work to dismantle stereotypes and bring to light the ongoing and brutal legacies of colonization. Through exhibitions, programming, scholarship and key acquisitions, we present Native art and culture in ways that honor diverse worldviews, ongoing vitality and creative continuities. Above all, we acknowledge enduring relationships that exist between Native peoples and nations, their belongings and this storied land.

      ABOVE IMAGE: T.C. Cannon (Kiowa and Caddo, 1946–1978), Indian with Beaded Headdress, 1978. Oil on canvas. Museum purchase. 2015.35.1.

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      Highlights from this collection

      Sculpture, 1500s

      ON VIEW

      Sculpture, 1500s

      Likely Pawtucket band of Massachusett artist, name once known

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Basket, about 1825

      ON VIEW

      Basket, about 1825

      Chumash artist, name once known, Southern California

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Bibi k’inpi (cradleboard), about 1840

      ON VIEW

      Bibi k’inpi (cradleboard), about 1840

      Dakota artist, name once known

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Drum, late 1800s

      ON VIEW

      Drum, late 1800s

      Yup’ik artist, name once known

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Sash, mid-1800s

      ON VIEW

      Sash, mid-1800s

      Chahta (Choctaw) artist, name once known, Southeast

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Doll, late 1800s

      ON VIEW

      Doll, late 1800s

      Lakota (Teton/Western Sioux) artist

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Mask, 1840–60

      ON VIEW

      Mask, 1840–60

      Heiltsuk or Coast Tsimshian artist, name once known

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Pipe, about 1825

      ON VIEW

      Pipe, about 1825

      Haida artist, name once known

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      David Weeden (Mashpeåe Wampanoag), from the ongoing “Critical Indigenous Photographic Exchange” series, 2019

      ON VIEW

      David Weeden (Mashpee Wampanoag), from the ongoing “Critical Indigenous Photographic Exchange” series, 2019

      Will Wilson, (Diné, Navajo, b. 1969)

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      The Seine of Journeys, 2003

      ON VIEW

      The Seine of Journeys, 2003

      Truman Lowe (Ho-Chunk, 1944–2019)

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Hovenweep #331, 1987

      ON VIEW

      Hovenweep #331, 1987

      Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee Nation, b. 1935)

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Hanödaga:yas (Town Destroyer), edition 1/3, 2018

      ON VIEW

      Hanödaga:yas (Town Destroyer), edition 1/3, 2018

      Alan Michelson (Mohawk member of the Six Nations of the Grand River, b. 1953)

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Indian with Beaded Headdress, 1978

      ON VIEW

      Indian with Beaded Headdress, 1978

      T.C. Cannon (Kiowa and Caddo, 1946–1978)

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Boots, 2014

      ON VIEW

      Boots, 2014

      Jamie Okuma (Luiseño and Shoshone-Bannock, born 1977)

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Tsu Heidei Shugaxtutaan (We Will Again Open This Container of Wisdom That Has Been Left in Our Care), Parts I and II, 2006

      ON VIEW

      Tsu Heidei Shugaxtutaan (We Will Again Open This Container of Wisdom That Has Been Left in Our Care), Parts I and II, 2006

      Nicholas Galanin | Yéil Ya-Tseen (Tlingit and Unangax̂, b. 1979)

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Companion Species: Cosmos, Sunrise, Flint, 2019–21

      ON VIEW

      Companion Species: Cosmos, Sunrise, Flint, 2019–21

      Marie Watt (Seneca, born 1967)

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Sculpture, 1500s
      Sculpture, 1500s

      Likely Pawtucket band of Massachusett artist, name once known, Sculpture, 1500s. Naumkeag (now Salem, Massachusetts). Basalt. Gift of Miss Bessie Eaton, 1898. E50296.

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Basket, about 1825
      Basket, about 1825

      Chumash artist, name once known, Southern California, Basket, about 1825. Juncus rush and dye. Gift of Alvin P. Johnson, 1950. E28771.

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Bibi k’inpi (cradleboard), about 1840
      Bibi k’inpi (cradleboard), about 1840

      Dakota artist, name once known, Bibi k’inpi (cradleboard), about 1840. Western Great Lakes region. Porcupine quill, metal, glass beads, leather, and wood. Museum purchase, made possible by an anonymous donor, 2002. E27984.

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Drum, late 1800s
      Drum, late 1800s

      Yup’ik artist, name once known, Drum, late 1800s. Current-day Northwest Alaska. Wood, bladder, and paint. Gift of Israel Albert Lee, 1910. E13084.

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Sash, mid-1800s
      Sash, mid-1800s

      Chahta (Choctaw) artist, name once known, Southeast, Sash, mid-1800s. Wool, silk, and glass beads. Gift of Dr. Charles Heald, 1955. E25963.

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Doll, late 1800s
      Doll, late 1800s

      Lakota (Teton/Western Sioux) artist, Doll, late 1800s. Leather, velvet, glass, cotton, metal, and ink. Gift of Dr. Charles Goddard Weld, 1905. E8157.

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Mask, 1840–60
      Mask, 1840–60

      Heiltsuk or Coast Tsimshian artist, name once known, Mask, 1840–60. Wood and paint. Gift of Edward S. Moseley, 1979. E28573.

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Pipe, about 1825
      Pipe, about 1825

      Haida artist, name once known, Pipe, about 1825. Argillite. Gift of Captain John Bradshaw, 1832. E3496.

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      David Weeden (Mashpeåe Wampanoag), from the ongoing “Critical Indigenous Photographic Exchange” series, 2019
      David Weeden (Mashpee Wampanoag), from the ongoing “Critical Indigenous Photographic Exchange” series, 2019

      Will Wilson, (Diné, Navajo, b. 1969), David Weeden (Mashpee Wampanoag), from the ongoing “Critical Indigenous Photographic Exchange” series, 2019. Archival pigment print from wet plate collodion scan, printed 2021. Museum purchase, made possible by the Ellen and Stephen Hoffman Fund for Native American Art Acquisitions. 2021.26. Courtesy of the artist: willwilson.photoshelter.com.

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      The Seine of Journeys, 2003
      The Seine of Journeys, 2003

      Truman Lowe (Ho-Chunk, 1944–2019), The Seine of Journeys, 2003. Willow, monofilament, and metal. Museum commission. Made possible by the Edward Daland Lovejoy Fund, the Anna Pingree Phillips Fund, and the Docent Fund, 2005. E302691.

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Hovenweep #331, 1987
      Hovenweep #331, 1987

      Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee Nation, b. 1935), Hovenweep #331, 1987. Acrylic, oil, and saponified wax on canvas. Gift of Katrina M. Carye. 2011.29.72.1-2.

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Hanödaga:yas (Town Destroyer), edition 1/3, 2018
      Hanödaga:yas (Town Destroyer), edition 1/3, 2018

      Alan Michelson (Mohawk member of the Six Nations of the Grand River, b. 1953), Hanödaga:yas (Town Destroyer), edition 1/3, 2018. High-definition video, bonded stone replica of Jean-Antoine Houdon’s late 1700s bust of George Washington, antique surveyor’s tripod, and artificial turf. Sound: members of Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. Digital video looped, 5:57 minutes. Museum purchase, by exchange. 2019.38.1AB.

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Indian with Beaded Headdress, 1978
      Indian with Beaded Headdress, 1978

      T.C. Cannon (Kiowa and Caddo, 1946–1978), Indian with Beaded Headdress, 1978. Oil on canvas. Museum purchase. 2015.35.1.

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Boots, 2014
      Boots, 2014

      Jamie Okuma (Luiseño and Shoshone-Bannock, born 1977), Boots, 2014. Glass beads on boots designed by Christian Louboutin. Museum commission with support from Katrina M. Carye, John Curuby, Karen Keane and Dan Elias, Cynthia Gardner, Merry Glosband, and Steve and Ellen Hoffman and the Willoughby

      Stuart Memorial Fund. 2014.44.1AB.

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Tsu Heidei Shugaxtutaan (We Will Again Open This Container of Wisdom That Has Been Left in Our Care), Parts I and II, 2006
      Tsu Heidei Shugaxtutaan (We Will Again Open This Container of Wisdom That Has Been Left in Our Care), Parts I and II, 2006

      Nicholas Galanin | Yéil Ya-Tseen (Tlingit and Unangax̂, b. 1979), Tsu Heidei Shugaxtutaan (We Will Again Open This Container of Wisdom That Has Been Left in Our Care), Parts I and II, 2006. Digital video (Part I, 4:36 minutes; Part II 3:06 minutes), looped, edition 2/5. Performance of Part I by David “Elsewhere” Bernal (Peruvian-American, born 1979). Performance of Part II by Dan Littlefield (Tlingit). Museum purchase, made possible by the Willoughby Stuart Memorial Fund and the Native American Artist Fund. 2012.25.1

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Companion Species: Cosmos, Sunrise, Flint, 2019–21
      Companion Species: Cosmos, Sunrise, Flint, 2019–21

      Marie Watt (Seneca, born 1967), Companion Species: Cosmos, Sunrise, Flint, 2019–21. Reclaimed wool blankets and embroidery thread. Museum purchase by exchange. 2021.4.1. Image Courtesy of Marie Watt. Photo by Kevin McConnell.

      On view in On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America.

      Loans and acquisitions

      Loans and acquisitions

      PEM is committed to providing the broadest possible access to its collection through the loan of objects for educational and scholarly purposes. Learn how to request a loan from the museum’s collection.

      Keep exploring

      Exhibition

      On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America

      Ongoing

      Past Exhibition

      T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America

      March 3, 2018 to June 10, 2018