Through collaborative and culturally responsive processes, we bridge the divide between Native communities and the organizations that represent their art, cultures and histories.
We strive to work from a foundation of indigenous methodologies which underscore transparency, accountability, reciprocity (with the land and all beings) and holistic/systems thinking. Our big, overarching goal is to transform the museum field and ultimately the way the world thinks about Native issues, lived experiences, art and cultural practices, and real, sustained stewardship of the land.
What We Do.
We are engaged in all aspects of work surrounding the representation of Native peoples in art and cultural institutions. We believe that all institutions, galleries, and businesses that exhibit, hold, display, and research Native American cultural materials must begin with the development of a sustained, reciprocal dialogue with the local Native community. We know that this can be daunting for many people and we aim help bridge the gap. We provide Cultural Awareness and Decolonization Trainings (or Indians 101) for staff and docents to ease the anxiety around teaching tough subject matter. We also provide all facets of exhibit development and installation, collections care and NAGPRA related work, education and outreach program development, evaluation and strategic planning.
What does it mean to “Decolonize” your institution?
Decolonization has become a buzzword in the museum field. It’s important to know the origins of the word, the Native scholars whose work first grappled with it and how it is understood today–so as to not trivialize the work and meaning of term.
Colonization as defined by Michael Yellowbird and Waziyatawin, “the formal and informal methods (behavioral, ideological, political, and economical) that maintain the subjugation and or exploitation on indigenous peoples, lands and resources.
Decolonization is the meaningful and active resistance to the forces of colonialism that perpetuate the the subjugation and/or exploitation of indigenous minds, bodies and lands. Decolonization is for the ultimate purpose of overturning the colonial structure and realizing indigenous liberation.”
How we work
As scholars in the field of museums and the trend to make them more democratic, our goal is to operationalize and demystify the process of decolonization. Many museums with Native collections seek to engage in meaningful dialogue with descendent communities in an effort to better represent their histories and cultures and are perplexed or daunted by this work. By working closely with local tribal people and educating museum staff and board, we aim to bridge understanding for better representation of Native life and cultures. We conduct in depth listening sessions and interviews with key Native advisors to better tell the stories they choose to tell and to help museums set agendas that meet local Tribal goals.