Mapping the Camino Indigenous

Project: Reclaiming the Road on our Terms.

Communities across the globe are finding new ways to reassert their presence on a colonized landscape through artistic engagement. In situations where colonial players maintain control of historic sites and commemoration of atrocities, artists and curators have enacted powerful interventions through the crafting of parallel narratives. This research and practice explores one such intervention that defies efforts to honor the Franciscan Missions and the “Royal Road” that connected them. In 2015, the California Mission Foundation, a group of Non-Native historians and Mission supporters announced that they were seeking UNESCO World Heritage Corridor designation for the El Camino Real–without the input of California Tribal communities. The narrative they seek to promote is a celebration of the early Spanish “influence” on California and reaffirms those ties, minimizes the impacts of invasion and further erases a Native presence in their homelands. Native leaders have launched a counter campaign to reassert a strong visual presence that underscores an Indigenous agenda—one that honors their histories and contemporary realities above glorifying the devastating Mission project and the perpetuation of the Spanish fantasy narrative. This chapter outlines the foundation for a major traveling exhibition, set of public art installations, and GPS and web-based alternative narratives, all within collaboration with Tribal leaders, artists and scholars from the Greater California Coast (extending into Baja and Baja California Sur), which explores ideas of migration and movement among the Indigenous people whose trade route became the Camino and privileges relationships, social alliances and the realities of interdependence within California before the Mission system.

Newe Ghani

Project: Community-informed recommendations for a new cultural center.

Buildings and built landscapes represent a cultural sense of place. With cultural knowledge and experience, these new places layered atop older places, will become even more meaningful and socially important. To provide recommendations for a new cultural center for the Western Shoshone, Live Oak will conduct community-based workshops that explore, identify, and refine the stakeholders’ visions and requirements for the project. A vision and implementation strategy will reflect the community’s visions, needs, and opportunities.

Graton Rancheria 

Project: Creation of portable exhibits/displays for outreach. 

The Graton Rancheria community is a federation of Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo groups recognized as a tribe by the U.S. Congress. The Miwok of west Marin County have, through the years, been referred to as Marshall Indians, Marin Miwok, Tomales, Tomales Bay, and Hookooeko. The Bodega Miwok (aka, Olamentko) traditionally lived in the area of Bodega Bay. The neighboring Southern Pomo Sebastopol group lived just north and east of the Miwok. The town of Sebastopol is located about one mile midway between the north boundary of Miwok territory and the southern edge of Southern Pomo territory.

deYoung Museum- San Francisco, CA 

Project: Collections research, writing and exhibition consultation. Research, writing and editing for catalogue.

Editors Bruce Bernstein, Deana Dartt, Christina Hellmich, and Hillary Olcott contributed to a catalogue highlighting the Native North American Art Collection at the deYoung Museum. The Thomas W. Weisel Family Collection consists of over 200 works, including pottery, weavings, drawings, and carvings. Over twenty contributors shared their insight for this fully-illustrated catalogue.

Portland Japanese Garden

Project: Forest of Dreams – Ainu and Native American Wood Carving
Exhibit planning, research, outreach and interviews, writing and design, and art commissions

The third in the Garden’s Art in the Garden for the Year of Hokkaido, the Forest of Dreams exhibition brought together the artistry and traditions of indigenous peoples of Japan and the Columbia River Region to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Portland-Sapporo Sister City Association. This exhibition of woodcarving from both sides of the Pacific revisited the Garden’s 2008 Parallel Worlds exhibition, which showcased the ceremonial robes and textile arts of both Ainu and Northwest Native American cultures in a first-of-its-kind exhibition.

The exhibition included monumental welcome figures and other carved art which honored the cultural aesthetic of the Ainu people of Hokkaido and the Columbia River peoples of Oregon.

Both native cultures have ancient relationships and therefore, artistic expressions that revealed their learning from and living as stewards of an with respect to the natural world.

Welcome figures carved by artists on both sides of the Pacific will be installed on the Overlook and an exhibition of smaller works occupied the Tanabe and Pavilion Galleries. Ainu Artists included the late Takeki Fujito, as well as carvers Mamoru Kaizawa and Toru Kaizawa. Among Columbia River Native artists, were Greg Archuleta, Tony Johnson, Bobby Mercier, and Greg A. Robinson.

Renate| Museum Planning and Design- Portland, OR

Project: Research, writing, editing for Museum of Us exhibition, experience plan.

Bacara Resort and Spa- Santa Barbara, CA

Project: The Chumash of Tecolote Canyon Exhibit
Exhibit planning, research, outreach and interviews, writing and design, art commissions, and installation

bacara exhibit 2
The Chumash of Tecolote Canyon Exhibit, Santa Barbara, CA

Lane County History Museum, Eugene OR

Project: Their Hearts are in This Land. June 2017-June 2018

The exhibit explored the dynamic and diverse Native communities of this place we call home and highlights living Native cultures rather than stories of the past. This exhibit, a collaboration between the Museum Studies students at the University of Oregon, local Native people, and the Lane County History Museum, ran for one year.

While some of the people and cultures represented in this exhibit were indeed descendants of ancient ancestors indigenous to this region, others descend from families transplanted here as a result of a U.S. policy, aimed at terminating its constitutional relationships with tribes. Many others came to Oregon by force to the boarding school at Chemawa through the early 1900s or by choice in recent decades. Others came and continue to come, to attend the University of Oregon, which celebrates their cultures and actively recruits from Native communities. There are thousands of Native people in western Oregon and there are as many stories as there are people.

Our primary goal, through consultation with local Native people, was to connect the public to those stories and hopefully generate the dialogue we see missing in the settler narrative of the Lane County Historical Museum. Our goal was not to tell those stories—as they are not ours to tell—but to invite you to learn from this representation of tribal lifeways, cultures, and traditions and leave with a desire to learn more. We offered only a glimpse into the complex and deep history of Native people in Western Oregon.

Our secondary goal was to actively disrupt limiting, damaging, and long-held misconceptions about Native people. Many visitors to history museums arrive with commonly held stereotypes and misinformation. Unfortunately, history museums often perpetuate these and therefore affirm false information. We aimed to interrupt those misconceptions and, at the same time, we introduced more meaningful notions of Native cultures for you to consider. We hope you will unlearn some things, learn a few more, and leave with a new appreciation for the resistance, resilience, and revitalization of Native cultures and lifeways. We also hope you develop a new appreciation for the great efforts of these people, whose hearts are in this land.

In the Water, 2016. Greg A Robinson, Acrylic on paper 18″ x 24″


School of Advanced Research and Indian Arts Research Center- Santa Fe, NM 

Project: Development of  “Standards of Excellence for Museums with Native American Collections (SEMNAC)”

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. The Standards of Excellence for Museums with Native American Collections (SEMNAC) is a comprehensive document for use by museums with Native collections for the purpose of clarifying their roles as stewards and ultimately to improve the museum field as it relates to Native American peoples, communities, and cultural items. The SEMNAC document will provide support for institutions to become true community partners, enabling them to connect collections with descendant communities for more meaningful, relevant and culturally sensitive interpretation and documentation. The SEMNAC document will integrate the Museums and Communities/Communities and Museums Guidelines set forth by the School for Advanced Research, Indian Arts Research Center as its foundation and expand upon these by aligning it with AAM’s Standards of Excellence. The final SEMNAC document will serve to guide all aspects of work within museums holding Native collections, for the purpose of educating governing and executive boards and staff, collections and curatorial staff as well as education, development, security and volunteers. In addition, it will provide a step by step guide for communication, public engagement and visitor experience. The document will set forth a set of tools that will enable museums to move confidently in the direction of decolonizing and sensitizing practices.


      • Emphasize the enormous responsibility and accountability inherent in the stewardship of Native collections
      • Educate the museum field about the damaging colonial legacy of collecting and provide strategies for culturally relevant and appropriate care of these items as well as pathways for outreach to descendant communities
      • Provide support for Native American museum professionals, staff, board members, volunteers
      • Address the lack of cultural knowledge and sensitivity that has historically characterized museums with Native collections and their audiences, recognizing that Native collections have meaning that goes beyond western interpretation
      • Motivate museums toward Native collaboration
        (Completion date December 2020)


Dartt, D. (2011). California’s Sites of Conscience: An Analysis of the State’s Historic Mission Museums. American Anthropological Association

In California, Franciscan mission “museums” are used to supplement K–12 curricula about Native American history and the settlement of the state. Heavily influenced by the local Catholic diocese, many of these sites offer a slanted view of history and a distorted version of native life in the missions and erase the presence of native people today. I critically analyzed visual representations at the 19 operating mission museums, with in-depth research at six, and explored what emerged as the dominant narratives. I argue that as important sites of conscience, the mission museums miss valuable opportunities to educate the public and potentially heal past wrongs. Finally, I offer insights and suggestions for addressing misrepresentations, through sustained community engagement, for mission museum directors and staff who expressed a desire to do so.

Dartt, D., J._M., Erlandson. (2006). Little Choice for the Chumash: Colonialism, Cattle and Coercion in Mission Period California. American Indian Quarterly

Dartt, D., Murawski, M. Interpreting History: Case Study: Portland Art Museum: Object Stories: Connecting Collections with Communities. Establishing Tribal Partners in Education and Public Programs


Mapping the Camino Indigenous: Reclaiming the Road on our Terms. In Visualizing Genocide, Nancy Mithlo and Yve Chavez, eds. Routledge University Press, forthcoming.

never forget

Subverting the Dominant Narrative: Museums, Trauma and Healing in California Native Communities, University of Nebraska Press, Manuscript in preparation

Rethinking Private Collections of Native American Art: The Weisel Collection at the deYoung Museum, co-editor, in preparation


Anne Ray Fellow, School of Advanced Research and Indian Arts Research Center- Santa Fe, NM 

Negotiating the Master Narrative: Museums and the Indian/Californio Community of California’s Central Coast. Dr. Dartt’s goal for the fellowship period was to revise her dissertation manuscript for publication with the University of Nebraska Press. The manuscript examines museum representations in California and addresses incongruities between the stories museums tell and those that are held within Native communities themselves. The most problematic of these misrepresentations, is the racialization that occurs through exhibition practices and educational tours that underscore oversimplified definitions of Native and settlement communities. The book will contribute to the body of literature aimed at decolonizing practices in academia and public history, as well as situate itself in the dialogue around incursions into mainstream museums practice. From a practical museum field standpoint, the book also proposes several ways to engage Native people in public history work as well as offer some direction for more relevant, sophisticated and culturally appropriate models.

About Deana SAR

Anne Ray Fellow, School of Advanced Research,  2017-18


Abbe Museum Bar Harbor, ME

Evaluation of IMLS funded MuseDI 
The evaluation plan will be directed by guiding goals informed by the project Narrative:

  • To document the development of the Abbe’s understanding of how to implement decolonizing museum practices; while
  • Sharing the process to enable institutions to begin their own decolonizing practice.

To achieve these goals, the Abbe will develop the Museum Decolonization Institute (MuseDI). This will be a forum for sharing, changing, and collaborating on decolonizing museum practices. The specific aim of this working group is to better the Abbe’s relationships with Wabanaki people and to do the same for peer museums working with tribal communities. Proposed evaluation for this work will support these efforts by:

  • Equipping MuseDI participants with assessment tools to understand the efficacy of curriculum developed through MuseDI;
  • Assessing the extent to which MuseDI participants are successfully able to implement and utilize the tools developed through MuseDI in their own institutions

This study will be realized in partnership between Live Oak Museum Consulting (LOMC) and Kuyumjian Consulting LLC (KC). Live Oak Museum Consulting is led by Deana Dartt. Deana will serve as strategic lead on this project, ensuring that evaluative work is informed by best practices in indigenous research methodology and best practices in museum decolonization.  Kuyumjian Consulting is led by Taline Kuyumjian. Taline will serve as conceptual lead on this evaluation, building on her expertise in data collection, data analysis, and reporting.

The two consultants will work in partnership to look deeply at the ways in which participants in MuseDI start their respective journeys towards understanding and implementing decolonization practices. On a micro level the study seeks to provide the Abbe and MuseDI with actionable feedback about the practical tools developed to help advance decolonizing museum practices. On a macro level the study seeks to provide the Abbe and MuseDI with robust evidence and resources to help promote and advance these practices field-wide.

Recognizing the value and role MuseDI is poised to present to the larger field, it is proposed that this study seek to understand both the efficacy of use of the MuseDI for participants and practitioners and the impact of the decolonizing work on the Abbe Museum.

Humboldt Area Foundation, Native Cultures Fund- Arcata, CA

Project: Looking back, looking forward: A Granting Evaluation
A vision of Humboldt Area Native leaders in the 1990s, the Native Cultures Fund has supported over 300 artists, culture bearers and tribal researchers granting over two million dollars for preservation, revitalization and the perpetuation of the rich indigenous cultures of California. To assess effectiveness and evaluate where recalibration is needed, the Humboldt Area Foundation has recently contracted with Live Oak Consulting, a Native-led evaluation team, to create an indigenous, community-informed strategy for evaluating the work of its first 17 years.
As a project informed by indigenous methodologies (Smith, LT 1999) this evaluation will involve and be accountable to community stakeholders at each phase of data collection and analysis. In so doing, the foundation continues to build upon its legacy of community service and meaningful, reciprocal relationships. (Completion date June 30, 2019)


Rewild Portland

Project: Indigenizing the Rewilding Movement
Completion Date: April 2019

Background and Description: 
There is a current movement in academia and public policy to recognize indigenous peoples and invite them into conversations about land use, “resources,” and conservation. Even more encouraging are efforts by national and international science organizations to include indigenous peoples in discussions around adaptation to climate change. Because of the cultural and philosophical differences, however, these conversations often fail or become one-sided. Deana and Nancy’s work recognizes the pitfalls inherent in unequal and historically traumatic relationships between the descendants of a settler population and indigenous peoples.

San Diego Museum of Man- San Diego, CA 

Project: Cultural Awareness and Decolonizing the Museum Training
Completion date: March 2019

Background and Description:
Museums with collections that represent diverse communities are increasingly faced with issues of cultural sensitivity and a need for direction to both fill the void of information relating to these collections as well as connecting those collections with descendent communities in a meaningful way. Consultation with origin communities is a complex and daunting task, and even when willing, oftentimes museums are intimidated by the process of initiating and facilitating these conversations. This three-part training is intended to educate museum staff and volunteers across departments to alleviate fears and misconceptions surrounding cultural collections, provide a venue for discussing the legal and ethical responsibilities of caring for and interpreting such collections and assisting museum staff in making contact with origin communities. In addition to on-site visits, Live Oak will provide support and ongoing guidance through the process of collaborating with Native American community representatives for the purpose of engaging museum collections in a meaningful dialogue with visitors and for the development of true partnerships with Native collaborators.

Portland Japanese Garden

Project: Indians 101- Cultural Sensitivity and Awareness Training
Dates: November 2018
June 2018

Recent museum clients include the Confluence Project (Portland, OR), the Stanley Center for Peace and Security (Muscatine, IA), the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (Eugene, OR), the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Museum of History and Industry (Seattle), the Frye Museum of Art (Seattle) and more.