Prescott museum adapts to new times, new direction

<i>Photo courtesy of Rosanda Suetopka Thayer/NHO</i><br>
The Smoki Museum recently held a full day panel discussion on unauthorized "appropriation" of Arizona Indian tribal cultures, which included viewing of the DVD "Borrowed Dances." Among the panelists were (left to right) Cindy Gresser; Smoki Museum interim director; Elaine Coliani, Prescott Alternative School teacher and former curator at Smoki; Rosanda Suetopka Thayer, artist/writer; Goodwin Berquist, archivist; and Donald Nelson,Yavapai Tribe's Boys and Girls Club.

<i>Photo courtesy of Rosanda Suetopka Thayer/NHO</i><br> The Smoki Museum recently held a full day panel discussion on unauthorized "appropriation" of Arizona Indian tribal cultures, which included viewing of the DVD "Borrowed Dances." Among the panelists were (left to right) Cindy Gresser; Smoki Museum interim director; Elaine Coliani, Prescott Alternative School teacher and former curator at Smoki; Rosanda Suetopka Thayer, artist/writer; Goodwin Berquist, archivist; and Donald Nelson,Yavapai Tribe's Boys and Girls Club.

PRESCOTT, Ariz. - The Smoki Museum in Prescott has had a questionable statewide and national reputation since 1921 for "interpreting" Hopi culture by imitating the Hopi Snake Dance as well as other dances from various tribes to entertain and to raise funds for their annual rodeo. While extremely profitable for Prescottonians, these rodeo performances were considered highly offensive to the tribes that were used as the entertainment focus for these public displays.

But a very successful, peaceful protest organized by Hopis in 1990 brought the tribe's displeasure of the Smoki organization to the Prescott courthouse and rodeo grounds during which the tribes asked that their presentation be brought to an end. Consequently, the Smoki has since ended this presentation, initiated a new Native Cultural Advisory Team which features four Hopi tribal representatives as well as tribal repesentatives from the Yavapai Apache, Zuni and Navajo tribes. In 2001, the Smoki Museum became a designated National Trust for Historic Preservation site due to its unusual architecture and historic state interest.

Along with a new Board of Trustees, there is now a new direction and focus for the Smoki Museum. It is one that will be devoted to a colloborative and healthy cultural, art partnership that will embark on educational and art programs for both Native and non-Native academic audiences, children's art outreach, middle Arizona state history, Smoki museum founder Kate Cory and her painting work, as well as a program that will focus on native gardening and agriculture.

Cindy Gresser, the Smoki Museum's interim director, sees a new respect and understanding for her facility and is looking to establish some new partnerships with the surrounding tribes and the community of Prescott. She would like to assure that the Smoki Museum becomes a place to share, explore and educate its museum audience about local tribal communities along with its rich Prescott history.

Four tribal members from the Hopi reservation who serve on the Native Advisory Team are Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, Hopi Cultural Preservation Office; Ramson Lomatewama, artist; Rosanda Suetopka Thayer, artist/writer; and Donald Nelson-Yavapai Boys-Girls Club Coordinator.

These four members along with Tony Eriacho (Zuni) and Nanabah Aragon (Navajo) are helping to direct and facilitate new tribal links for museum programs that can benefit not just non-Natives, but their own tribal members as well.

As a result, a new program of educational opportunities are being offered at the Smoki Museum for the public starting this summer all the way up until the month of October.

Some of the featured programs currently featured:

• Borrowed Dances: Cross Cultural Reflections on the Smoki People: a DVD and panel discussion presentation.

• Edward S. Curtis/Shadowcatcher: a lecture on Curtis' 30 years of photography and what he called "the Vanishing Race" featuring 49 of his photogravures.

• Kate T. Cory-Artist of Arizona: Cory lived on the Hopi Reservation for seven years. This lecture includes a tour of the Smoki Museum which features four of Cory's largest, most ambitious oil paint work.

• Baskets of Arizona and California: learn the differences in Native basketry, what are they made of, why and for whom?

• Prescott Culture, prehistory of the Prescott area: discussion about its inhabitants and their lifestyles.

• Pottery and Lithics: participants will have the opportunity to examine pottery shards and whole pots to find out who made them, what purpose they served, as well as the materials and process used to make these Native items.

The miminal cost for most of these educational presentations are $20. For more information, call the Smoki Museum at (928) 445-1230 for times and dates.

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