Behind the Scenes: American Native!

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Though we are so sad to say goodbye to our Dinosaurs exhibit (which we know you all LOVED), we are so excited to bring American Native to our Museum audience! American Native: First Nations Tales is a story-telling celebration of indigenous cultures, complete with amazing visual aids provided by community members and arranged by our Museum Curator, Lisa Reckon.

Lisa has worked hard to incorporate visual elements, arguably one of the most central parts of the exhibit, following story-telling as the main focus. Let’s learn more about how these visual elements contribute to the oral histories that Indigenous communities are known for!


One of the focuses, if not the main focus, of our new changing gallery is the element of story-telling. Storytelling is a traditional art form which has been practiced for thousands of years in every society and culture known to humankind. For indigenous cultures, storytelling has evolved as an important way of transforming knowledge from one generation to another! Why the focus on storytelling in this gallery? Well, traditional indigenous stories have been passed through folktales, songs, rituals, chants and even artifacts. These oral narratives are critical historical components that pre-date written words! They explain the culture and how it came to be (Scroggie, 2009). IMG_7853Above is one of the many stories available for exploration in this exhibit. It’s important to remember that all stories have a purpose. This story provides us with several themes about community, paying reverence to land and animals, and tells us the importance that corn played in this particular tribe. Each story has many takeaways and we are so excited for our families to read, enjoy, and reflect on each story!




Beadwork is another important and vital part to indigenous cultures that we explore in American Native. The precise and delicate nature of beading makes it special as a decoration and adornment, but did you know they had a deeper purpose? Before there were ways to write, indigenous folks mastered storytelling and the visual aids we use to understand. Beading was an extension of storytelling that could travel, allowing different tribes to not only see art from different regions and exchange ideas, but to communicate historical events through that art. Beadwork is a special, and sacred, craft that is ingrained in the fabric of indigenous society and culture.

To this day, bead work in traditional Native regalia is seen as a very personal and artistic expression of the dancers’ lives, feelings, interests, family and spiritual quest…often elements of the regalia are gifts from Elders or treasured people in the dancers’ lives who they are honoring and are to be worn with pride and responsibility (Belcourt 2010).

Thank you for joining us for this small teaser of the visual elements in our new exhibit, American Native: First Nations Tales! We hope that you join us when our exhibit opens to celebrate the rich culture of our First Nations people.

We express our deepest gratitude to those who have allowed us to showcase their collections in our Museum for American Native: First Nations Tales. We honor the stories that are represented in our gallery and hope that our museum community cherish them as well.

For more information, please visit:

Works Cited:

Belcourt, Christi. 2010. Beadwork : First Peoples’ beading history and techniques. Owen Sound, Ont: Ningwakwe Learning Press.
Scroggie, A. M. (2009). Preserving tradition and enhancing learning through youth storytelling. Journal of Bhutan Studies, 20, 7692.


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