Not Your Museum Indian: Frank Waln Discusses Symbolic Annihilation

ICTMN Staff
4/10/14

In natural history museums, you'll find everything from bugs to grizzly bears, and for some reason this often includes non-Western cultures. This is a problem for various reasons -- one being the assumed white, Western, imperialist perspective of looking at indigenous cultures in glass boxes. Another is the general ambience of death in natural history museums -- when those bugs and grizzly bears are corpses pinned to a board or stuffed and posed mid-roar, what does that say about the museum's view of the Native cultures exhibited in the next room? Furthermore, many of the items displayed are sacred to a living culture -- they're things that Natives, had they been asked by the museum, might not want there.

RELATED: Why Native American Art Doesn't Belong in the American Museum of Natural History

From the Native perspective, it's easy to see why natural history museums are problematic, but getting that message to the general public is another matter. In this video for the Originals First series, Lakota hip hop artist Frank Waln tries to do just that by visiting Chicago's Field Museum and discussing his feelings about it on site.

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