Navajo artist and designer Jolene Yazzie at work in the video 'Counternarratives: Native American Artists In Our Own Words.'

Native American Voices: Five Videos From the Penn Museum


On Saturday, March 1, Native American Voices: The People -- Here and Now opens at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia. Scheduled to run for five years, it's one of the most impressive commitments to American Indian art and culture you're likely to see this side of the National Museum of the American Indian or Native-focused museums like the Heard (in Phoenix, AZ) or the Eiteljorg (in Indianapolis, IN).

Earlier this week, we shared a gallery of art and artifacts from the exhibition that illustrate the richness of the material collected from the past -- items that for the most part say something about Native American history. But Native American Voices isn't a history exhibit, or, at least, it isn't just a history exhibit. With multimedia displays and input from a vast array of leading Native artists and experts, Native American Voices strives to be as much about the present -- in all its tangled glory -- as the past. 

The project has been a long time in the making, with many components, one of which is the Native American Voices Video Project, for which Hopi journalist Patty Talahongva produced five films based on interviews with 25 Native American artists, activists, scholars, and youth in their home communities. Below are the fruits of that labor, which was completed in 2011; portions of these films will be shown at the Penn Museum as part of Native American Voices: The People -- Here and Now

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Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
I've often wondered how much Native art is out there that isn't Native-themed? Here in New Mexico native-themed art is aimed primarily at tourists and many NDNs I know don't work in the genre because it's so prolific. It's also the genre most often chosen by White retirees who move to the SW to live in "the wild west" and inevitably become "artists." I joined many different art groups and they are usually full of White people who focus on painting "honorable savages" or "quaint pottery." I am proud of my cousins who use their talents to show others that we are still a viable and thriving culture. I lament those cousins who, for whatever reasons, don't work in the genres expected of them (I'm a surrealist) and can't rely on their Native-ness to make a sale.