A Dance Through Time: Pow Wows Then and Now
The enduring spirit of the American Indian is never more vividly displayed than during a pow wow, and the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) has an extraordinary collection of material relating to those gatherings. As George P. Horse Capture of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center told the National Museum of the American Indian during its inception in 1989, the pow wow is a “living celebration of the Indian people of today, and these events will continue with vigor, tradition, and change, year after year, as long as there are Indian people in the world.” The NMAI’s photographic archive, which includes more than 300,000 images, spans pow wows past and present, from the image of a single Ponca Indian in dance regalia in 1898 in Omaha, Nebraska to the modern, urban pow wows like the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque. Presented here is a small sample of their extraordinary collection of pow wow photos.
The NMAI, the 16th museum in the Smithsonian Institution, was the first national museum dedicated exclusively to the study, preservation and celebration of Native American life. Its two locations—in Washington, D.C. and in downtown New York City—house a collection of more than 800,000 works of art, religious artifacts and other items of historical significance, including film and audio/visual collections. It has displays touching on the American Indian arts, languages, literature and history, and is a collaborative collection between the museum and the tribes and indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere who provided so many priceless items.
The pow wow is a central component in the ongoing story of the American Indian, and in this issue celebrates, well, these celebrations. The NMAI’s collection provides vivid proof that the pow wow is, as it has been since its inception, forever strong, forever evolving and forever moving forward—much like the American Indian.
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