Discover Native American Culture at the American Museum in Britain this summer

July 23, 2015 - Nicky Hancock

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Come on a journey with Native American guests, share their traditional skills and discover their history and traditions

Spirit Hawk Eye is a photographic exhibition created by Heidi Laughton celebrating American Native Culture currently on display within the American Museum in Britain from 14 March to 1 November 2015. Three of the Native Americans photographed are coming to the UK for a special in-house residency between 18 and 25 July.  Sarita McGowan, member of the Iowa Tribe, Comanche artist Nocona Burgess, and Chumash educator, Alan Salazar, will provide a fascinating experience for visitors of every age.

Richard Wendorf, Director of the The American Museum, said “The Museum is delighted to be hosting this cultural season inspired by Spirit Hawk Eye which will provide a unique insight in to the lives and traditions of our Native American guests and an opportunity to meet them face-to-face. We are truly grateful to Heidi and to the supporters of the Museum for their generous donations which have made this possible.”

Join Sarita McGowan for an introduction to the history and traditional culture of the Ioway. She is also running a workshop to create a Handmade Medicine Pouch, traditionally worn for protection and to honour the ancestors, containing sage, cedar, kinikinick (tobacco), and personal objects.  Sarita will also demonstrate the Women’s Northern Traditional Buckskin dance. Experience the beauty and elegance of this dance and talk to Sarita about her handmade traditional regalia, and contemporary Ioway culture.

Painter Nocona Burgess is the great-great grandson of legendary Comanche Chief Quanah Parker whose story is reflected in Nocona’s work. Nocona is leading a workshop ‘Painting Outward – Colour Theory in Practice’; an opportunity to explore contrasts between vivid colour and dark surfaces, and to apply colour and glazing onto a dark background. Young Artists (age 8+) will also be able to explore Nocona’s technique of painting with vibrant colour onto different coloured backgrounds and discover how to use spray paint and stencilling techniques to create a textile effect.

Alan Salazar will be engaging adults and children alike in a delightful Chumash Storytelling session incorporating traditional tales, songs, and music.  Alan will also be giving a talk on the Chumash History and Maritime Legacy, and about the quest to build and sail a traditional Chumash ocean canoe from the California mainland to Santa Cruz Island.

For Spirit Hawk Eye photographer Heidi Laughton has created a series of portraits that reveal aspects of present-day Native cultural practices and reflect ‘the traditional influences and remarkable stories of her subjects.’ Heidi has chosen to celebrate ‘the colourful, reverent, spiritual, artistic and enduring elements of tribal communities.’ These arresting portraits are integrated within the main Collection of the Museum in a special exhibition.

Despite many years of persecution, the cultural heritage of different communities has survived to be passed down to future generations. The American Heritage Galleries at the Museum reflect the diverse history and culture of Native Americans.

Wendorf commented “The American Museum houses historic collections of native American objects, and is committed to an accurate and sensitive portrayal of native American histories. In addition to providing a historic perspective we would also like to give visitors an insight into the richness and diversity of contemporary Native cultures. We aim to work with Native people to tell their own stories wherever possible.”

The Museum owns an important collection of studio portraits by Frank A. Rinehart and Adolph F. Mühr that commemorates the 1898 Indian Congress attended by delegates from 23 different tribes.  Native American decorative arts are also featured within the Collection, demonstrating how colour and linear design were used for decoration of simple domestic objects.  With the arrival of the Europeans, new colours and materials were incorporated and Native American craftsmen created basketry, beadwork, and pottery acclaimed for their form as well as their function.  The evolution of this art form is reflected in the displays on the lower level of the Museum. Coming right up to date, the Collection displays examples of contemporary work by modern Native artists demonstrating how they continue to explore the cultural traditions of their tribes, combining traditional media with modern techniques.

For further information visit

For images and further information, please contact: Nicky Hancock, Hancock Communications

Tel: 01225 332299,

Editor’s notes:-

Programme of events:-
For further information and to book the workshops and talks Call 01225 820868 or email:

History and traditional culture of the Ioway, Thursday 16 July, 6.30pm
Chumash History and Maritime Legacy, Thursday 23 July, 6.30pm
Spirit Hawk Eye: Artist talk with Heidi Laughton, Wednesday 22 July, 10.30am – 11.30am
Quanah Parker and Comanche History, Thursday 23 July, 6.30pm

Handmade Medicine Pouch, Sunday 19 July, 10am-4pm
Painting Outward – Colour Theory in Practice, Saturday 25 July, 10am – 4pm
Young Artists – Painting in Colour, Thursday 21 July, 10am-12pm (age 8+)
‘Painting Outward’ – Colour Theory in Practice, Saturday 25 July, 10am – 4pm

Other events
Chumash Storytelling, Saturday 18 and Saturday 25 July, 1.30pm
Woman’s Northern Traditional Buckskin dance, Saturday 18 and Saturday 25 July, 3.30pm

Main Season 14 March – 1 November 2015, Tues – Sun, 12noon-5pm, Closed Mondays except during August and Bank Holidays

Admission, Museum, Exhibition and Gardens: Adults £10.00, Over 60’s & students £9.00, Children (5-   16 years) £5.50, Family ticket £27.50
Gardens only: Adults £6.00, Over 60’s & students £5.00, Children (5-16 years) £3.50
Gift Aid and Membership rates available

The American Museum in Britain hosts one of the finest collections of American decorative arts outside of the United States displayed in a series of Period Rooms to illustrate life for early Americans from the 17th to 19th centuries. The collection comprises over 200 historic American quilts, exceptional pieces of Shaker furniture, exuberant Folk Art paintings and sculptures, Native American objects, and Renaissance maps of the New World. Visitors may also explore the extensive grounds, including the Arboretum of American trees.  This year’s special exhibitions include Hatched, Matched, Dispatched and Patched!– textiles interwoven with the stories of people’s and Spirit Hawk Eye, a series of photographs by Heidi Laughton capturing Native American culture.