Penn Museum exhibit challenges misperceptions of Native Americans

The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape people are an active tribe from southern New Jersey, where they hold state recognition. Visitors hear stories of their challenges and successes as they preserve their culture in "Native American Voices: The People—Here and Now." Credit: Lucy Fowler Williams
The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape people are an active tribe from southern New Jersey, where they hold state recognition. Visitors hear stories of their challenges and successes as they preserve their culture in “Native American Voices: The People—Here and Now.”
Credit: Lucy Fowler Williams

A placard at the front of Penn Museum’s new exhibition, “Native American Voices: The People—Here and Now,” poses the question, “What does it mean to be Native American?” The case above seems to answer that question in a very traditional, even stereotypical way: It contains an eagle feather war bonnet — a headdress straight out of every Hollywood western you’ve ever seen.

But step inside and you’ll discover a much more diverse view of who Native Americans are and were. The exhibition includes traditional artifacts alongside contemporary artworks, providing a far-reaching and stunningly varied look at the distinctive cultures of Native American people across multiple generations.

“As our title suggests, the goal of this exhibition is to transform your understanding of Native America today,” explained curator Lucy Fowler Williams at a preview of the exhibition last week. “We do so by focusing on Native American agency and activism through the work and voices of some of today’s most influential and visionary leaders across the country, and we do this against the backdrop of 300 remarkable objects in Penn Museum’s expansive Native American collection.”

Those objects range from tomahawks and buffalo robes to mixed-media installation pieces and lacrosse equipment. Items separated by thousands of years sit side-by-side in the display cases, offering an expanded perspective on the show’s four main themes: the local Lenape nations, the original inhabitants of the Delaware valley; the importance of land and sacred places for Native people today; celebrations and commemorations; and new initiatives in Native American health, economics and education. The objects are accompanied by interactive digital touchscreens with information and context for the items, all situated around a virtual campfire in the center of the room.

“I love that the history and the current situation and the art of the past and the present are all blended together,” said Tina Pierce Fragoso, coordinator of Native American recruitment at the University of Pennsylvania. A member of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape tribe of Bridgeton, N.J., Fragoso was one of the exhibition’s four main content advisors.

“I hope this exhibition helps people recognize that Native Americans are here every day,” Fragoso says. “They’re sitting beside you in your classrooms, they work in your office. I want this to change your perception of what you think a Native American is and invite you in to see our communities today.”

Native American Voices: The People—Here and Now
Now open
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
$10-$15, 215-898-4000
www.penn.museum



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn girl's death ruled a homicide

The New York City Medical Examiner has ruled the death of a Brooklyn toddler a homicide. Jeida Torres, 3, was found bruised and unresponsive Saturday…

Local

New York City continues to prepare for Ebola…

New York City continues to prepare for the possibility of Ebola. There have been numerous scares, but no confirmed cases. Representatives from about 150 unions…

Local

NYPD nabs alleged serial bank robber

  The NYPD has arrested a man they say is responsible for multiple Manhattan bank robberies this month. Police have arrested a Brooklyn man they…

National

A look into the minds of Tsarnaev's fan…

While thousands of supporters insist their loyalty is due to a steadfast belief that Dzhokhar "Jahar" Tsarnaev's is innocent, others, mainly young women, come dangerously close to an unhealthy infatuation…

Arts

3 Parody plays lampoon your childhood, adulthood and…

Whether you loved the source material or you're going in blind, these parody plays have something for every audience member. We rate three of NYC's hottest satirical shows.

Gossip

Who has more power: Harry Styles or Amal…

Amal Clooney comes in fourth on The Evening Standard's Most Influential Londoners list.

Music

#AskPaul McCartney reveals his love of American pop…

For an Englishman, Paul McCartney's pop culture tastes would fit right in stateside. The former Beatle (@PaulMcCartney) revealed that he has a real thing for…

Television

Bethenny Frankel will be returning to 'Real Housewives…

Bethenny Frankel will officially be returning to the show that made her a star. She'll be on the seventh season of Bravo's "Real Housewives of New York City."

NFL

Breno Giacomini: Media blowing up Golden Tate-Percy Harvin…

According to Breno Giacomini, the fight between Golden Tate and Percy Harvin during Super Bowl week was over by the time the lineman turned around.

College

College football AP Top 25 rankings: Mississippi State…

College football AP Top 25 rankings: Mississippi State holds off FSU

NHL

NHL Power Rankings: Sharks, Canadiens, Blackhawks out in…

NHL Power Rankings: Sharks, Canadiens, Blackhawks out in front

NFL

DeMarco Murray carries Cowboys to win over Giants

The Giants knew they would need to stop DeMarco Murray if they were going to leave Dallas with a win. It didn't matter.

Parenting

New news about Kate Middleton's pregnancy

The Palace released a statement about Kate Middleton's pregnancy.

Parenting

Cool book for kids: 'The Princess In Black'

"The Princess In Black" will change the way girls view princesses.

Wellbeing

Gabby Bernstein: The 3 questions I always get

For the last decade, I’ve been writing self-help books and preaching the Gospel of Gabby to audiences throughout the world. And no matter what country…

Wellbeing

Health News: 5K for lung cancer, free yoga,…

Get some fresh air to benefit lung cancer research On Friday, the first-ever Brooklyn Free to Breathe Run/Walk will take place Oct. 26 at Cadman Plaza…