Blog: Learning more about Arizona tribes at the Heard Museum

"The Heard Museum highlights the culture and artifacts of southwest Indian tribes -- Navajo, Hopi, and Apache. Navajo and Apache most likely descended from the Athabascan people, who, about 15,000 years ago, came from Siberia across the land mass that is now the Bering Strait. So some of the indigenous peoples here in the southwest are related to those I met in Southern Alaska.

I know a little bit about the Navajo from books by Tony Hillerman. Normally I don’t attribute ‘knowledge’ to fictional mysteries, but Hillerman not only crafted plots and characters who are interesting and believable, he presented Navajo culture well enough to earn ‘Navajo Tribe's Special Friends of the Dineh Award’. (Dineh is the how the Navajo refer to themselves in their language.) What I most enjoy about travel is the chance to learn about other cultures, animals, exotic places and how they came to be, why others are the way they are, and how they differ from what I know. So I’m excited about the Heard Musuem and the ‘reality’ that it will bring to what I’ve learned.

Cultural displays are comprehensive, from jewelry, pottery, textiles, and baskets to full size representations of a Navajo hogan (a traditional hut) and more. There are several collections of Kachina dolls—hand-carved from cottonwood roots, each representing a spirit or serving as a teaching tool. While several tribes have kachina dolls, there is some debate about whether they originated with Hopi and were then adopted by others. The dolls are fascinating. One of the collections was donated by Senator Barry Goldwater, who also contributed his collection of black-and-white Indian photos."

Get the Story:
Dawny Gershkowitz: The Heard Museum and Sedona (The Wilmington Advocate 8/2)

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