Although the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian is closed due to the coronavirus, its latest exhibition of work by Native American photographers is available for viewing online.
“Developing Stories: Native Photographers in the Field” features photo essays by photojournalists Russel Albert Daniels, Dine and Ho Chunk descent, and Tailyr Irvine, Salish and Kootenai.
The photographers explore issues that touch the lives of Native people and show the diversity and complexity of their lives.
The first exhibit, by Daniels, is available to view now. Irvine’s exhibit will be available July 14.
“Each photographer is committed to portraying the reality of contemporary Native life with honesty and integrity,” said Cecile Ganteaume, exhibition curator. “Through the modern Indigenous stories portrayed in their work, these photographers are breaking down stereotypes of Native peoples still prevalent in the mainstream media.”
Daniels documented the Genizaro people of Abiquiu, who have lived on the same land in New Mexico for nearly 300 years.
Those years were fraught with violence and slavery as Spain and the Catholic Church began to colonize and reeducate the Native people in the Southwest. Starting in the early 1600s, the Spanish abducted and purchased Indigenous people of mixed tribal heritage including Apache, Comanche, Kiowa, Navajo, Pawnee and Ute.
They were taught Spanish and converted to Catholicism and forced into slavery. The Spanish called these captives and their children Genizaro, from a Turkish word for slaves trained as soldiers.
As a result of the oppression, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs were destroyed. Outside of the Genizaro communities, the history has disappeared from memory but for the Genizaro people it is embedded in their land and commemorated in their observances. Today they are reasserting their identity and culture.
To view the exhibition online visit https://americanindian.si.edu/developingstories/index.html.