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Magazine, April 2003
years of Native American history at the National Museum
of Natural Science
With Taiwan in
the midst of a new-found fascination for local Aborigine
culture, Taichung's National Museum of Natural Science has
looked further away, to America, for its latest exhibition
on native peoples. The "Peoples from Heavenly Blue
and Earthly Red" Native Cultures of the American Southwest
Special Exhibit recently opened in a special exhibit gallery
near the museum's ShiTun Road entrance and will continue
to June 13.
exhibition, organized in cooperation with the Museum
of Texas Tech University, includes 347 objects from
the American Indians of the Southwest, dating from the
Ice Age to present times--a span of about 10,000 years.
Exhibits start with units on the geography and dry desert
topography of Arizona and New Mexico and the history
of the Native Americans of these Southwest states. Another
unit explores the traditions of the Navajo, including
a model of a Hogan--a traditional Navajo dwelling. A
typical Hogan is round or hexagonal and is built using
logs and mud, with a hole in the ceiling that acts as
an air vent. Near the Hogan is a model of a Navajo woman
weaving a rug using a traditional upright loom.
units on the traditions of the American Indians of the Southwest
include traditional pottery, woven baskets and costumes.
There are also dioramas depicting a traditional Apache "coming
of age" ceremony (for females) and a Hopi wedding.
striking Hopi katsinas are also on display. Katsinas
are surpernatural beings with animal-like natures and
appearances that are dressed in elaborate and colorful
costumes. Wooden figures of these beings are made to
help the Hopi children learn about the approximately
250 katsinas. Although some katsinas have disciplinary
functions, meant to keep children or adults in line,
most are benevolent beings that live in the mountains,
springs and lakes, and are believed to bring blessings,
particularly rain, crops and happiness. According to
legend, the katsinas used to come to the people when
they were sad and lonely and dance for them. They also
brought gifts and taught the people various arts and
skills, such as how to hunt. When rain was needed the
katsinas would perform a rain dance in the fields.
units discuss the influences of the "white man's"
migration into the Southwest which included the construction
of the railroad and opening of trading posts. A life-size
model of a 1950s-era trading post and a smaller diorama
of an early 20th century railroad platform stall selling
Indian wares are on display.
of this exhibit describes the evolution of native
arts and crafts, comparing traditional pieces with
more modern versions. There are also examples of Indian
arts and crafts marketplaces, including gift shops
and roadside stands. This exhibition finishes with
a discussion of the future prospects for the preservation
of traditional Native American culture.
is uncommon to find such a detailed exhibition on
American Indians anywhere in Taiwan, particularly
one that focuses on past and present issues faced
by these peoples. Be sure to take the opportunity
to explore this exhibit before it returns to the U.S.
Museum of Natural Science
1, GuanChian (KuanChien) Rd.
Tel: (04) 2322-6940 (ask for the information desk)