Listening to Our Ancestors: The Art of Native Life Along the North Pacific Coast
February 3, 2006–January 2, 2007
Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall, Washington, DC
N.W. Indian Objects Shown in New Exhibition
WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 6, 2006 - The mythical thunderbird celebrated by some Northwest Indian tribes will make an appearance at the Super Bowl—right there in the sleek, beaked logo of the Seattle Seahawks.
While there is no such thing as a seahawk, some say the fierce-looking bird on the team's helmets resembles the thunderbird or eagle celebrated by the Makah Tribe and others in Washington state.
Visitors can judge for themselves at a new exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian.
The exhibition, ''Listening to Our Ancestors: The Art of Native Life along the North Pacific Coast,'' features ceremonial and everyday objects used by Indian tribes from Washington state to Alaska.
Among the items displayed are wooden masks representing the thunderbird, the mythical creature that symbolizes power and prestige.
Dave Sones, the Makah's vice chairman, laughed off any notion that the Seahawk logo is directly connected to the tribe, but he said it resembles Indian art common in the region.
''We're pretty proud Seahawk fans,'' he said.
Sones said he hopes the exhibition brings greater awareness of all the tribes represented. Besides the Makah, the exhibit features the Coast Salish tribes in Washington state, the Tlingit in Alaska and eight tribes from British Columbia, Canada.
''There's talent everywhere in the Northwest, from Vancouver Island to Vancouver, Wash.,'' he said.
Raising awareness of the tribes' contributions is a major goal of the exhibit, which runs through Jan. 2, 2007, said W. Richard West Jr., the museum's founding director.
''The exhibition shows how, in a contemporary sense, Northwest Native Americans listen to their ancestors. They take from this material the values that guide their lives even today,'' said West, a member of the Southern Cheyenne tribe.
Tribal members participated throughout the process and played a key role in everything from choosing the objects to the written commentary that accompanies the displays, West said. Tribal musicians, dancers and story tellers also participate in the exhibit, which is designed to be interactive.