Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Exploring African-Native American Identity Opening at Troy University's Rosa Parks Museum

Posted: Friday, 20 May 2011

MONTGOMERY—On June 4, 2011, Troy University's Rosa Parks Museum will open the Smithsonian traveling exhibition "IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas" focusing on the seldom-viewed history and complex lives of people of dual African American and Native American ancestry.

Through the themes of policy, community, creative resistance and lifeways, the exhibition tells stories of cultural integration and diffusion as well as the struggle to define and preserve identity. "IndiVisible," produced by the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in collaboration with the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), remains on view through July 31, 2011, and will then continue to travel to museums around the nation.

Since the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas, the lives of Native and African peoples have been closely intertwined. From pre-colonial times, they intermarried, established communities and shared their lives and traditions. But racially motivated laws oppressed and excluded them. Blended tribes worked to preserve their land and rebelled against displacement. Their survival strategies included involvement in social movements, joining together to fight oppressive conditions and regaining economic sustainability. Their unique African-Native American cultural practices through food ways, language, writing, music, dance and the visual arts have thrived.

"The topic of African-Native Americans is one that touches a great number of individuals through family histories, tribal histories and personal identities," said Kevin Gover (Pawnee), NMAI director. "We find commonalities in our shared past of genocide, alienation from our ancestral homelands, and the exhibition acknowledges the strength and resilience we recognize in one another today."

"We are proud to have contributed to this important and thoughtful exhibition," said NMAAHC director Lonnie Bunch. "African American oral tradition is full of stories about 'Black Indians,' with many black families claiming Indian blood."

The exhibition was curated by leading scholars, educators and community leaders including Gabrielle Tayac (Piscataway), Robert Keith Collins (African-Choctaw descent), Angela Gonzales (Hopi), Judy Kertèsz, Penny Gamble-Williams (Chappaquiddick Wampanoag) and Thunder Williams (Afro-Carib).

As part of this groundbreaking exhibit, Troy University's Rosa Parks Museum will be hosting several programs including a lecture by one of the exhibit's curators Dr. Robert Keith Collins on June 9 at 6pm in the auditorium titled "Native American Cultural Change & Blackness and Indigeneity." Other programs that will take place during the exhibit include lectures by exhibit curator Dr.Angela Gonzales and by University of Alabama Professor Dr. DoVeanna S. Fulton- Minor, a children's workshop titled "Moving Beyond Stereotypes, a Teen Summit featuring Native-American youth and local youth groups, and a panel discussion featuring Native American's living in Alabama and a discussion by local university professors on how the issues raised in the exhibit are applicable to our community. The programs for this exhibit are funded by the Smithsonian Community Grant Program which is sponsored by the MetLife Foundation.

For more information on these events including times and dates, please visit the museum's website by going to www.troy.edu and selecting "Montgomery Campus." You can also contact the museum curator Viola Moten at 334-241-8701 or vmoten@troy.edu.

The accompanying exhibition book, "IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas," edited by Gabrielle Tayac, features 27 essays from authors across the hemisphere sharing first-person accounts of struggle, adaptation and survival and examines such diverse subjects as contemporary art, the Cherokee Freedmen issue and the evolution of jazz and blues. The richly illustrated 256-page book is available online at AmericanIndian.si.edu/bookshop.

An online version of the exhibition and full national tour schedule are available at americanindian.si.edu/exhibitions/indivisible.

Support for the exhibition was provided by the Akaloa Resource Foundation and the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian is an institution of living cultures dedicated to advancing knowledge and understanding of the life, languages, literature, history and arts of the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established by an act of Congress in 2003, and will be erected on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Currently, during the pre-building phase, the museum is presenting exhibitions, producing publications, hosting public events and offering an array of interactive programs and educational resources at the museum on the Web at nmaahc.si.edu.

SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C. for more than 50 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. Exhibition descriptions and tour schedules are available at sites.si.edu.