Historically Speaking

This week, Muri and I visited the Heard Museum in Phoenix.  The Heard is a world famous museum of American Indian art and history, a subject that neither Muri or I have found particularly interesting.  The truth is, we went because John and Carolyn, our next door neighbors here in Arizona, said it was a nice museum … with an excellent restaurant for lunch.   We planned our visit to arrive at lunch time, and the restaurant was indeed excellent, serving Southwestern entrees with a touch of Native American ingredients.  We had guacamole with two salsas (a fire-roasted tomato and a roasted pineapple) then shared a wrap with oven roasted chicken, red pepper, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta cheese, romaine, pepitas, and tzatziki sauce.  Delicious.  We then took a guided tour of the museum.  Our docent was a young Native American woman studying biological anthropology at the University of Arizona and she brought to life the pottery and jewelery and paintings lining the walls by relating them to the history of Arizona’s indigenous people.

Two exhibits were particularly moving.  One was the mural, Fear of a Red Planet: Relocation and Removal 2000 by Steven Yazzie of the Navajo/Laguna Pueblo.  Fear of a Red Planet depicts the devastating effects of the removal of the Arizona tribes from their land in dramatic fashion. You can read about the entire mural here.

First Panel: The Uprooting

The second exhibit was Remembering Our Indian School Days: The Boarding School Experience, a multimedia presentation of life at the Indian Boarding Schools where Native American children were taken from their families to be re-educated in the ways of the white man.   Native American children were traumatized by these military schools that taught ideas contrary to their own their own culture and it was said that they were only allowed to return home if they were sick or dead.   Through pictures, classrooms and the voices of men and women who attended the schools, I learned of this sad chapter in our history.   You can read about it here.

There are times that I feel poorly educated, Historically Speaking.  That is partly my own fault … I despised history in high school and did my best to coast through every class.  But I was also educated in an era where the dark places in American history were omitted from the history books.  In college, as an engineering student, my non-technical courses were usually things like Humanities (which is essentially All That Other Stuff for Geeks).  I first learned of the details of the interment of Japanese-Americans during World War II reading Snow Falling on Cedars and later when I discovered the parents of a friend were in the camps.  Now, I know about Indian Boarding Schools.  The liberal education of Older Eyes is slow but sure.  If I am going to talk about our country as The Land of the Free (and I am going to do that), I need to know about our dark corners when we weren’t.  Historically Speaking, if I don’t recall the times we thought we were right (and turned out to be so dreadfully wrong), how can I bring perspective to today’s issues like gay marriage and tolerance of Muslim Americans?

What do you think?

Explore posts in the same categories: perspectives

Tags: , , , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: