A week ago, the Muscarelle held its annual Family Day in the gallery. We had a ton of William and Mary students volunteer, which was awesome, and although they sometimes outnumbered the children I think they had fun doing some of the crafts (check out the photos).

Anywho, for four hours last Saturday afternoon families came and went in the gallery, listening to the drumming of the Four Rivers Drum Group, admiring the beading, quilting, and regalia displayed by the Intertribal Women’s Circle, and making paper plate shields, beaded necklaces, and ledger drawings. I sort of wish the event had been publicized a little more so we could have had a bigger turnout, but everyone who did come – including a lot of W&M anthropology professors and their families, as well as a couple of the visiting artists, who were in Williamsburg until Sunday – seemed to have a good time.

On a more personal note, some of my family came to see the exhibit this afternoon; my parents and sister drove all the way from Connecticut, and my aunt, uncle, and cousin came from Charlottesville, which is also quite a drive. Originally the exhibit was going to close tomorrow (November 13th), so they were cutting it a little close, but I’m glad they got to see some of what I’ve been working on for almost a year now. I think it made a good impression on them…or maybe they were just being appreciative out of politeness. Who knows with family, right?

I don’t have photos from today, but I have plenty from Family Day. So here you go!


One of our volunteers working with kids at the ledger drawing station.

Families working together at the beading station.

Kids painting paper plate shields.

The volunteers had fun with painting, too 🙂

Four Rivers Drum Group playing their last song of the day, an honor song.

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The Artists are Here!

Tom Poolaw, Dolores Purdy Corcoran, and Steven Judd – three contemporary Native artists from Oklahoma (whose names should sound familiar, if you’ve been reading this blog with any regularity) – arrived in Williamsburg Wednesday night, along with Leslie Zinbi, the generous owner of Tribes 131 Gallery in Norman. Their visit has included 2 brown bag lunches and an evening presentation, both in the anthropology department and at the Muscarelle, and everything they’ve said and done has been amazing. Tom, Dolores, and Steven all talked about their work, the artists and experiences that have influenced them, what it means to be a (Native) artist, and so much more. I wish I could copy down the best of what I heard but, alas, I didn’t film their presentations, so you readers will have to make do with a couple photos.

Also, let it be noted that our guests have all said they are really happy with how the exhibit turned out – if that’s not a recommendation to come see it, I don’t know what is. So remember, if you haven’t been to the Muscarelle yet, now’s the time; the full exhibit will be open until November 13th, and after that it will be up in a condensed form until January.

Today is Family Day at the Muscarelle, so I guarantee there’ll be another post about that soon. In the meantime, look at some lovely photos!


Tom Poolaw at the podium in the main gallery in the Muscarelle, giving his Thursday evening presentation.

Steven Judd talking to his “fans” in the gallery after the Friday afternoon brown bag lunch.

One last thing: Thank you to Tom, Steven, Dolores, and Leslie for coming all the way to Williamsburg for this exhibit. I hope you had a lot of fun, and have a safe flight back west!

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Tours ‘n More

Last Monday, Zac, Professor M-L, and I gave a tour to to the Dean of Arts and Sciences. It was the first tour I’d taken any part in leading (not counting the one I did for my friends…because that’s just completely different), and I think I was babbling half the time. Tonight’s tour, however, went much better.

This time we gave a tour to members of the Anthropology Club, the Native American Student Association, and also some friends of the professor. That meant talking to more than 20 people for over an hour (obviously I only did a little of the talking – but that was plenty for me). Zac, Jade, Megan, and I took turns interjecting between the professor’s explanations. Overall, people seemed pretty engrossed; afterward, a lot of them stuck around to talk to us about volunteering for the Muscarelle’s Family Day (Saturday, November 5th!! Shameless plug!!).

We’re in the midst of planning for both Family Day and the upcoming visits of Tom Poolaw and Dolores Purdy Corcoran. All of that will be happening at the beginning of November. And don’t worry – I’ll keep you updated 🙂


Professor M-L beginning the tour with a discussion of the Jacobson House photo.

Everybody getting a view of the portfolio.

Sorry about the date stamps on these, I guess I had my camera set to do that by accident. Won’t happen again.

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Go See the Exhibit!

It’s finally open! Can you believe it? Please, go and see this crazy exhibit I’ve been blogging about for months! I’m telling you, even if you don’t understand all of it, or don’t feel like reading all the didactics, the art speaks for itself a lot of the time. So if you’re in the general area of Williamsburg please do stop in. To make it easier, here are the Muscarelle’s hours: Tuesday-Friday: 10am-5pm; Saturday & Sunday: 12pm-4pm (closed Mondays). If you’re a W&M student, faculty, or staff, or under 12 years old, admission is free! Otherwise it’s $5.

Anyway, for those of you who care, the opening last night was fantastic. Dr. Mark White from the Fred Jones Jr. Museum at the University of Oklahoma (he gave us a tour when we were there this summer, remember?) was the speaker; he did an incredible job getting everybody in the right frame of mind to see the artwork. At about 6:15 everyone went downstairs to the gallery for the reception. I couldn’t believe how many people were there – I guess I’ve gotten used to having the gallery nice and empty. I stood with Megan (Dr. M-L’s grad student, who did a LOT of important work the summer when Zac, Jade, and I were off having other adventures) in the main room and answered people’s questions. I also got to talk to some of the docents, several of my anthropology professors, and some of Dr. M-L’s guests. Soon enough it was 8:30 and the caterers were packing everything up; but I could have stayed there all night.

Really, though, the night was far from over at that point. As the last of the crowd was preparing to leave, myself among them, Dr. M-L invited Megan and me to dinner, along with her husband, her daughter, Dr. White, John Spike (the museum’s distinguished scholar in residence), and Aaron De Groft (the director of the museum) and his wife. We went to the Blue Talon; I was seated across from Megan and next to Dr. De Groft. Not only did I get to eat some very good food – I also got to talk to the director of the Muscarelle! And I heard some very good stories from all ends of the table. It was a unexpected but completely wonderful end to an amazing night.

This afternoon I gave a “tour” (mostly it was just me rambling on about the Kiowa Five a lot) to some of my friends, who, very kindly, showed an actual interest in the work I’ve been doing for the past 8 months. They were very appreciative…at least to my face. Hopefully they really did enjoy it.

And now, without further ado, here are some photos from yesterday and today.


The main gallery during the reception last night – look how many people came!!!

One of the walls, complete with a quote by James Auchiah in vinyl letters. It reads: “Our forefathers’ deeds touch us, shape us, like strokes of a painting. In endless procession their deeds mark us. The Elders speak knowingly of forever.”

Me and Dr. Moretti-Langholtz, in front of the portfolio.

Me, Dr. M-L, and Dr. White, in front of the 2 Oscar Jacobson pieces.

My friends in front of the portfolio this afternoon!

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A Little Chaos, A Lot of Fun

It would seem that I have no free time anymore – if I have a spare hour or two between classes I find myself at the museum, learning to make object labels or copyediting didactic texts. Of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Behind the scenes people are a little harried, but to my inexperienced student-curator eyes things seem to be moving along pretty well. Today, for example, I was taught to use the machine that creates the labels that go on the wall beside each work of art. The process goes something like this:

1. Someone types up the text of the label and prints it out on thick photo paper; the background to the text is matched to the color of the wall it will be mounted on.

2. The individual labels are placed on pieces of foam board which have special adhesive paper on top (so it goes: foam board, paper, label text). Usually several labels are put together on one square of foam board, which involves some jigsaw puzzle skills – the idea is to utilize as much of the foam board as possible, so nothing gets wasted.

3. Next the awesome adhesive machine thingie (I have no idea what it’s actually called) gets warmed up. Each foam-paper-text conglomerate is placed into this machine, between two blue cardboard rectangles, and allowed to “bake” for 60-90 seconds. The heat makes the special adhesive paper attach the label text to the foam board.

4. When the time is up, each label needs to cool for a couple minutes. Then they’re ready to be chopped up with a paper cutter, have their edges angled, and have sticky squares attached to the back so that they can be placed on the walls.

So yeah…that process was one of the cooler things I learned today. Not that the things I learned about in my actual classes (for example, the Know-Nothing Party of the 1850s, Merlin’s prophecies as written by Geoffrey of Monmouth, and the difference between religiousness and religious-mindedness) aren’t interesting. But you get what I’m saying.

Anyway, since I doubt any of you actually cared about any of the above, here are some dreadfully exciting new photos!


On the left you can see some foam boards with label texts, waiting to be “baked” in the awesome machine on the right.

A plinth containing a beaded cradleboard, along with a reproduced photo of Lois Smokey (the only female member of the Kiowa Five) as a baby in a cradleboard. I <3 Lois. She deserves more love.

This sign is just so great. “Pardon Our Dust”? Awesome. I hope they let me keep it after the exhibit’s all ready.

The main gallery (with, as you can see, all the artwork hung up!), where some of the docents held a meeting this afternoon.

More of the gallery; here you can see some of the light fixtures, waiting to be installed.

Zac and me attaching sticky squares to the backs of finished labels before placing them in front of their respective works of art.


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Seven Days To Go

Today I visited the Muscarelle for the first time since last semester. The scene I encountered was both exhilarating and intimidating – there were paintings, plinths, and papers everywhere, waiting to be put in order. Myself, Dr. M-L, Jade, Zac, and several others spent more than 2 hours moving artwork from one wall to another, debating colors and styles and themes, and placing material culture items into their plinths. I’ll be back at the museum on Monday with Dr. M-L to work out some of the didactics; by then everything should be hung up (they were starting that process as I left).

Anyway, it’s better if I just let you see what the exhibit looks like right now, rather than try to describe the semi-chaos. Enjoy the sneak peek!


The Kiowa Indian Art portfolio, laid out salon-style and ready for hanging!

The first wall of contemporary native artwork, starting with Acee Blue Eagle and leading up to Tom Poolaw’s awesome teepee (which is on the floor in front of the wall…but you can’t really see it here). Also, this gives you a nice view of the planning table.

Zac and Jade holding one of the planning papers – this one is for the sage-colored room, which holds ledger pieces and some more contemporary work.

Zac holding a painted shield up the wall to compare it with the surrounding pieces (which you can’t see here, but I promise they exist).

My favorite ledger piece (this is the original, not a copy!), “Distributing Annuities” by Bear’s Heart, which was drawn sometime between 1875 and 1878. This lovely work was loaned to us by the Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. It depicts the arrival of U.S. troops to deliver supplies, which would have been promised to a Native American tribe as part of a peace treaty.

Dr. M-L and two students placing ritual peyote objects, as well as the cover of the portfolio, into a plinth.

The hanging begins!

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And…we’re back!

So it’s been quite a while since I utilized this blog, but someone recommended that I continue to post updates as all this crazy work nears fruition. After all, for those of you whom I haven’t already bugged about this, our lovely exhibit – In Memory Still: A Legacy in Kiowa Art – opens in less than 2 weeks! Certain special people, like myself, will be there are the evening opening on Friday, September 9th; the rest of you should all definitely come and check it out between September 10th and November 13th. It’s going to be awesome. Promise.

Anywho, at the moment I’m a refugee, evacuated from Williamsburg and currently chilling out in Charlottesville while W&M tries to get its act together. Apparently a lot of trees fell and the power is out, so I understand why they don’t want students coming back until Tuesday. But what they don’t seem to understand is that this is very inconvenient for the planning of a museum exhibit. I was supposed to meet Professor M-L at the Muscarelle tomorrow afternoon to check out the didactics and labels and, of course, all the beautiful artwork. But it’s looking like we may have to wait until – sigh – Wednesday.

In the meantime, Jade, Zac and I are coming up with some text for a didactic on what it’s like to be students doing real fieldwork. At the moment all I’ve done is compile some of the best photos from the trip…but I’ll get around to the writing part soon enough. It’s not like there’s much else to do right now.

What else can I tell you? Our original wall-painting plans got nixed (we wanted 3 shades of blue), but the colors Professor M-L chose sound like they might be even better. I won’t tell you what we ended up with, though – you’ll just have to come see for yourself!

As for the artwork, it turns out we have even more pieces than anticipated, which I’m pretty sure can’t ever be a bad thing. And it sounds like everything with the labels and didactics is under control. So there’s actually a lot less to stress about than I expected.

I don’t have any pictures to post at the moment because I haven’t been to the Muscarelle since getting back to campus. But I promise to post some photos of the preparations (if I’m allowed) once I get over there. Then again, who knows when us poor refugees will be allowed to return?

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“If only we had more time…”

The internet in here is awful, and it’s late, and I’m tired (nothing new). So this’ll be quick.

We bid goodbye to Norman this morning; it was actually raining just before we left, which was strange, because it’s almost always been sunny and dry while we’ve been here. But it cleared up before we got in the car. We stopped by the OU campus one last time so Jade could exchange an ill-fitting T-shirt, tried and failed to see the reading rooms in the library (which are full of Indian art), explored an OU logowear store near the OU Campus Corner (Norman has so much Sooner pride – it’s fun but a little overwhelming). That last visit really impressed upon me how charming Norman is as a college town; the houses are small (and super affordable), the people are friendly, and there are enough trees that I’m almost satisfied. I think OU wouldn’t be half bad for graduate school.

After less than 2 hours on the road we reached Lawton, where we visited the Museum of the Great Plains, had lunch (more delicious Mexican food), and got to touch a real mammoth femur in the archaeological research room! And that wasn’t completely unrelated to Native Americans, because there was a clear butchering indentation that shows that the mammoth bone was scraped by a human tool to get the meat off. We also saw prairie dogs. They. Are. Adorable. And apparently if you give them pork they go crazy – but we didn’t try that.

Next we paid a visit to Fort Sill, also in Lawton, which is an active artillery training base, but was also the fort where the captured Kiowa prisoners of war were kept in the 1870s before being train-transported to Fort Marion in Florida (which to you might sound like a lovely place to vacation, but was a nightmare to people who had only ever seen the plains). Other tribes, like the Comanches and some of the Apaches (including Geronimo’s band!) were imprisoned there, and we visited the Apache graveyard, which is very separated from the busy bustling of the base, out near open fields. That was very sad to see. Geronimo’s grave was easy to find because it was so prominent. I looked for Quanah Parker’s grave (he was a Comanche leader), because my aunt tells a story about how one of our ancestors was one of only 27 people to survive a Comanche attack lead by Parker, but I couldn’t find him.

Our last stop before beginning the long trek to Dallas was the Wichita Mountains, where we observed a buffalo from very close by (he paid us no attention and wouldn’t stop eating long enough to get a good picture). We also drove to the top of Mount Scott, the highest point in southwestern Oklahoma, and clambered all over the giant red rocks. We could see all around us for miles and miles; we were convinced we could see into Texas from there, but since we didn’t know what direction it was in, or what landmarks to look for, there was no way to be sure.

After that we drove. And drove. And drove. Lawton had been slightly out of the way, and the mountains even more so, so it took us more than 4 hours to get here to Dallas. Along the way we played the geography game, the state capitals game, all kinds of games. There was also plenty of napping and country music. I know all this sounds very un-research-like, but you have to understand – we’re all fairly drained. But tomorrow at the airport I can promise you I’ll be leafing through our thick pile of photocopied documents, underlining key quotes and mentally planning my writing. So don’t worry. I know what needs to get done.

Now it’s late, and we’re taking the shuttle to the airport at 8 a.m. My flight leaves just after 11, so the end of this trip is very near. It’s been fabulous, beyond all my imaginations. I just really wish, like we must have said every day at least once, that we had a little more time to see and do just a little more.


Prairie dog!


View from the top of Mount Scott, in the Wichita Mountains.

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Lots of Talking, Little Sleeping

This will be quick. Today was another archive day. We found lots of beautiful documents. I <3 documents. Really. But it’s exhausting.

After the museum closed we went back to Tribes 131 to meet Leslie (the owner) again. She very, very kindly offered to lend us anything in there that we might want for the show, so we’re borrowing a gorgeous T. C. Cannon, and a lot of other contemporary things.

Tonight Jade and I de-stressed by soaking our feet in the jacuzzi (which we never got a chance to actually use) before the real strenuous work began. At 10:00 the five of us met to hammer out some real solid plans: colors for the walls, didactic panel topics, the number of pedestals, the more or less exact placement of each object. Those 2 1/2 hours were probably the most vital – and most draining – of the trip. And now I can see the path laid out before me for the next 4 days: writing essays for the catalogue, texts for labels and didactics, abstracts for the docents guide. And then it’ll all have to be edited. And in the meantime I’ll be packing for New Mexico.

Time to SLEEP.


This is a ledger drawing by the famous Kiowa ledger artist, Silverhorn, drawn in the early 20th century. And yeah, that’s Bigfoot.

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Bigfoot (among other things)

Today was…how can I even explain today? Where we were wasn’t anything like the museums and archives we’ve been rushing around in for most of this trip. It wasn’t even like the galleries, and the people we talked to weren’t like the artists we met at Red Earth. Today was the most exhausting of all, but it was so incredible that it more than makes up for my current sleepy state.

We picked up Tom Poolaw at the Jacobson House this morning before starting on the 2 hour drive from Norman to Anadarko. On the way, Tom (who, if you recall, is a contemporary Kiowa artist whom we met with yesterday) told us all about all kinds of things. I wish I could remember everything he said – things about the buffalo, and about the land; about painting, of course, and what he does with his work; and about a million more things I can’t remember now. It was so different beyond the big network of highways around the center of the state where we’ve mostly been. Tom told us that the Kiowa call all the roads and wires and fences stretching across the earth the word in Kiowa that means spider. It’s all a giant web that has us trapped. I tried to imagine the flat green fields with the red red earth poking through, and the black cows, and dusty blue sky, all without limit and without boundary – but I couldn’t.

We went into the Southern Plains Indian Museum in Anadarko, where we were the only visitors. The town is small, and the museum very much so, but they had a whole room filled with original Stephen Mopope watercolors! We couldn’t believe it – 29 paintings we hadn’t expected at all! We couldn’t take pictures, but we soaked it all up.

Back on the road, we made the 20-minute drive even further southwest to Carnegie, where we visited the Kiowa Tribal Museum. There we met Mary Helen Deer, who showed us around the small exhibit. The best part there by far were the series of murals (10 total) made by Mirac Creepingbear, Sherman Chaddlestone, and Parker Boyiddle, all famous contemporary Kiowa artists. They tell the story of the Kiowa, from their creation myth to the modern day.

Here is N. Scott Momaday’s version of the Kiowa creation story from his book The Way to Rainy Mountain (Momaday is a famous Kiowa writer, for those who haven’t heard):

You know, everything had to begin, and this is how it was: the Kiowas came one by one into the world through a hollow log. There were many more than now, but not all of them got out. There was a woman whose body was swollen up with child, and she got stuck in the log. After that, no one could get through, and that is why the Kiowas are a small tribe in number. They looked all around and saw the world. It made them glad to see so many things. They called themselves Kwuda, “coming out.”

There are a ton more stories, too, involving the Kiowa hero/trickster, Seyndey, and the Half-Boy twins, and Grandmother Spider, and a lot of other great characters. My favorite story is about White Crow, who captured all the buffalo and put them in a hole to keep them for himself, while the rest of the Kiowas starved. Seyndey knew he was causing this trouble so he turned himself into a puppy and asked White Crow’s daughter where she had gotten the meat she was eating. Eventually he tricked her into showing him the hole, and he led the buffalo back out onto the plains. Then he punished White Crow by turning him black and making him a scavenger.

There were murals of both of these stories, plus murals of sun dances, ledger works, and more. And that wasn’t even my favorite part of the day.

We talked for a long time with Mrs. Deer, and with Tom some more, capturing most of the interview on video. Then we took them both out to lunch at a local diner (I had grilled cheese; I’m trying to cut back on my giant restaurant meals) and heard even more. Then we drove back to Anadarko to visit the post office.

On the way there Tom told us about all the Bigfoot sightings there have been around Anadarko. There aren’t too many trees out there, besides near the rivers (Washita, Canadian, and others), but there are canyons around, and he said they turn up as it gets dark, or when it’s pitch black. At first I didn’t know what to make of his stories. But he posited that they’re spirits – yes, they’re frightening, but that means they’re there to protect something, he said. They also smell really strong, but you know they’re not skunks or something because the smell doesn’t stick. The Bigfoot arrives and disappears suddenly, quietly, inexplicably. They’re super strong, and big. Tom said he thinks they could very well be real – there have been Kiowa words and stories for creatures like that forever. He thinks maybe they know the ways out of this world, the holes that lead somewhere else, like the ones in the creation and White Crow stories. It is true that there are a lot of holes in Kiowa mythology.

But we’ll come back to Bigfoot in a bit. When we got to the Anadarko Post Office we met up with Vanessa Paukeigope Jennings , the granddaughter of Stephen Mopope, who walked us around explaining everything she knew about the 16 murals he had painted there during the Depression as a WPA project. She said he included treasured details about the correct Kiowa clothing, teepee paintings, camp setups – everything Indians at that time weren’t supposed to be allowed to keep. Hearing that reinforced my theory that the Kiowa Five were assimilating without really assimilating, if that makes sense. They were painting what the white men wanted to buy, and in doing so they were making a profit, and surviving, and adapting. But they were also including the symbolism of the Kiowa, of their own specific war and dance societies, and details of the lives they were losing. They preserved what they couldn’t continue to practice in a way that was accepted and encouraged by the subjugating party. And now, nearly a century later, Kiowas are still able to decipher what he painted, and value it all the more for the way it teaches them some of what they’ve lost.

So that was pretty amazing, seeing those murals. And the day wasn’t even done. Tom directed us next to his aunt, Linda Poolaw’s, office down the road. She’s a Grand Chief of the Delaware Indian Council, which is a very big deal (of course, I didn’t know that going in). The minute we came in she told us “sit down!” and handed us all water bottles. She talked and talked about the Delawares (which, as you might imagine, were originally an Eastern tribe) and their migrations, and told us more about Bigfoot too (that was my favorite part).

She told us stories about Bigfoot running alongside cars, approaching sweat lodges, sneaking up to play the drums alongside men out in the woods at night, throwing down rocks at people making too much noise at the bottom of a canyon, coming up to the edge of her women’s ceremonial circle every month. She seemed completely convinced they’re real, but she thinks they come from the mountains out in California, and are being driven east by people building their fancy houses up there.

Anyway, she had a lot more to say, but she and Professor M-L got into a discussion about archaeological discoveries that I didn’t quite understand. That was okay – her office was filled with photographs taken by her father, Horace Poolaw, around the same time as the Kiowa Five. That was just as exciting.

Before we left, Mrs. Poolaw gave us each an apple, a pear, and an orange, as well as small pouches of blessed tobacco. She was very, very kind to us, a forceful speaker and a conscientious hostess. I can see why Professor M-L says she’s known as a “formidable woman” even on the east coast.

We didn’t return to Norman until nearly 7:00, and we were all beat by then. But Jade said it’s bad to take naps so late in the day, so we rallied and got something to eat at the Red Robin near our hotel, and then got to work on the guide we’re writing for the docents of our exhibit. It’s nearly done as of 11:46 tonight (in fact, the only part we’re waiting on is the abstract of my paper on the Kiowa Five themselves – and yet here I am writing this post instead of that). But there’s still so much more to do – object labels, didactic texts, catalogue materials, and on and on. I’m trying hard not to be daunted.

Tomorrow we’ll be back in the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum archives.


Us students, along with Tom Poolaw and Terry Taylor (who showed us around) in front of the Southern Plains Indian Museum in Anadarko.

Us and Tom again, this time with Mary Helen Deer in front of the Kiowa Tribal Museum in Carnegie.

Us along with Vanessa Jennings, her husband Carl, and their grandson beneath some of Mopope’s murals in the Anadarko Post Office.

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