The Native American Tribes of North America currently on display at the MONA, features 67 portraits of Native American leaders of the 1820s and 1830s. The exhibition is on loan from Omaha's Josyln Art Museum and will be featured until Dec. 5.
Nesouaquoit (Fox), hand-colored lithograph after Charles Bird King (American, 1785-1862).
Recording history is easy these days. With the simple click of a camera button we document events as fast as they happen, but in the 19th century it wasn’t so easy, and a visit to the Museum of Nebraska Art’s “The History of the Indian Tribes of North America” might just give you a newfound appreciation for that digital camera.
“The History of the Indian Tribes of North America” is a collection of hand colored lithographic prints on loan from Omaha’s Joslyn Art Museum. The exhibit features 67 painted portraits of 19th century Native Americans. Audrey Kauders, director of the MONA, said the collection is a must see. “Not only is the exhibition stunning to view, it provides an in-depth exploration of the lives of these individuals and their culture,” she said. “It draws one into the world of these native dignitaries.”
During the 19th century, the government was rapidly expanding, and so was the country. Starting in 1821, tribal chiefs were invited to Washington, D.C. to negotiate land treaties. Thomas McKenny, the government’s Superintendent for Indian Affairs at the time, was eager to document the Native Americans and their way of life before it vanished. He enlisted the help of artists, such as Charles Bird King, to paint portraits of these tribal leaders.
“Each portrait depicts a tribal leader, many in traditional dress, which gives a pictorial study of the tribes and their important members,” Kauders said.
The result was over 140 paintings, complete with information on the subject and the tribe. The portraits were published in three volumes: one in 1836, one in 1838 and one in 1844. The original paintings were eventually transferred to the newly established Smithsonian Institution where a fire destroyed several of them.
Kauders said the exhibition is an excellent opportunity for students and community members to experience history. She also said its an excellent opportunity to catch a glimpse of what was happening in the Midwest almost 200 years ago. “Most of the tribes represented in the exhibition were from this geographic region.”
Luckily for us, digital cameras and cell phones have replaced paper and paint. For a look at the old-school system, visit the exhibition before it's gone Dec. 5.