Los Angeles and Phoenix aren’t the only cities with news in
their Southwest Indian museums (see page 78). Sunset polled nearly 40
museums that devote significant display space to Southwest Indian
subjects and found the following 15 with new displays and other
Some of these showplaces take a general look, but many are tightly
focused on a subject or region. Any one offers entree into Indian
studies or even nearby Indian country. All have gift shops and many
have excellent research facilities. ARIZONA
Flagstaff. Museum of Northern Arizona. Created 57 years ago to
halt the shipping of artifacts by boxcar loads from Southwest
excavations to institutions in the East, this museum–with an
anthropology collection of more than a million objects–is still the
primary repository of Indian finds from digs on nearby national park and
U.S. Forest Service land.
Newest permanent exhibit, “Native Peoples of the Colorado
Plateau,” examines cultures of Indians living in northern Arizona
and the Four Corners region. Don’t miss the full-size reproduction
of a Hopi kiva, with original murals from the prehistoric site of
Special exhibits change every two or three months. Through March
17 you’ll see “Clay Lockett: Southwesterner,” with 100 of
the many Indian crafts collected over a lifetime (1906 to 1984) by
Lockett, for years owner of the museum’s gift shop.
Location: 3 miles north of town on U.S. 180. Open 9 to 5 daily;
$2 adults, $1 students 5 to 21; (602) 774-5211. The museum has an
active education program including archeological classes for adults and
children, tours, and lectures.
Parker. Colorado River Indian Tribes Museum. Late January was
target opening time for an expanded museum devoted to the four tribes
sharing 278,000 acres: the Mohave and Chemehuevi tribes who historically
have lived here, plus Navajo and Hopis, relocated here in the 1930s.
A highlight is the world’s best Chemehuevi basket collection,
with split willow and devil’s claw baskets woven during the past
century. Mary Lou Brown demonstrates basket weaving most days.
The museum is 2 miles south of Parker on Mohave Road at Agency
Road. Open 8 to 5 weekdays, 10 to 3 Saturdays; free. Call (602)
669-9211 to confirm reopening.
Phoenix. Pueblo Grande Museum. Evidence that ancestors of the
Hohokam lived in the Salt River Valley as long ago as 300 B.C., much
earlier than previously documented, is on view in “Under the
Blade.” It shows discoveries from two recent Phoenix digs and adds
to the museum’s collection of 20,000 Hohokam items from land
adjoining the museum.
This prehistoric farming city, with as many as 10,000 people within
1 square mile, had sophisticated canal systems, many along routes still
used today. The digs can be explored outside the museum.
Location: 4619 E. Washington Street. Open Mondays through
Saturdays 9 to 4:45, Sundays 1 to 4:45; 50 cents for ages 6 and older;
(602) 275-3452. Ask about workshops this month in beadwork and Indian
Near Sacaton. Gila River Arts and Crafts Center. The Pima and
Maricopa tribes recently opened Heritage Park, an outdoor re-creation of
Apache, Hohokam, Maricopa, Papago, and Pima villages.
Location: 30 miles south of Phoenix, just west of I-10 (exit 175).
Open 9 to 5 daily; closed holidays; $1, 50 cents ages 6 to 17; (602)
562-3411. No fee to see exhibit inside the arts and crafts center;
restaurant serves Indian specialties.
Tucson. Museum of Arizona. To celebrate the University of
Arizona’s centennial, this campus opens “Curators’
Choice, Treasures from the Arizona State Museum” on February 10.
Of the items chosen from the 100,000-piece archives, many will come from
the museum’s special strength: the world’s largest collection
of Hohokam artifacts and a notable collection from Western Apache
Also see “Shelter of Caves.” Installed last year, this
life-size diorama of a pueblo cave dwelling shows how archeologists
excavate caves, what they find, and how they interpret that material.
Across the street in the Anthropology Building, “Images Across
the Years” documents the museum’s 92-year history with
photographs and text. Both shows will remain up through September 14.
On University Boulevard just inside the U of A’s Park Avenue
entrance, the museum and photo gallery are open 9 to 5 Mondays through
Saturdays, 2 to 5 Sundays; free; (602) 621-6302.
Window Rock. Navajo Tribal Museum. totally renovated in 1981, the
Navajos’ stylish small museum is an excellent introduction to
Navajo country, present-day and prehistoric. In telling the story, it
makes good use of photographs and text as well as Navajo crafts and
historic items. Each month one gallery showcases a contemporary Navajo
In town, on State Highway 264, it is in the Navajo Arts and Crafts
Building. Open 9 to 4:45 weekdays; closed national and tribal holidays;
free; (602) 871-6673. CALIFORNIA
Los Angeles. Southwest Museum at ARCO Plaza. This downtown branch
of the Highland Park museum (page 78) opened last November in the former
ARCO Center for Visual Arts. As a stage for eight-week exhibitions, the
3,100-square-foot space lets the museum share more of its collections
with the public.
Its shows frequently focus on southwest cultures and history: from
March 20 through May 18, you’ll see 30 Navajo weavings made from
1850 through 1985.
The ARCO Plaza branch is on B level of ARCO Tower North, 515 S.
Flower Street. Open 9:30 to 5:30 weekdays, 11 to 5:30 Saturdays; free;
San Diego. Museum of Man. When San Diego’s Panama-California
Exposition opened in Balboa Park in 1915, the anthropology exhibit
included hundreds of Pueblo ceramics, many dating to the 1800s. Now
through April 7, about 100 are on view for the first time since then.
Along with 150 other pieces, they trace the evolution of Pueblo
ceramics from those made for the user to those made for sale to
tourists. You’ll see large storage containers, bowls, plates, and
water jars. Styles range from the unpainted micaceous clay ware of Taos
to decoratively painted ceramics of the southern pueblos.
The permanent Hopi exhibit was remodeled a few years ago. Besides
a diorama of life on a mesa, you’ll see exhibits of bells, rattles,
basketry, toys and games, pottery, kachinas, textiles, jewelry, and a
full-size reproduction of a Hopi house.
Location: the landmark California Tower building, west end of El
Prado in Balboa Park. Open 10 to 4:30 daily. Admission: $2; 50 cents
San Diego County students; 25 cents ages 6 through 16; first Tuesday of
each month free; (619) 239-2001.
Santa Ana. Bowers Museum. In 1982, a renovated gallery of Native
American artifacts reopened. Backdropped by a mural of Anasazi cliff
dwellings in southwestern Colorado, the exhibits include 50 prehistoric
Anasazi ceramic ladles from the largest collection in the West.
Location: 2002 N. Main Street. Open 10 to 5 Tuesdays through
Fridays, noon to 5 weekends. Admission by donation; (714) 972-1900. For
information on workshops (beadwork, kachina carving, and so on), call
Paul Apodaca at (714) 639-9206.
Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Exhibits
installed in Fleischmann Audiorium in 1982 and 1983 are devoted to
Southwest artifacts. In one case, a loom, carding comb, and other tools
surround a Navajo-dressed mannequin adorned in silver and turquoise belt
and jewelry. Papago and Pima burden carriers and other baskets fill
another. Pueblo objects include a kachina doll, gourd rattles, and
pottery from the Santa Clara, Zuni, and Acoma pueblos.
Location: 2559 Puesta del Sol Road. Open 9 to 5 Mondays through
Saturdays, 10 to 5 Sundays; donation; (805) 682-4711. NEW MEXICO
Albuquerque. Maxwell Museum of Anthropology. At the University of
New Mexico, the Maxwell has some 60,000 catalogued items from native
peoples worldwide, most from the Southwest.
Opening February 12 is “Basketry, Process and Identity,”
a show of 225 Southwest, Northwest, California, and Great Basin baskets
from 1880 to the present. Photographs and interviews with weavers
accompany the display. Also up this month is “Shared Images,”
showing how Spanish weavers and carvers and Rio Grande Pueblo potters
influenced each other’s designs. A permanent exhibit covers
“People in the Southwest.”
Location: north of Grand Avenue on University Boulevard. Open 9 to
4 weekdays, 10 to 4 Saturdays, 1 to 4 Sundays; free; (505) 277-4404.
Ask about frequent workshops and basketry demonstrations.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Visitor Center Museum.
Most space is devoted to life at Chaco from about A.D. 500 until these
cities were abandoned around 1200. A pottery retrospective includes
spectacular effigy jars and tall cylindrical jars in the typical Chacoan
black-on-white designs. You’ll also see turquoise and shell
jewelry, a painted wooden headdress.
Displays explain space-age archeology methods used here in the
1970s, and map the Chacoan influence, locating prehistoric highways
leading from this land.
Location: 70 miles south of Farmington, 170 miles northwest of
Albuquerque. Open 8 to 5 daily; free. Call the park for road and route
information; (505) 786-5384.
Pecos. Pecos National Monument. About 15,000 artifacts excavated
from this former Pueblo Indian trading center by A.V. Kidder and stored
for 60 years with the Peabody Foundation in Massachusetts have come
home. Last August the museum opened in the E.E. Fogelson Visitor
Center, a gift from neighbors Colonel E.E. Fogelson and his wife, Greer
On display are 150 items, mostly bowls, dating from A.D. 800
through its heyday as a Southwest trading center (1300 to 1500) and
ending with the pueblo abandonment in 1838. Unlike anything made in the
Rio Grande Valley Today, they include Pecos’ distinctive shiny
glaze in browns, black, rosy reds, and yellows.
About 25 miles southeast of Santa Fe (and 70 miles northeast of
Albuquerque), the monument is 6 miles off I-25. Open 8 to 5 daily in
winter; (505) 757-6032.
Santa Fe. The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. The
Wheelwright was founded in 1937 to preserve religious objects and
knowledge from Hosteen Klah, renowned Navajo medicine man who feared the
old tribal ways would be lost forever. In 1975 these materials, held in
trust, were given to the Navajo Community College in Tsaile, Arizona.
The museum has broadened its focus to native people of the
Americas, but it’s still known for its unparalleled collection of
Navajo sand paintings, tapestries of sand-painting designs created by
Klah and his family, plus the finest Navajo cultural research collection
in the world.
February 24 through May 12, you’ll see “Iikaah: The
Paintings that Heal,” including some Klah tapestries plus
sand-painting drawings by 56 Navajo artists on brown paper, most never
previously displayed. With just enough alterations to take the
“power” out of them, the drawings are almost identical to sand
paintings done during old Navajo ceremonies.
Location: 704 Camino Lejo. Winter hours are 10 to 4:30 Tuesdays
through Saturdays, 1 to 4:45 Sundays; free; (505) 982-4636.
Ask about sand-painting demonstrations and other special events.
Taos. Millicent Rogers Museum. Last July a new wing opened,
nearly doubling the space in this museum devoted to Southwest Indian and
Proudest new exhibit is “The Maria Poveka Family
Collection,” some 75 pots acquired from the legendary Maria
Martinez (Poveka is her Tewa name). With her husband Julian in the
1920s, she rediscovered how to create shiny black pottery; they invented
the technique of painting on black mat designs. In seven decades, their
family has become an innovative, prolific pottery-making dynasty.
Other new displays highlight the Millicent Rogers collection of
some 4,500 objects, about half collected by the heiress in the
’40s. One exhibit is on Southwest Indian jewelry. Also see
19th-century Navajo and Hispanic textiles; “Pottery of the
Southwest,” from prehistoric times to the present; and “Oo oo
nah,” 75 paintings and drawings by Taos Indian children.
Location: 4 miles north of Taos Plaza; ask locally for directions.
Winter hours are 10 to 4 Wednesdays through Sundays; $3 adults, $1
children and seniors; (505) 758-2462. Ask about workshops, field trips.