“As a displaced Chiricahua Apache, I was raised outside of the Oklahoma plains my relatives call home. In the Deep South where I was born, the Civil War dominates everyone's thoughts, even today (…) Most people view the use of stereotypical, frozen-in-the-past images in museums as simply politically incorrect in an age where "collaboration" with the natives is required. I argue that what we are dealing with extends far beyond the boundaries of the latest fashion of museum curation. Once historic criteria become ingrained in a group's psyche, it is difficult, if not impossible to act as a dynamic, empowered people. Collaboration means nothing in the context of a historically pure narrative. The refusal to acknowledge contemporary thought as valid in and of itself is simply another acculturation device.
I am not suggesting that all history museums be abolished, nor do I think that the discipline of history is inherently colonialist. From my perspective as an anthropologist and a Native American, I believe that the privileging of a "safe" history is detrimental to tribes such as mine that desperately need to develop a sense of dignity based on who we are, not who we were. If historic models are utilized, perhaps they could be modified to reflect the native experience (…)
Couldn’t the concept of the holocaust museum be just as appropriate for recognizing the genocide of American Indians? Why are we always celebrating the survival of Native American culture, instead of truly understanding just how much we have lost and how we have lost it? It is this type of representation I am interested in and as far as I know, no museums are talking about my people truthfully in this manner. Perhaps museums are not the right vehicle for this type of work. Perhaps it is up to our intellectuals, writers and artists to tell these stories.
But before any of this work can be pursued, we have to acknowledge our own holocaust. Like any addiction, we must first recognize there is a problem and name it. Our absolute worship of the past, supported by the consumer version of "living history" is a toxic state of denial in which to live. The privileging of the past has stolen our future”.
MITHLO, Nancy Marie - History is dangerous
Artwork: Evacuation (Evacuació). Helios Gómez, 1937. Oil on canvas.