Digital Exhibit

In Their Own Words: Native Americans in World War I



Joseph LaJeunesse. September 14, 1919, Camp Merritt, NJ. Joseph K. Dixon, photographer.

I am proud that I was the first to enlist and spend more days in trenches than the rest of boys from this Reservation. I've had some close calls too. While going over on the Soissons drive July 18, 1918. a big Shell hit 'bout 2 ft to the right of me and exploded but didn't kill me. it killed two men on the right of me. I was just black with powder. That's all, and if you don't call that luck--- Machine gun bullets tore my breeches all up the same day too.

I think I'm the luckiest Grosventre.
-John W. Smith, South Dakota.

In Their Own Words: Native Americans in World War I an online exhibit organized by the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, tells the story of World War I through the words Native Americans veterans who fought in the "Great War." Thousands of Native Americans, many of whom did not have citizenship rights, volunteered to fight on behalf of the United States of America.

The online exhibit provides an unedited vision into the sentiments, viewpoints, and personal experiences of over 30 Native Americans using photos, letters, and survey responses. "Fight till we couldn't fight no more. We were all shot up. My company went in the battle with 253 men and came out with 66 men. Most of them was killed; some were wounded," wrote Lewis Sanderson, documenting the toll of the war.

Some of the letters also pay tribute to two of the fallen warriors, Elson M. James and Walter R. Sevalier. Sevalier received distinction from U.S. General Pershing as one of the one hundred most heroic soldiers who fought in the war.

The exhibit's materials come from the archives of the Wanamaker Collection, which consists of 8,000 photographic images and 7,750 documents created or compiled by Joseph K. Dixon. The documents include a questionnaire that Dixon sent to Native American veterans in 1919-1920. The Wanamaker Collection contains 2,700 completed questionnaires, and Dixon used this information to demonstrate the Native Americans' commitment to the US and their support of the war effort, regardless of their citizenship status. Dixon's efforts helped create support for the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, making all US Native Americans citizens whether they welcomed that status or not.

 

 

Exhibits


During normal hours of operation, the Mathers Museum Store and Exhibition Hall are open Tuesdays through Fridays, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays, from 1 to 4:30 p.m.


Current Exhibits



Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation
From the builders of some of America's earliest railroads and farms to Civil Rights pioneers to digital technology entrepreneurs, Indian Americans have long been an inextricable part of American life. Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation explores the Indian American experience and the community's vital political, professional, and cultural contributions to American life and history. The exhibition moves past pop-culture stereotypes of Indian Americans to explore the heritage, daily experience, and diverse contributions of Indian immigrants and their descendants in the United States. Weaving together stories of individual achievement and collective struggle, Beyond Bollywood uses photography, narrative, multimedia, and interactive stations to tell a uniquely American story, while conveying the texture, vibrancy, and vitality of Indian American communities. Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation was created by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. The Mathers Museum's presentation of the exhibit, on display through April 10, has been generously funded by Indiana University alumnus Robert N. Johnson, the Madhusudan and Kiran C. Dhar India Studies Program, the Asian American Studies Program, and the Department of American Studies.



Cherokee Craft, 1973 offers a snapshot of craft production among the Eastern Band Cherokee at a key moment in both an ongoing Appalachian craft revival and the specific cultural and economic life of the Cherokee people in western North Carolina. The exhibition showcases woodcarvings, masks, ceramics, finger woven textiles, basketry, and dolls. The works presented are all rooted in Cherokee cultural tradition but all also bear the imprint of the specific individuals who crafted them and the particular circumstances in which these craftspeople made and circulated their handwork. Closes July 1, 2016. Read more »



MONSTERS! are extraordinary or unnatural beings that challenge the predictable fabric of everyday life. This exhibition looks at monsters from around the world, discovering who they are and what purposes they serve in various cultures, as different images of monstrousness emerge from the dark recesses of human imagination. The exhibit will be on display at the museum through December 18, 2016.



Stirring the Pot: Bringing the Wanamakers Home
In 1913, Joseph Dixon visited the Tuscarora Nation, the smallest of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) communities, located in western New York. Dixon photographed six individuals during his visit, and those images became part of the Wanamaker Collection of Native American photographs, now housed at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. While reviewing the collection a few years ago, Joe and Fileve Palmer Stahlman discovered a photograph of Joe's great-great-grandfather, Jefferson Chew. Stirring the Pot: Bringing the Wanamakers Home is a photo essay of the Stahlmans' work to return images of the six Tuscarora ancestors to their present-day descendants, and to learn more about the individuals in the photographs through conversations with those descendants--an act they describe as a form of digital repatriation. The Stahlmans note "the participant's gifts of memory should not be the final reading of these complex images and how they came to be, but another discussion point in a wide array of interweaving between the past and our present, and if we are fortunate, a morsel for remembrance in the future." The exhibit will be on display through May 27, 2016.



Thoughts, Things, and Theories...What Is Culture? explores the nature of culture. Read more »


Upcoming Exhibits


Material Culture: Quilts Inspired by Mathers Museum Artifacts
In the summer of 2014 members of The Charm Club, a group of Indiana-linked quilt makers, toured the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. Inspired by some of the artifacts they saw, the quilt makers used the tour as the basis for a club challenge. Material Culture: Quilts Inspired by Mathers Museum Artifacts showcases the result, displaying both the original artifacts that sparked the quilt makers' creative fire, and their quilted responses to those artifacts.The quilts offer a range of techniques and styles, from traditional block quilts to pictorial to abstract. The museum objects that inspired these works are also varied, and include an aboriginal Australian painting, carved wooden African doors, a pre-Columbian weaving, and a pair of Woodland Indian moccasins. The Charm Club has been in existence since 1988, and members have wide-ranging interests and aesthetic styles, using a variety of techniques to create their quilts. Some adhere more or less closely to the traditions of quilt making while exploring variations of pattern and color. Others work in a contemporary style. Material Culture: Quilts Inspired by Mathers Museum Artifacts will be on display from February 16 to May 15, 2016.