Horse Capture is the Associate Curator of African, Oceanic and Native
American Art at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. With a grant
from the Rockefeller Foundation, Horse Capture has been continuing
the work of his father to track down all of the artifacts of his
tribe - the A'aninin (the White Clay People) - now scattered to
museum collections around the world. Some of the results of his
search are now on display at the MIA. Horse Capture says it was
a moving experience.
is a way for me to connect with my ancestors - which happens rarely.
And I'm really lucky to be in this position to make those connections.
stayed pretty objective throughout this entire exhibition, dealing
with the objects my ancestors created...until the objects started
showing up. This is the first time I've seen all of these objects
together, out in the open. These used to be ours. And in a certain
sense they're still ours - we don't have the title, but we have
the intellectual property and the emotional connection.
Capture is working on creating a database of all the objects he
found, which he plans to copy to cds and send back to the Fort Belknap
Indian Reservation in North Central Montana.
tribe will be able to see the objects their ancestors created. Because
many people don't ever get to see them - they're all gone, in museums.
So part of this project here at the MIA is we're not only featuring
this exhibition on the White Clay people, but we're also giving
back to their community.
the A'aninin are a very small tribe, Horse Capture says their art
was influenced by many other tribes they encountered, creating a
style that is unique to the region. The exhibition is divided into
two rooms - objects created by women, and objects created by men,
or for men. Much of the exhibition features moccasins with richly
have a real affection for moccasins because as native people were
being forced to convert over to western clothing, that's the last
thing they hung onto. You look at these historical photographs -
they'll be wearing these suit coats, and pants and hats, but if
you look at their feet, they're wearing moccasins.
one wall of the gallery is an 8' x 14' muslin teepee liner decorated
with pictographs documenting the feats of warriors. In a rare turn
of luck, Horse Capture was able to locate a key made for the pictographs
created by the man who originally purchased the piece back in 1903.
are labelled "F3" or "C2" - the letter corresponds
to a person, while the number corresponds to a battle or deed. It's
the scenes G1 and G2 that are of particular interest to Joe Horse
is where it gets a little bit kooky...these two are pictures of
my great great grandfather Horse Capture. I've always seen him in
sepia-toned photographs (taken by non-natives) and to now see him
as his own people saw him, based on his accomplishments...it's nice
to see those two things come together.
images depict a warrior in yellow body paint charging on the enemy
amidst a hail of bullets. It's quite different from the stillness
in this portrait by Edward Curtis.
Horse Capture is a bit of a rarity in that he's a second-generation
Native American museum curator. But he hopes more Native Americans
will choose his career path.
way we can continue our tradition is to care for the objects our
ancestors created. I like to think projects like this will encourage
young Native American people to think about working in museums.
Because in the past we've always had non-native anthropologists
interpret our ways. And now as we're incorporating more native people
in museums we're able to tell our own stories. I think this exhibiiton
is a good example of that.
Our Ancestors: Art of the White Clay People" runs through March
7 at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.