American Indian images, names, and stories infuse American history and contemporary life.
The images are everywhere, from the Land O’Lakes butter maiden to the Cleveland Indians’ mascot, and from classic Westerns and cartoons to episodes of Seinfeld and South Park. American Indian names are everywhere too, from state, city, and street names to the Tomahawk missile. And the familiar historical events of Pocahontas’s life, the Trail of Tears, and the Battle of Little Bighorn remain popular reference points in everyday conversations.
Americans highlights the ways in which American Indians have been part of the nation’s identity since before the country began. It will surround visitors with images, delve into the three stories, and invite them to begin a conversation about why this phenomenon exists.
Pervasive, powerful, at times demeaning, the images, names, and stories reveal the deep connection between Americans and American Indians as well as how Indians have been embedded in unexpected ways in the history, pop culture, and identity of the United States.
NMAI Director Kevin Gover discussed some of the exhibition’s themes in his 2015 TEDx Talk, "(Re)Making History: The Real Story is Bigger and Better."