Memories can be embarrassing. Look back a few years or a few decades, and it's easy to cringe at the beliefs you held or the behavior you found acceptable. We don't like to be reminded of that early version of ourselves, but we carry within us the remnant of who we used to be.
The same holds true for cultures. American history offers many things to make us proud, but there are just as many actions we've undertaken and attitudes we've held that we'd just as soon forget. And yet, to truly understand who we are, in all our complexity, we need to acknowledge the past -- both the glories and the gaffes.
That's the idea behind "Living Legacy," the new exhibit of items from the MAC's extensive and prestigious American Indian collection. The legacy of museum collecting over the past century is indeed a mixed bag, and the museum's own collection echoes that tension.
"When we started looking at it, we realized we wanted to [create] an exhibit that looked at the mixed legacy of collecting Indian cultural materials," says Curator of Collections Laura Thayer, who served as the exhibit's project manager. "So in this exhibit we try to show the more negative aspects of that, and what we hope are the more positive, contemporary aspects."
The exhibit serves as a look in the memory mirror for the MAC. "It's a historic journey of the evolution of this organization," Thayer says, "of how we went from collecting objects from a race of people that everybody at the time thought would disappear, to a more modern approach of involving tribal members in the management of the collection."
Spokane's museum got its start back in 1916, when William M. Manning -- a former surveyor and Stevens County engineer -- loaned his collection of American Indian cultural materials to the nascent Spokane Historical Society for an exhibit. Two years later, the organization became the Eastern Washington State Historical Society; several years after that, the museum finally got a permanent home when Helen Campbell Powell donated her family's house in Browne's Addition. The organization continued to grow and expand to its present form: the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. But the very first pieces acquired -- Accession No. 1, in museum-speak -- came from Manning.
At the time that Manning was amassing his collection (roughly 1900 to 1915), non-Indian collectors of Indian cultural materials believed that tribal culture was disappearing across the continent, and they set out to collect and document as much of this culture as possible before it was gone. At a meeting of the historical society in 1916, Manning reportedly said that "much can be gathered in the way of historical material from the Indians if an effort is made before it is too late."
Unfortunately, Manning and others had little understanding of what was considered sacred among Native cultures -- and the resultant hurt and anger continue to this day. And once the materials made their way into museums and exhibits, most of their stories -- the cultural and personal context -- were lost.
In "Living Legacy," six glass cases in the center of the gallery hold several items on display. "The cases provide a good preservation environment for a long-term exhibit like this one," Thayer says, "but they're also a metaphor for how these objects were perceived [by the collectors] as art objects, divorced from their meaning."
The Manning collection was the starting point for the exhibit, but objects from other significant collections tell part of the story of the Northern Plateau tribes as well. "Tisa [Matheson, curator of American Indian collections,] chose objects from other collections within the American Indian collection," says Thayer, "other major collections that are factors in how prominent and important our Plateau collection is today."
One of those is the Chap Dunning collection, she says. "At the time it was acquired in '62, it was considered to be the most important and high-quality Northern Plateau collection on the planet," she says. "Even now, with the addition of the MONAC collection, her collection makes up one-third of our Plateau collection."
Many of the items from the Dunning collection that are part of the exhibit can be seen in historic photographs taken by Dunning's friend, photographer Dick Lewis. The photographs become a step along the path to reconnect the objects with their stories.
The MAC continues to collect items from area cultures, including local tribes, but now the focus is more on working jointly with the tribes to assure the stewardship of our regional cultural heritage. Following passage of the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) in 1990, regional tribes and the museum worked to develop a closer relationship. One result was the creation of the museum's American Indian Cultural Council, with representation from the four Northern Plateau tribes. The Council oversees the museum's American Indian collections, programs and exhibits -- including this one.
"The Cultural Council has the final say with anything that's done with the [American Indian] collection," says Thayer.
In addition to the historical collections, the exhibit features the work of contemporary artists from the Plateau region.
"We recently developed and adopted a five-year collecting plan for all the collections," Thayer says. "This exhibit comes at a great time because it gives us the impetus to carry out the acquisition plan, and show it off right away."
One of the featured artists is basket maker Elaine Timentwa Emerson of the Colville Confederated Tribes. Her work has been featured at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, and the MAC recently acquired one of her baskets for its permanent collection. Her baskets are beautiful, but her words speak just as eloquently: "I make baskets," she says, "because I want people to know... we are still here."
"Living Legacy: The American Indian Collection" is on display through July 18, 2010. The MAC, 2316 W. First Ave., is open Tuesdays-Sundays from 11 am-5 pm. Tickets: $7; $5, seniors and students. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 456-3931.
By Jack Nisbet
At the end of the 19th century, the Inland Northwest abounded with mineral wealth -- from silver in the Coeur d'Alenes to lead-zinc strikes on the lower Pend Oreille, from the huge gold mines in Rossland to the Copper Queen on Chewelah Mountain. Young men of all descriptions found their way to Spokane to fan out and stake a claim.
William Morley Manning's story begins there -- a kid bouncing back and forth between his home in Ontario, Canada, and the region's mines. In the years to come, he'd leave his mark on the Inland Northwest, but not for mining. Manning was a collector of Indian artifacts -- a controversial collector -- and his collection was the starting point for the museum that has since become the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. Along the way, Manning met legendary local tribal leaders like Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, Chief Masseslow of the Kalispel Tribe and William Three Mountain the Younger of the Spokanes. Now the MAC's latest and perhaps most ambitious show since 2001, "Living Legacy," is bringing Manning's collection -- along with other historical materials and contemporary artworks -- out for all to see.
As early as 1897, a 20-year-old Manning filed for U.S. citizenship in Idaho, but then he retreated back to Toronto to enroll in a course for mining engineers. Although there is no evidence he ever received any kind of degree, he soon found his way back West and put whatever skills he had gained to use; the 1900 Washington state census lists Manning as a 23-year-old assayer in Stevens County, which at that time covered the entire northeast corner of the state and encompassed several rich mining districts.
That region also boiled with a host of unresolved Indian land issues -- although the Spokane and Colville reservations had been established, there were still families living on traditional lands in the Colville and Kettle River valleys. A large portion of the Kalispel tribe had refused to move to the Flathead Reservation in Montana, and still lived in the Pend Oreille Valley without any treaty benefits at all.
Manning plunged into these territorial matters when he became involved with some mining claims on First Thought Mountain just west of Orient on the Kettle River. And over the next couple of years, Manning met Chief Joseph on the Colville Reservation and started his collecting by purchasing some artifacts from him. Manning described one of them as a council pipe:
...of serpentine rock having a solid silver inlay from end to end ... It is about 12 inches long, one and a half at large end by three quarters at small end and weighs about a couple of pounds. This pipe was a personal gift from Chief Joseph and is contained in a leather case which is beaded to represent the design on the pipe.
In his account, written two decades after the fact, Manning related nothing about how he came in contact with Joseph, or what he might have done to deserve such a gift, but such exchanges would not have been considered unusual at the time. Chief Joseph was a well-known figure, respected by many in the white community for the resilience and humanity he displayed during the Nez Perce conflict of 1877-78, and his fame had only increased as he was exiled first to Oklahoma and then to the Colville Reservation. Many white collectors recognized the cultural value and craftsmanship inherent in tribal artifacts, and many tribal people sold or made them as a source of income. After Joseph's death in 1904, headdresses and clothing articles that were said to have belonged to the famous Nez Perce chief went on display in towns throughout the Inland Northwest.
Manning became acquainted with other people on the Colville Reservation besides Chief Joseph, and he purchased a range of other artifacts from them. These included a fish spear carved from a cedar shaft 16 feet long that ended in two delicate long tines. The fork was held apart by a spreader, and a running noose of native hemp ran from the lower end to an iron point that fit into a socket in the center. Minus the iron spear point, this was exactly the rigging described in words by fur trapper and explorer David Thompson when he visited Kettle Falls in 1811, and shown in a painting by Paul Kane on the same site in 1847. According to Manning, the Colville fisherman was well aware of his spear's value as both an artifact and a useful tool.
"The Indian from whom I got this spear would not sell me the 16-foot pole at any price but permitted me to cut off the pole just above the spear crotch attachment," Manning wrote. "These fish spears are not to be found any more in this section of the country."
During the early years of the 20th century, Manning shuttled between Colville and Spokane, and by 1905 he had signed on as a member of the mining and geology committee for a newly formed historical society in Spokane. At the same time he continued to collect tribal artifacts, and his contacts branched out from the Colville to the Kalispel.
During that same time, Masseslow (see story, page 24) and other Kalispel people had also sold a variety of cultural objects to Manning, including more than a dozen beautiful flat twined bags, with both traditional and modern designs, constructed of traditional materials such as Indian hemp, wild rye, corn husks and rawhide ties. Manning had bought gloves, leggings, tobacco pouches, belts, parfleches (folded bags made from animal hide), mortars and pestles, cedar weaving needles and a pack saddle fashioned from wood, elk horn and rawhide.
When Kalispel tribal elder Francis Cullooyah thumbs through the list of Manning purchases today, practically every object reminds him of another scene from his own youth -- leggings he saw at a dance, one old woman dipping fingers into her tobacco pouch, a pack saddle buried in the mud for who knows how long before someone stepped on it while climbing up the bank from a creek.
In 1906, Manning became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He was still based in Stevens County, and the local Colville newspaper began running humorous lines about seeing "Bill" in Spokane with a lady friend named Pet Cummings, who he later married. During this period, Manning's job as a road surveyor required him to trace boundary lines on the Spokane Reservation. There Manning developed a relationship with a tribal leader named William Three Mountain the Younger (see story, page 26). Once again, the young mining engineer, not yet 30 years old, had stumbled into one of the leading figures of a tribe involved in serious questions of territory, removal and cultural survival.
In 1916, the Spokane Historical Society, precursor to the current Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, mounted a display of "curios" on the third floor of Spokane's City Hall. An article in a city newspaper recorded the transactions of the meeting.
W.M. Manning, who has loaned to the historical society the largest single exhibit, said much can be gathered in the way of historical material from the Indians if an effort is made before it is too late. He spent several years in collecting his exhibit.
Manning valued his collection at $1,200. That original display moved several times over the years, and in 1924 Manning removed certain items, including Chief Joseph's council pipe, from the exhibit. Aside from the absence of those items, Manning's collection has remained with the Eastern Washington State Historical Society ever since.
Manning moved to Helena in the 1930s. In 1944, while inspecting a mine in the Garnet Range, he suffered a heart attack and died within a few days. In the early 1950s, Joel Ferris of the Eastern Washington State Historical Society officially purchased Manning's collection of tribal material from his widow for a price of $750. Today, that collection is at the center of the MAC's American Indian collection -- and the largest collection of Plateau cultural materials anywhere in the world.
In going through the artifacts, curators found that Manning had collected scattered items from a variety of cultures, including the Southwest and Coastal traditions. Some of these may have been trade items in the possession of local tribes, and Manning had misidentified the origin of several of his artifacts. The museum also found that the collector had picked up rather than purchased some of the items. These included a handful of grave goods from the Spokane Reservation. The robbing of ancestral graves by white collectors has long been a source of tremendous bitterness among tribal members, and Manning was certainly guilty of it to some degree. Many collectors of his time, no matter how much they respected the work and culture of the tribes, felt that American Indians would surely soon be extinct, and that by holding an artifact a white person could "own" pieces of that vanished history.
But Manning and those many others were wrong. All the Plateau tribes survived; their culture is very much alive. The MAC now has an American Indian Cultural Council that oversees their important collection of tribal artifacts, including the Manning collection.
Over time, all objects of ceremonial or spiritual importance associated with his collection have been repatriated to the appropriate tribes -- those items will be represented in "Living Legacy" as empty spaces. But the articles that he purchased fairly and with respect from tribal members will be on display because the tribes themselves want to share them with the larger community.
"We will move on," says Michael Holloman, director of the Center for Plateau Cultural Studies at the MAC, "with the understanding that we are not going to tell the story of these pieces in the same way that Manning did. They belong to the history of the tribes that made them."
Jack Nisbet and his wife Claire were consultants for the MAC's "Living Legacy" exhibit.
By Jack Nisbet
One of William Morley Manning's prized purchases was a beautiful 12-foot sturgeon-nosed canoe from Chief Masseslow, a well-known Kalispel leader who at the time was fighting a protracted legal battle with the U.S. government over a separate reservation for the Kalispel people.
"This canoe was made for me in 1905 by totally blind Chief Massalaw of the Boundary (Kalispel) tribe, Pend d'Oreille River, Washington," wrote Manning in a brief note. "Ends bound with birch bark and sealed with pine pitch."
The following summer Manning bought "buckskin moccasins & amp; other clothing from Kalispel Indians at 4th of July celebration" in Cusick.
It's impossible to say how much Manning might have known about the contentious history of the Kalispel situation at the time he was buying these articles, but his collecting habit drew him into contact with the tribe's most important political figure of that time.
Masseslow was born in 1826 near the present Kalispel Reservation, across the Pend Oreille River from Cusick, Wash. His father Victor was a secondary leader who grew in stature after the Americans assumed control of Washington Territory. After Victor was elected as chief of the Kalispel people in 1853, he consistently argued for a Kalispel homeland on the Pend Oreille River, discouraged the encroachment of white settlers and resisted sending Kalispel children to the agency school because he thought it was important that they should speak the Kalispel language instead of English. In 1884, when the aged Victor appeared before agent Sidney Waters on the arm of his son, Masseslow, Waters described the chief as "the wildest of all Indians attached to this agency."
In 1887, Victor and Masseslow attended a crucial negotiation between the Northwest Indian Commission and the Kalispels in Sandpoint. There agent John Wright, a former Tennessee congressman and Confederate colonel, promised that if the Kalispel people would leave their valley home and resettle on the Colville, Coeur d'Alene or Flathead Reservations, the U.S. government would offer them land, implements and an annual stipend for Victor.
Victor replied that he would rather stay and see his home. "The old people that are blind and crawling about. What will become of them? Must I take them and pack them on my back to the Flathead reservation?"
Masseslow next rose and stated, "The little quarter of money you offer will not make us happy. We will not be happy till we die. I am a chief, and these are my people." The Kalispels then retired to council together, and over the next three days "obstinately demanded a reservation within the boundary of the lands claimed by them." Although some Kalispels did move to the Flathead Reservation, the treaty submitted to Congress was not signed by Masseslow and therefore considered invalid.
After the Pend Oreille Valley was opened to white settlers in 1890, Masseslow continued to resist offers to buy up Indian land on the east side of the Pend Oreille River. Reports of ongoing conflicts led to the summoning of Captain J.W. Bubb from Fort Spokane to investigate the situation. Chief Masseslow met directly with Bubb and demanded action, "complaining that his people in the Calispel valley are being abused by white settlers, taking their lands from them and threatening their lives."
Masseslow did befriend some settlers, and the tribal relationship with white residents and visitors was economically complex. When John Brown's cabin burned, it was Masseslow who provided Brown's family with blankets, cooking utensils and new moccasins for his little girl. During the early 1900s, a steamboat company advertised trips from Newport to Box Canyon as a summer day trip, with a stop at the Kalispel tribe's summer encampment. During these tourist visits, "Kalispel women traded briskly in trinkets and beadwork."
During those same years, Masseslow traveled to see agent John Webster at the Colville agency in Miles to plead for a school and church for his people. When Webster reciprocated by visiting the Kalispels on their homeland around 1905, it marked the tribe's first visit from a Bureau agent in a decade. Since W.M. Manning's name is mentioned in a business letter to Webster, it is possible that the Indian agent formed the connection between the miner and the chief, because 1905 also happened to be the year that W. M. Manning obtained his sturgeon-nosed canoe from Masseslow. Since Manning stated that Masseslow was completely blind by then, Kalispel elder Francis Cullooyah suggests that the canoe may have been fashioned by some or all of the chief's four understudies at that time.
By 1908, Masseslow had named John Bigsmoke as his successor, but even in his later years he remained a familiar figure to both locals and visitors. When photographer Edward Curtis visited the Kalispel people, he took several dramatic photographs of the blind chief, and Masseslow's name appeared regularly in the Newport and Spokane newspapers. One article describes how Father Taelman of Gonzaga traveled to the Calispel Valley on Christmas Eve 1912. He was rowed across the river from Cusick to meet Masseslow and John Bigsmoke, then performed a midnight mass in honor of the holiday. Masseslow, more than 85 years old at the time, addressed the congregation in the Kalispel language. That same year he retired as chief, but was still active in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson finally signed the order creating the Kalispel Reservation.
When Masseslow passed away in 1920, he was well into his 90s. He had watched his Kalispel people survive the fur trade, missionary, mining and settlement eras, and helped guide them to the return of their homeland sovereignty.
WILLIAM THREE MOUNTAIN
By Jack Nisbet
In 1906, while working as a road surveyor in Stevens County, William Morley Manning first met a tribal leader named William Three Mountain the Younger. The Three Mountain name predates the early missionary era among the Spokane people.
Spokane tribal elder Pauline Flett explains that Spokane language renders it as Chah-tle-hsote, (three-bare peaks-snag) and evokes the story of an epic journey. "Tle means mountain," Flett says. "We remember hsote, a forest of bare trees, maybe a big burn, maybe a storm of some kind. The original Three Mountain crossed through that bare forest three times going over the mountain. Probably to the coast, we think, because in those days when we said 'the Mountain' we meant the Cascade Mountains, and crossing over them meant going to the coast."
As a teenager, William Three Mountain the Elder lived with the family of Reverend Elkanah Walker at Tshimakain Mission near what is now Colville as early as 1839. He left after two years, and in time assumed the leadership of a band of Spokanes that spent a good part of the year at the mouth of Latah Creek. After the modern city began to form around Spokane Falls, this band moved to Deep Creek and then to the West End of the present Spokane Reservation. Throughout his life, Three Mountain the Elder played a chief's role in questions of tribal politics, resettlement and religion. In fact, he was killed trying to mediate a dispute in 1883.
William Three Mountain the Younger was born about 1864. He grew into a tall man, "always a head above everyone else" at gatherings. Around 1900, he was elected as chief of the band his father had led to the West End opposite the mouth of Deep Creek. Like his father, William took active and sometimes controversial stands in politics and religion.
Three Mountain the Younger and his wife Mattie developed a farm near Detillion Bridge, eight miles upstream from the mouth of the Spokane River.
"There was a distinctive rock in the river there, we called it Detillion Rock," recalls Pauline Flett, "with the old A-frame Presbyterian Church nearby. William Three Mountain's house was just a stone's throw from Detillion Rock."
In 1907 and again around 1912, Captain John Webster of the Bureau of Indian Affairs assessed Three Mountain the Younger's work as one of three judges for the Agency Court sessions: "Intelligent, serious, dignified and straight-forward, with courage and integrity. By temperament an old-time Indian who recognizes ... the new conditions thrust upon his people ... he brings to his duties intelligent observation. Keen analysis of evidence and strict impartiality."
In 1912, when Three Mountain strenuously objected to Webster's attempts to erect a sawmill on the West End, the agent seemed to understand Three Mountain's concern. "Like most of the old full bloods he is averse to the introduction of certain devices of the white man on the reservation -- such as railroads, sawmills, etc."
Once again, Manning may have been introduced to the Three Mountain through his relationship with John Webster. Census records show that in 1905, Mattie Three Mountain was living with her husband William near the proposed road between Detillion Bridge and the Turk Mines. W.M. Manning surveyed this road three years later, and in 1911, Mattie Three Mountain affixed her thumbprint to an agreement giving consent for a new wagon road 20 feet wide to open along the south boundary of her allotment. In return, an existing wagon road that crossed the northwestern corner of her allotment would be closed.
At some point during these years, Manning purchased a pair of Mattie's moccasins right off her feet and entered them into his collection as item No. 88. The moccasins are tiny and most beautifully made.
Woman's buckskin moccasins, bought from wife of Chief Three Mountain of the Spokanes, who were at the time, wearing them. Solid beaded design in blue, green, yellow, old rose and purple. 7 1/2" long. Beaded on front and outside only.
It was probably also around this time that Manning purchased catalogue item No. 105 from Mattie's husband.
Bow of iron wood, back lined with deer sinew firmly attached by fish glue. Both ends so fashioned as to form when strung a cupid bow. 36 inches long. Five plain, wooden or target (Bird) arrows attached. Very old, obtained from Chief Three Mountain of Spokanes.
William Three Mountain the Younger died at his home near Detillion Bridge in January of 1939. He was survived by his widow Mattie and one son. Mattie lived in the house until the plans for Grand Coulee Dam forced her to move higher up on the hillside in 1941.
A WALK THROUGH HISTORY
By Ann M. Colford
The collections you see here are not artifacts," reads the gallery's opening text. "They are a living legacy bound within the continuum of cultural tradition and modern Plateau Indian life."
That's a bold and direct statement of the theme behind the "Living Legacy" exhibit, the first major display from the MAC's nationally significant American Indian collection in five years. With this exhibit, which just opened last week, the museum team has undertaken two tasks -- to display some of the Indian materials that the public has been clamoring to see, and to cast a critical eye on museum practices of the past.
Around the perimeter, visitors see items collected by William M. Manning, including a canoe made for him by Kalispel Chief Masseslow and a cornhusk bag acquired from William Three Mountain of the Spokane Tribe.
The story of Manning's interactions with local tribal people illustrates the complexities when two cultures meet -- especially when there's a power differential between the two groups. Non-Indian Americans in the Victorian era felt comfortable acquiring objects from people perceived as "other" and putting them on display as exotic art objects. On the other hand, Indian people frequently participated in this commerce with non-Indian collectors -- it was one more source of trade in a changing world.
The interpretive text on the walls and at five learning stations tells this story and provides some of the cultural context for the materials on view. But the six glass display cases in the center of the gallery are the visual draw for visitors. The cases hold stunningly colorful beaded bags, detailed woven bags and baskets, tools, toys and articles of clothing, all arranged on glass shelves with no labels or descriptions immediately apparent -- much as they would have been displayed in Manning's day. The interpretive material is separate, in an 84-page exhibit catalog set on a table between the cases.
The idea behind the design is to juxtapose the old and new museum exhibit methods "to symbolize the mixed legacy of collecting American Indian cultural materials." But that symbolism only works when visitors take the time to find and read the accompanying materials. A century's worth of old-style exhibits have trained us to gaze at the pretty things behind glass, and most of Saturday's visitors bypassed the text and went straight to the objects in the cases, sans context.
The exhibit concludes with pieces recently added to the MAC's permanent collection from three local contemporary American Indian artists -- George Flett, Josiah Blackeagle Pinkham and Elaine Timentwa Emerson. More than anything else, the current work makes the "living" part of "Living Legacy" real.