By John Haworth
November is Native American Heritage Month. With the largest urban Native American population (approximately 90,000 people) in the country, New York City certainly is “Indian Country." The National Museum of the American Indian, the American Indian Community House and American Indian Artists (AMERINDA) are three organizations whose focus is in the field of Native American arts and culture. What makes New York City an extraordinary Native Place, however, is the diversity of museums and other cultural organizations that present Native American exhibitions and programs. Several of New York’s finest museums – from El Museo del Barrio to the Brooklyn Museum to the American Museum of Natural History – have Native American art and cultural material in their permanent collections.
Looking directly to the West of the National Museum of the American Indian, I have a full view Ellis Island. How amazing it is to work in a cultural institution dedicated to presenting the cultures of the People Who Were First Here, and look across the Hudson River at an institution focusing on the People Who Came Here. The relationship of these two groups is at the center of the American narrative.
2009 is the year of the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain 400th Anniversary when we consider the contributions of the Dutch to New York City. This is also a good time for all of us to think more deeply about the contributions of Native America throughout time.
John Haworth directs the National Museum of the American Indian’s George Gustav Heye Center in Lower Manhattan. He chairs the Museum Association of New York, and serves on the boards of Americans for the Arts and the Arts & Business Council of New York. Mr. Haworth will be honored by the American Indian Community House at their 2nd Annual Honoring the Spirit Awards Dinner in early November for Outstanding Community Leadership. He is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.