The Navajo nation is the largest Indian Reservation in the United States. Mostly in Arizona, it completely surrounds the 12th largest, The Hopi. Five of the 12 largest Native American reservations are in Arizona. The others are the 3rd largest Tohono O’odham, the 10th largest San Carlos, and the 11th largest Fort Apache or White Mountain Apache Tribe. There are 21 federally recognized tribes in Arizona filling 28% of State land and comprising 38% of the U.S. reservation total. This makes it understandable why the best museum devoted to the culture and art of Southwest Native People, the Heard, is in Phoenix.
Ruth and I visit it long ago and marveled at the Goldwater Katsinas, warrior dolls used to instruct. Vivid memories of them led us back to The Heard in January, 2013. We found the Heard better than ever and, clearly, a 5 Compass travel experience.
Founded in 1929 by Dwight & Maie Heard, this venerable Museum has expanded to a virtual campus and added a branch in North Scottsdale that Ruth & I have not seen yet. Since the year 2000, a 7.6 million dollar renovation has transformed the Heard at 2301 North Central Avenue near downtown Phoenix. Its main permanent gallery, the excellent HOME: Native People in the Southwest, resulted. There are 4 other Ongoing Exhibitions including the heart-wrenching “Remembering Our Indian School Days”.
Most of the rest of the Heard is temporary exhibitions like the current “New World’s Contributions to Food Explained in Chocolate, Chili and Cochineal: Changing Taste Around the World” a scholarly and complex name for a display with built-in crowd appeal that can be summed up with one word–CHOCOLATE. It’s there until October 27, 2013.
The world-traveling Heards began collecting in 1892 and moved from Chicago to Phoenix 3 years later. The Heard Museum opened in 1929 to display their treasures from Sudan, Oceania, etc. with seemingly no particular focus on their growing Southwest collection, the spark for the 21st century Heard.
The Goldwater Katsina doll collection, more than 400 cottonwood creations, are still on display and still worth a trip to the Heard all by themselves.
Although she was a New Mexican artist (the San Ildefonso Pueblo NW of Santa Fe), potter Maria Martinez, my favorite Native American artist, is represented in the Heard with 6 masterful bowls.
Did you know that cotton is historically an important crop in Arizona? Neither did I until I revisited the Heard and learned from a snowbird docent about the Akimel O’odham people, once known as Pimas. A cotton from South America was named for them when they helped raise it on experimental farms early in the last century. Ira Hayes who helped to raise the flag on Iwo Jima was an Akimel O’odham.