Sunday, August 13, 2017
MID-AMERICA ALL-INDIAN CENTER
MID-AMERICA ALL-INDIAN CENTER
The Mid-America All-Indian Center in Wichita, Ks., focuses on the history and culture of the Nature Americans who originally populated this area.
Our visit started with an excellent film about the career of Francis Blackbear Bosin, a Native American artist who developed a painting style specifically to help Native Americans keep ties with their traditional tribal cultures.
Born in an Indian community he was sent off early to a school that was specifically developed to remove Indian children from their own culture and help them become members of American culture. Another display emphasizes how wide spread the attempts were to put Indian children in boarding schools and convert them to our way of life while destroying theirs.
Blackbear resisted and escaped from the program and spent the rest of his life dedicated to restoring Indian spiritually through his art work.
Blackbear Bosin mural "From Whence All Life"
The center piece of the main display hall is “From Whence All Life,” a lengthy mural Blackbear made for the Credit Bank of Wichita and is now on permanent loan to the museum. In the mural Blackbear is attempting to show the philosophy of life common to this area before the white man came along and not only upset Indian traditions, but tried to eradicate them.
A variety of pots are on display with a list of 19 terms used to describe them. For example, a wedding vase has a double mouth and Micaceous vase is made with glittery mineral mica.
A double mouthed wedding vase
Seventy Native American Flags hand in a large gallery
Seventy Native American flags hang in the large gallery. The comments on each flag shown in the brochure allows the visitor to get a brief history of each of the tribes. The brochure says, "The Mid-America All-Indian Center is proud and honored to fly the colors of these nations. The collection is a tribute to all Native People, and is constantly growing. To add your nations flag to the collection please contact the Museum Staff."
Fifteen of the flags are tribes that are now in Oklahoma. The Ponca tribe of Oklahoma has a different flag than the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. The brochure while explaining the meaning of the symbols on the flags points out that the Ponca Tribe was forcefully moved to Oklahoma, but due to harsh conditions part of the tribe returned to Nebraska.
In the hall of flags is a series of large pictures of Indian tribes doing their special dances, such as the men's Chicken Dance, as a symbol of their Indian identity. There is also a set of instructions for those who want to attend a dance, such as "6. Dance as long and as hard as you can, When not dancing be quiet and respect the Arena."
In one area the Indian Mascot Controversy is discussed. They want no usage of terms like: The Indians, The Braves, or Redskins since they feel these are racial slurs. Since 1963 no new mascots for sports teams with references to Native American have been created and the NCAA has a policy to have colleges remove these mascots that still exist.
After reading the materials I could understand why Redskins was on the negative list, but I still was not sure what they are unhappy about with other names, since it seemed to me in my ignorance that it should be a point of pride that we recognize them as powerful symbols.
Outside the museum overlooking the river stands a 44 foot statue on a 30 foot stone base Keeper of the Plains created by Blackbear Bosin. The Keeper's hands are raised in supplication to the rising sun. At the base are a collection of Indian symbols, weapons and tools.
A small Outdoor Learning Center stands between the statue and the Indian Center. It contains a tipi, a travois and native edible and medicinal plants.
I noticed several dozen children were being led through a hands-on exploration of the center. Museums like this one do a good job of teaching children and adults much about the creativity shown by various cultures.
A 30 foot stone base Keeper of the Plains created by Blackbear Bosin