Native American Heritage Month is a time when people often seek to know and experience more about Indigenous art and culture. The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is an excellent resource. The main galleries devoted to Native art were reinstalled in 2014—as Art and Life Along the Northwest Coast—with historical and contemporary works in dialogue; that ethos has since flowed into the more recent reinstallations in the American and modern and contemporary galleries. Works by contemporary artists are displayed with older historic pieces, creating a visual dialogue that continues throughout the museum, with works grouped by genre and topic as well as ethnographic considerations.
This gives a sense of cultural continuity and showcases the vitality of Indigenous arts and crafts—the very real living tradition of artistic creation in the Native community—while placing it firmly within the greater realm of worldwide arts and culture movements. These pieces were not created in a vacuum, and the artists were informed and influenced by worldwide trends as well as long standing traditions.
SAM respectfully acknowledges being on Indigenous land, in the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. Its collection honors the ongoing connection to these communities now, in the past, and in the future. Here are ten pieces deemed “must see” by museum staff, curators and visitors.