July 9th, 2019 Last Updated on: September 22nd, 2022
Native American museums are one of the best opportunities to experience and appreciate Native American history and culture, both past and present. Whether you live on the west coast, the east coast or somewhere in between, there are plenty of options across the U.S. to dive into.
Sadly, many of these cultural centers and museums are not given their due credit and recognition. However, with this list, we hope to bring some much-deserved awareness to these ten American Indian museums.
These museums feature incredible displays of artifacts and historical objects, but they also showcase the living Native American culture through events, seminars, pow wows and more. So, the next time you want to discover more about the indigenous peoples of North America, take a trip to one of these museums celebrating Native American artists, culture and history!
Top Native American Museums
1. Millicent Rogers Museum, Taos, NM
This museum is all about celebrating and sharing the “arts and cultures of the Southwest.” While it is a smaller museum than some others on our list, it holds an impressive collection of beautiful pieces and a rich cultural tradition. The museum, a historical site in its own right is named for the fashionista, Millicent Rogers (1902-1953), whose passion for North American cultural heritage left a lasting legacy. This museum is home to Roger’s own beautiful collection of Native American turquoise jewelry and her own creations, as well as many Native American and Hispanic arts, ranging from prehistoric to contemporary.
2. Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh, PA
This impressive center of Western Pennsylvanian history includes several museums, from the main Heinz History Center to the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum. However, its spot in this list of Native American museums is due to its stunning Fort Pitt Museum, which is home to historic galleries, living historical reenactments, and exhibitions exploring the French and Indian War. Within its galleries and exhibitions, the relationship between Native peoples and the French and English who all competed for the land are explored. This center is also affiliated with the Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village, which is an unbelievable archeological treasure: the oldest known site of human habitation in North America used continuously by the Native peoples until the 18th century.
3. Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki, Clewiston, FL
This museum, located on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation, hosts a stunning collection of Native American artifacts and archival items (more than 200,000 of them!), expressing the living history and culture of the Seminole peoples. Named in the Seminole language “a place to learn and remember,” Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki not only has collections of patchwork clothing, baskets, dolls, and other traditionally-created pieces of cultural significance from the 20th century, but is also home to a large collection of historic archives, conservation work, and tons more.
4. Onöhsagwë:de’ Cultural Center, Salamanca, NY
This Native American cultural center features interactive exhibits, programs, and collections that allow patrons to explore the daily life and struggles of Native American peoples from thousands of years ago to today, through changing exhibits and permanent art collections, featuring artwork in traditional mediums, such as beadwork, antler carvings, and cornhusk pieces. They also host an annual traditional dance competition as part of their Winter Social Pow Wow.
5. Heard Museum, Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix is home to Heard Museum, a Native American Indian museum featuring a collection of art and objects that show the daily lives of Native peoples in North America with a focus on tribes and peoples from the Southwest. The Heard Museum's exhibitions include textiles, ceramics, weaving, jewelry, clothing, and more, from prehistoric to modern. The Heard Museum also features contemporary artwork by Native American artists. Their award-winning changing exhibits range from mural artwork, stonework, and other featured collections to historical time periods, persons, and influential topics. Each year, Heard Museum hosts the World Hoop Dance Championships, including the first virtual hoop dance contest in 2021.
6. Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum, Warner, NH
With a powerful backstory of multiculturalism and diversity, this museum has a unique heritage of Native American land reclamation. Located in the beautiful woods of New Hampshire, this museum features tours through the Medicine Woods that showcase the natural flora that Native Americans historically used for food, medicine, and more. With interactive and educational exhibits, this museum offers guided tours of its facility that help you get the most out of its many exhibits, outdoor features, and programs. They organize lectures, crafts, workshops, and more. It is also home to the Annual Harvest Moon and NatureFest, a fun day of cultural food, exhibits, and storytelling, appreciating a traditional harvest celebration.
7. The Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis, IN
This museum displays the rich cultural diversity of North American peoples through an expansive collection of storytelling, artistic expression, and artifacts. One of the only Midwestern museums to present the histories of both Native America and the American West, The Eiteljorg is located in Indianapolis and showcases many dynamic collections of art and culture. From sculptures and paintings to weaving and pottery, this museum of historical and contemporary art is something you won’t want to miss. The museum also organizes many educational and cultural programs and festivals, such as the summer Indian Market & Festival, throughout the year.
8. Six Nations Indian Museum, Onchiota, NY
This family-owned museum features artifacts, arts, and educational exhibits from the perspective of North American indigenous peoples. With a focus on Haudenosaunee culture, this unique museum represents the tribes of the Six Iroquois Nations Confederacy: Mohawks, Senecas, Onondagas, Oneidas, Cayugas, and Tuscaroras. Not only are the exhibits beautiful representations of Native American culture, but even the museum building itself is decorated with Haudenosaunee symbols and motifs.
9. The Journey Museum and Learning Center, Rapid City, SD
This immersive museum houses five major prehistoric and historic collections of art, artifacts, and exhibits to shed light on the Black Hills and Native American culture. Art collections and galleries feature the unique telling of the story of the Western Great Plains through the eyes of the Lakota people, as well as the historic pioneers who settled there and the contemporary scientists who study the archeology of the location. They run several educational programs and have many dynamic and interactive displays and outdoor exhibits from several renowned Native artists.
10. National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C.
No “Native American museums near me” list would be complete without a mention of the most famous museum of all: the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. It has the honor of being the first national museum of Native American heritage and culture and its over 800,000 items represent more than 1,200 indigenous cultures, from items and educational materials on religion, traditions, and contemporary identity to ancient artifacts and modern fine art. There is also a sister museum located in New York, NY. They host several annual celebrations and festivals that highlight the rich traditions and heritage of indigenous peoples, including a six-day celebration called the Kaypi Perú Festival, a summer Native Art Market, and an annual Hawaiian cultural celebration.
There are over a hundred American Indian museums throughout the country—too many to list them all here! We strongly encourage you to visit the ones on this list or to do your own research and find American Indian museums near you. Exploring these important places allows you to appreciate some of the nation’s hidden gems of cultural and historical significance.
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