Oregon museums showcase Native American art, culture and even running to highlight Indigenous experience

Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel is a professional runner who has set her sights on the 2024 Olympic Trials marathon.

But she doesn’t run for the paycheck or international fame.

“Running is an integral part of our culture,” she told The Oregonian/OregonLive. “It’s part of how we express ourselves.”

For Daniel, who describes herself as a “proud Lakota winyan,” it’s also a way to raise visibility of Indigenous people and the issues important to them. At the 2019 Boston Marathon, she dedicated each mile to a missing or murdered Indigenous woman or girl, highlighting a shocking, ongoing “epidemic” in Native communities that rarely gets media attention.

“Having our story and history told is really important — it’s important for non-Indigenous people to hear and see us,” she says. “We need allies.”

Bend’s High Desert Museum is telling some of those stories, including Daniel’s, in a unique exhibit called “Carrying Messages: Native Runners, Ancestral Homelands and Awakening.”

The display, which opens Nov. 20 and continues through April 3, showcases how the subjects “consider running a personal, political, spiritual and cultural practice.”

Running is “in our blood, history and part of our ceremonies,” Daniel says on her Altra Running team page. “We run to carry prayers, carry messages, to honor and even to run our prey to exhaustion.” Running, she adds, “encompasses a beautiful community.”

It’s also about connecting with ancestral lands, with nature. Daniel, a Los Angeles-based activist, doesn’t run on the land, she says, she runs with the land — the soil “isn’t just dirt, it’s living.”

Learning about the Native runners in the exhibit has been “inspiring,” says High Desert Museum executive director Dana Whitelaw.

“Their contemporary stories remind us that Indigenous communities are thriving and that all of our communities benefit when we include these stories.”

The High Desert Museum is one of many across the country with exhibits related to National Native American Heritage Month. Here are four such displays in the region:

Ancestral Dialogues: Conversations in Native American Art: This permanent exhibition presents “Native art history as a dynamic, rich legacy from which contemporary arts grow today.” The collection, displayed in the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Gallery, includes historic regalia, baskets and bags, along with contemporary works by established artists. The exhibit is on display at Hallie Ford Museum of Art, 700 State Street in Salem.

Mesh: The showcase for four emerging Indigenous contemporary artists is the first curated specifically for the Portland Art Museum by the museum’s new curator of Native American art, Kathleen Ash-Milby. Milby has put the recently opened show, which runs through May 8, in the museum’s contemporary art galleries, making the point that these artists are some of the strongest creative voices working today. The exhibit is up at Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Avenue in Portland.

Woven Together: Klamath Tribes Basketry from Sam and Becky Johnson: This exhibit showcases the “artistry and resilience of the Klamath Tribes of southern Oregon through their basketry and woven traditions.” The work is on display through January 30 at the Oregon Historical Society, 1200 SW Park Avenue in Portland.

The 28th annual Tribal Member Art Exhibit: The work of 27 Warm Springs artists are on display, ranging from paintings and intricate beadwork to photography and video. The exhibit opened Nov. 2 at the Museum at Warm Springs, 2189 US-26 in Warm Springs.

Oregon is Indian Country: This expansive traveling showcase offers text panels and photography capturing the history, culture and “contemporary traditions” of Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes. The exhibit runs through Dec. 8 at Lake Oswego Public Library, 706 4th Street in Lake Oswego.

— Douglas Perry

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@douglasmperry