New York City Smithsonian opens major Native American exhibit

A monumental new exhibition opened in New York City’s location of the Smithsonian Museum and offers a hemispheric survey of Native American Indians.

“Infinity of Nations” opened at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City today. The show features 700 objects from South, Central and North America, from ancient to modern times.

The museum worked with 60 native historians and experts to interpret many of the objects, which were selected for their aesthetic, cultural and historic importance. They include ceremonial headdresses, a complete 1790s suit of clothing from an Upper Great Lakes tribe and an elaborately beaded garment made of caribou skin with a pouch to carry a newborn.

About 20 percent of the objects have never been exhibited before; 40 percent have not been on view in decades.

“Many of the examples speak to distance trade, marriage alliances, ritual exchange and ritual adoptions, artistic creativity, military conflict and political activism,” said exhibition curator Cecile Ganteaume.

The works, which will remain on permanent view, were mainly collected by George Gustav Heye, a Wall Street investment banker with a passion for Native American artifacts. His collection began in 1897, and he amassed 800,000 pieces from throughout the Americas. In 1989, the collection was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution to form the core of the National Museum of the American Indian.

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