Historian Herman J. Viola, a curator emeritus of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, tells of the rise and fall of American Indian horse culture, which thrived for only about 100 years, writes the Times’ Ken Johnson.
That culture succumbed, as Viola says, to “too many white people and too few buffalo.”
The exhibit includes rifles that belonged to the Apache leader Geronimo, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce and Chief Rain-in-the-Face of the Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux; as well as objects such a wooden Hunkpapa Lakota dance club from about 1899, with one end carved in the shape of a horse head.Johnson’s review includes this comment: “Captivating as the exhibition’s contents are, hardly anything in it is spectacular in the sense that European art and artifacts produced with elaborate refinement and expensive materials can be. There is an exceptionally appealing modesty and subtlety to many of the objects.”
The paper also criticizes the show’s ambience as “regrettably aggressive,” saying that “the show looks as if it were conceived with an audience of attention-challenged children in mind.”
“A Song for the Horse Nation” runs through July 7, 2011, at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center, One Bowling Green, Lower Manhattan; (212) 514-3700, nmai.si.edu.