Gordon W. Smith - Work - Collection of American Indian Art and Ethnographic Materials

Collection of American Indian Art and Ethnographic Materials

Smith has been noted for his early involvement with America Indians. “Mr. Smith had a unique relationship with several American Indian tribes, as is evidenced by the number of gifts he exchanged with them,” said Dirk Van Tuerenhout, Ph.D., curator of anthropology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. “He was their friend during a time when being an American Indian had an extremely negative connotation in the United States.”

Smith’s parents wholeheartedly supported his interest in American Indians and enabled his amassing of a large collection of Indian art and ethnographic objects in the 1920s and 1930s. From age 5 onward, at least once a year, Smith’s father, W. D. Smith – an attorney and one of the early partners of the Fort Worth law firm Cantey Hangar – and his mother Mary Anna took him on trips to visit Indians that often lasted one or two months. In this way, he learned from the Indians themselves about their histories, beliefs, and lifeways, and he collected examples of their material culture – objects in many cases given to him by the Indians he knew.

Smith visited every Indian “culture area” of North America. He met Indians, and he learned from them as he collected objects that he knew they valued themselves. During the 1930s he made many friends among Plains Indians, especially among the Lakota Sioux, including still-living elders who had fought the invading white man in the 19th century, but had by then been moved to reservations. As he grew older, he spent longer periods of time with Indians, particularly at Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He was inducted in 1934 into the Lakota Sioux tribe at a ceremony in Kansas City, where he was given the Indian name High Bear (Mato Wankantu).

  • Gordon W. Smith with Indian elders at Pine Ridge Reservation, ca. 1935

His boyhood sojourns in Indian Country ended with the coming of World War II. Nevertheless, this was only an interlude in his lifelong study of American Indians and their cultures. In the last decade of his life, he completed a book about his experiences, and also painted several works on Indian themes.

The first major exhibition drawn from the Gordon W. Smith American Indian collection, entitled Quest for High Bear: A Boy’s Odyssey Through Indian Country 1925-1939, opened in August, 2008, at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Objects from the Gordon Smith collection have in the past been on display in the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, the Dallas Museum of Art, and previously at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.

In September, 2009, the Houston Museum of Natural Science announced that it had acquired the Smith Collection. As steward of the collection, the Houston Museum of Natural Science also announced that it has entered into a cooperative sharing program with the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History opened the exhibition "Quest for High Bear" as part of the opening exhibits at its new building in November, 2009, and a program of ongoing loans and exhibits from the Gordon W. Smith American Indian Collection is planned between the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.

Read more about this topic:  Gordon W. Smith, Work

Famous quotes containing the words collection of, materials, art, collection, american and/or indian:

    All urbanization, pushed beyond a certain point, automatically becomes suburbanization.... Every great city is just a collection of suburbs. Its inhabitants ... do not live in their city; they merely inhabit it.
    Aldous Huxley (1894–1963)

    Young children learn in a different manner from that of older children and adults, yet we can teach them many things if we adapt our materials and mode of instruction to their level of ability. But we miseducate young children when we assume that their learning abilities are comparable to those of older children and that they can be taught with materials and with the same instructional procedures appropriate to school-age children.
    David Elkind (20th century)

    When lovely woman stoops to folly,
    And finds too late that men betray,
    What charm can soothe her melancholy,
    What art can wash her guilt away?

    The only art her guilt to cover,
    To hide her shame from every eye,
    To give repentance to her lover,
    And wring his bosom—is to die.
    Oliver Goldsmith (1730?–1774)

    Bolkenstein, a Minister, was speaking on the Dutch programme from London, and he said that they ought to make a collection of diaries and letters after the war. Of course, they all made a rush at my diary immediately. Just imagine how interesting it would be if I were to publish a romance of the “Secret Annexe.” The title alone would be enough to make people think it was a detective story.
    Anne Frank (1929–1945)

    There exists in a great part of the Northern people a gloomy diffidence in the moral character of the government. On the broaching of this question, as general expression of despondency, of disbelief that any good will accrue from a remonstrance on an act of fraud and robbery, appeared in those men to whom we naturally turn for aid and counsel. Will the American government steal? Will it lie? Will it kill?—We ask triumphantly.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)

    I think that the farmer displaces the Indian even because he redeems the meadow, and so makes himself stronger and in some respects more natural.
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)