Two Leggins woman opens museum exhibit at Yale University

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Katie McCleary, formerly of the Two Leggins area, has recently collaborated with fellow students to cocurate a museum exhibit at Yale University, honoring Indigenous identity and celebrating Indigenous craftsmanship collected by the University.

The exhibit, titled “Place, Nations, Gatherings, Beings: 200 years of Indigenous Art,” opened on the third floor of the Yale University’s Native American Cultural Centre on Nov. 1.

The opening also held thee days of workshops including sewing, writing, and lectures dedicated to the four themes of the studentled collaboration.

Before the exhibit was formally opened to the public however, the University officially recognized the traditional Quinnipiac land that the exhibit and the University sits upon.

Many students both former and current of Yale University, came to the exhibits opening night and were completely astounded by how much the atmosphere had changed.

One attendee of Cheyenne descent, who graduated in 2006, said that he “actually felt recognized” and not just a part of the background on the Yale campus.

One critical inspiration however, came from the Peabody Musuem of Natural History, who frequently mislabeled and misidentified artifacts from the tribes from which the collected items originated.

Starting as a series of protests and tensions that had arisen from the student body a few years earlier, many students of ethnic background felt that the University was not taking their voices and concerns into consideration. One group that was not very prevalent in these concerns however, was the “glaring absence” of the Native American students on campus, many of who felt painted into the background.

Fortunately, due to the efforts of McCleary and other native students on campus, McCleary helped create a collective of Indigenous students to combat this tension, and is now making waves as one of the most prevalent and active groups on the Yale campus today.

McCleary, who is a Hardin High School alumni and Indian Policy advisor to Sen. Jon Tester, decided to collaborate with other Indigenous students on campus to get a voice for other students, by helping to create the Association of Native Americans at Yale, or ANAAY.

The museum exhibit, completely student-curated by McCleary and two fellow students, Leah Shrestinian and Joseph Zordan, serves as homage to all of the collections of Indian artifacts collected by scholars over the years that were previously locked away in the vaults of the Peabody Museum. It features 96 pieces of collected Native American art, and is laid out in a nontraditional way to view the pieces as the art that they are, rather than as historical artifacts.

According to Yale News, now is an “interesting” time for indigenous representation Zordan said.

He cited the recent exhibitions in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to note that the Western art world and market are beginning to take indigenous art more seriously.

McCleary said, according to Yale News, that they grouped objects across different themes because they want “visitors to be able to make their own connections between objects.”

“I hope in the future at Yale there is an even stronger presence of indigenous North American Art, not just in the gallery, but also represented on campus,” Shrestinian told Yale News.

The exhibit will be on display at the Yale University’s Peabody Museum of Natural History until June 1, 2020.