Paris Meets the Plains

My French mother-in-law is absolutely enamored of Native American culture: the music, the dance, the clothing, the history. So, when French Mother’s Day rolled around this year, we did something very out of the ordinary for us. Instead of having dinner or lunch around the family table, we took a trip to the Musée du Quai Branly to see an exhibition on the Plains Indians of the American West. Knowing my mother-in-law, there really was no better way for us to celebrate the day with her. It was a special moment for me as well — as her American son-in-law — to share our mutual appreciation of the native peoples of my homeland.

Et maintenant, pour ma belle-mère :

Ma belle-mère française est absolument amoureuse de la culture amérindienne: la musique, la danse, les vêtements, l’histoire. Donc, quand la fête des mères est arrivée cette année, nous avons fait quelque chose de vraiment hors du commun pour nous. Au lieu de partager un repas autour de la table familiale, nous avons fait une petite excursion au Musée du Quai Branly pour assister à une exposition sur les Indiens des plaines de l’Ouest américain. Connaissant ma belle-mère, il y avait vraiment pas de meilleure façon de célébrer ce jour avec elle. Cela fut un moment spécial pour moi aussi — en tant que son gendre américain — de partager notre appréciation mutuelle des peuples indigènes de mon pays.

Although the exhibition references all the native peoples of North America to some degree, it focuses primarily on the native peoples of Great Plains, presenting the continuity of their aesthetic traditions over the course of five centuries, from the pre-Columbian era to the twentieth century. It consists of 140 artifacts and works of art, ranging from sculptures to painted buffalo hides, feather headdresses to war clubs, mocassins to cradle boards (papooses).

A video overview of the exhibition from the museum’s website (in French):

Below is a gallery of some of the photos I took during our visit.

In addition to the artifacts and works of art, visitors can watch a video on stereotypes of Native Americans in popular culture, consult a wall atlas of Native peoples, and experience a tactile exhibit designed in part for the visually impaired.

The exhibition is temporarily installed in the museum’s Garden Gallery until July 20. After that, the exhibition will move to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (September 19, 2014 through January 11, 2015), then on to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (March 2 through May 10, 2015).

You can access the museum’s website here, and purchase advance tickets here if you desire.

© 2014 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved


2 thoughts on “Paris Meets the Plains

  1. It’s funny. I ordered Jeremiah Johnson on DVD two weeks ago, so my English husband could see it, as he is also a huge fan of things Native American. We watched it last night; for me it was with new eyes. My daughter was an Anthropology major at Beloit College in Wisconsin, and when I visited she was working in the museum there, which houses a large group of Native American artifacts. You M-I-L sounds like a joy. ❤

    1. Hi Katherine! Thanks for the comment. Very interesting! Growing up in South Carolina, I wasn’t far from either the Catawba reservation in SC or the Eastern Band Cherokee reservation in NC. Surprisingly, perhaps, I’ve never been to either reservation. I say to Michel every time we fly into Charlotte that we need to plan a short visit to the Catawba reservation during one of our stays. And yes, my MIL is a joy! I call her “Belle Maman” and refer to her as “Ma Maman en France” all the time! ❤

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