Native Voices Interactive Exhibition Opens at Highlands Oct. 12

Las Vegas, N.M. – Highlands University presents an interactive exhibition, Native Voices: Native Peoples’ Concepts of Health and Illness, with an opening reception Oct. 12 from 5 – 7 p.m.

The exhibition is in the University’s Ray Drew Gallery in Donnelly Library at 802 National Ave. Roxanne Swentzell, an internationally known Santa Clara Pueblo sculptor and author, will present a talk at 6 p.m. at the opening reception.

“Historically, indigenous people have known about regional plants, medicine and foods that have sustained entire civilizations,” said Rebecca Maldonado Moore, coordinator of the Peoples Center for Indigenous Knowledge at Highlands and a social work professor. “This exhibition is remarkable because these contributions are finally being acknowledged.”

For example, Moore said ancient Inca people used a medicinal tree bark as a topical pain reliever and to treat malaria long before Europeans used the same medicine, calling it quinine.

“Native healing has always integrated mind, body and spirit,” said Moore, who is a member of the Northern Arapaho tribe from the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. “Participating in curing ceremonies like sweat lodges and sun and moon ceremonies restore balance to a person, family and community.”

The exhibition features interviews with more than 100 tribal leaders, healers, physicians, educators, and others. Collectively, they examine concepts of health and medicine among contemporary American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine developed and produced Native Voices: Native Peoples’ Concepts of Health and Illness. The American Library Association is touring the exhibit nationwide.

The interactive exhibit includes iPads where visitors can listen to the interviews. It also includes displays that explore the five themes: individual, community, nature, tradition and healing.

“This exhibition will help raise awareness about local resources for well-being and sustainable living,” said Julia Geffroy, coordinator of Highlands’ Native American Center. “The exhibit explores native traditions that promote healing and well-being such as storytelling, singing and dancing.”

Geffroy, who is a member of the Picuris Pueblo in New Mexico, said she is reaching out to Highlands alumni of Native American descent to share their stories about how they applied their degrees to address and resolve native health issues.

“We think this exhibit will strengthen the relationship between Highlands and the Las Vegas community. We encourage everyone of all ages to come visit the show,” Geffroy said.

April Kent, head of public services at Donnelly Library, and Leslie Broughton, head of collections and instruction, co-wrote the grant proposal that brought the Native Voices exhibition to the university.

“This Native Voices exhibit helps the library achieve its ongoing goal of celebrating different cultures,” Kent said. “Health and well-being are important issues for our Las Vegas community, and this exhibit will provide our patrons with different perspectives on health. The exhibit also provides our visitors with an excellent opportunity to learn about DVDs and books in our collection that relate to Native American cultures and health.”

Kent said additional public programming is being finalized for October and November, featuring Eldrena Douma, Hopi Tribe storyteller, Kenneth Osgood, retired physician, Orit Tamir, Highlands anthropology professor, and Brandon Kempner, Highlands English literature professor. Visit Donnelly Library’s website at www.nmhu/library for details.

The hours for Ray Drew Gallery are 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday and 1 – 5 p.m. on Sunday. The Native Voices exhibition continues through Nov. 21.