At the International Museum of Culture, our Native North America exhibit reveals many aspects of Native American culture, including examples of Hopi kachina dolls, traditional and modern Native American dress, and a scalp. Visitors can learn more about traditional structures like the tipi and the many different uses of buffalo, the most important animal in Texas.
The first settlers of North America came as long as 30,000 years ago across a “land bridge,” or an area of land joining two separate continents, that connected Siberia to Alaska–a bridge that has since been covered by water from melted glaciers. Their migration, which continued into as little as 10,000 years ago, spread them across the entire continent.
Estimates of their population numbers ran between three and eighteen million. After settlers from Europe arrived, this number dropped as low as 248,000 in 1890 (on an official census). Today, Native Americans make up about 1.7 percent of the United States population, or about 5.2 million people.
There are nine major language families in North America, many of which extend into Canada and Mexico as well, but, unfortunately, many of these languages have only a few speakers today. The most spoken North American native language is Navajo, which has an estimated number of 150,000 speakers in the Southwestern US.
Visit the Museum of International Cultures to learn more about these first inhabitants of North America!
Our exhibit includes information on:
One of the most iconic Native American structures is the Tipi, a conical tent structure comprised of an animal hide, usually buffalo, tied over a tripod of large sticks or logs. In truth, this tent was only used by people in the Great Plains, who needed the tipi’s mobile structure to maintain their nomadic lifestyle.
Our museum features both a miniature of a tipi and a diagram explaining how it was made.
Buffalo: The Most Important Animal in Texas
Buffalo were once an integral part of many Native American cultures. Buffalo were not just used for their meat, although they were a staple food source of many peoples, but for their hides, their bones and even their hooves and tendons.
At our museum, visitors can learn about all the uses of buffalo and see a traditional dress made out of buffalo hide, currently on loan from the Cedar Hill Museum of History.
Kachina dolls are figures carved by the Hopi people that represent “katsinas,” spirits that were said to control natural processes like the rain. The oldest kachina dolls date to the 18th century, although most of the surviving figures come from the 19th.
The International Museum of Culture has many several examples of traditional kachina dolls and information on what they represent.
Scalping is the practice of tearing an amount of hair, and the skin it is attached to, from the head of an enemy. Although this practice is present in many cultures across the world, not just America, it is most commonly associated with Native Americans.
In Native America, scalping was considered a sign of dominance over an enemy. The ability to take a scalp signified control over one’s opponent. Scalps were kept by warriors as a sign of status, and could be passed down from family member to family member.
At our museum, we have an example of a scalp.
The Native Americans of Texas
As with the rest of North America, Texas was, and still is, home to many indigenous peoples. There are, in fact, eleven different tribes in Texas: the Tigua, the Kickapoo, the Alabama-Coushatta, the Coahuiltecan, Jumano, the Lipan Apache, the Comanche, the Karankawa, the Tonkawa, the Wichita, and the Caddo.
The Museum of the Americas has kindly loaned us a collection of information on the Native Americans of Texas, where visitors can learn about the native peoples of our state.
For More Information
Looking to learn a little more about the native peoples of America? Try these websites:
- For more information on Native American cultures, visit http://www.museumoftheamericas.com/
- Cedar Hill Museum of History: http://cedarhillmuseum.com/
- For more information on Native American Languages, visit: http://www.native-languages.org/
- For more information for children, try: http://www.native-languages.org/kids.htm