In our work in the museum field, we have the special opportunity to appreciate and enjoy the aesthetic creations of groups of people who came before us. Art reveals the belief systems of a culture, and gives individuals a framework in which they can place themselves and their stories.
All cultures record time. The methods used varysome refer to seasons, others to events. In the modern age, time is typically traced and labeled with numbers. Living as a Lakota in the nineteenth century, Lone Dog created this remarkable work to document the significant events of his timethe coming of the white men, disease and death, battles and truces, hunts and personal visions using icons that would help him to recount the stories later. Today we may not fully understand what each symbol personally represented to Lone Dog, but it may be enough that we all can understand and relate to his desire to make sense of his personal and cultural history for those who would follow him.
Indian worldviews are not bound by time. One hundred and thirty years after Lone Dog, Native artists continue to respond to the social and political changes that affect their individual worlds, and these are the kinds of personal explorations we find in who stole the teepee?
It is our pleasure to host this important exhibition of contemporary Native American art at the National Museum of the American Indian. I want to express my appreciation to the exhibition's curators and advisors for their vision; to the catalogue writers for their insights; to Alatl, Inc. for organizing the exhibition; to the National Museum of the American Indian staff for producing it; and to native artists, past and present, whose stories both collectively and as individualscontinue to tell us so much about the changing worlds in which we live.
W. Richard West, Director, National Museum of the American Indian, Southern Cheyenne and member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma.