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Free Film and Lecture Series at UMFA Highlights American Indian Art and Culture

April 16, 2009 – The powerful experiences and culture of American Indians will be explored through a free film and lecture series at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts to take place April through November, 2009.

Presented in conjunction with the current exhibition, Splendid Heritage: Perspectives on American Indian Art, the programs will be held in the Katherine W. and Ezekiel Dumke Jr. Auditorium at the UMFA Marcia and John Price Museum Building. All programs are free and open to the public. See below for film and lecture synopsis.

The films, which include: Cheyenne Autumn, Sitting Bull, The Black Robe, Sitting Bull: A Stone in My Heart, Skins, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and The Last of the Mohicans, were selected by UMFA curators of education to provide diverse perspectives on the culture and experiences of American Indian people.

Bernadette Brown, UMFA curator and Splendid Heritage co-curator, will introduce each film and lead a post-film discussion.

The lectures will offer new insights into the art and culture of Native people from the Plains, Plateau and Northeast. Directly connected to works within the exhibition, topics include the importance of the peace pipe in Native diplomacy, an examination of the Ghost Dance movement and a look at the intimacy of violence and power in American Indian war clubs. In addition, American Indian artist Arthur Amiotte will present a lecture in late fall of 2009 to discuss the beautiful beading of Plains Indian clothing.

“The UMFA is committed to helping its visitors deepen their knowledge and love of art,” explains Gretchen Dietrich, UMFA director of public programs and curatorial affairs. “We have created an engaging array of free public programs around the Splendid Heritage exhibition. Through these programs, visitors will learn how American Indian artworks express cultural knowledge, biographical and historical experiences and spirituality. “

The exhibition Splendid Heritage: Perspectives on American Indian Art features more than 140 artistic and cultural treasures from the private collection of John and Marva Warnock. Many of the objects are on public display for the first time and include 18th and 19th century masterworks such as beaded pipe bags, weapons, dolls, cradles, war shirts and moccasins. Splendid Heritage examines American Indian objects as both works of art and items of cultural importance-bringing to light the fascinating intersection of culture and art.

For more information, please visit or call 801-581-7332.

Saturday, April 25, 2 p.m. – Film

Cheyenne Autumn (1964), 154 min. Not Rated.

Directed by John Ford, this film centers on chiefs Little Wolf and Dull Knife as they endeavor to lead more than 300 starved and weary Cheyenne people on a 1,500 mile journey back to their ancestral hunting grounds. The U.S. government sees this as an act of rebellion and the sympathetic Captain Thomas Archer is forced to lead his troops in an attempt to stop the tribe. Cheyenne Autumn was nominated for an Academy Award for best cinematography and a Golden Globe for best supporting actor.

Saturday, May 23, 2 p.m. – Film

Sitting Bull (1954), 105 min. Not Rated.

Although marred by historical inaccuracies, actor J. Carrol Naish gives a noble and sympathetic performance as the title character in this classic Hollywood western. The film is a biography of the well-known Sioux leader who predicted disaster for the U.S. cavalry in the famous Last Stand at Little Bighorn.

Wednesday, June 10, 7 p.m. – Lecture

“Peace Pipe: The Calumet in Native Diplomacy before Lewis and Clark”

Brett Rushforth, assistant professor of history, College of William and Mary

Rushforth will discuss the calumet, or peace pipe, and its changing role in Native diplomacy in the West, especially after Spanish and French traders introduced new goods, animals and diseases beginning in the 1600s. Rushforth will examine the meaning of the calumet ceremony, from its origins among the Pawnee to its place in Native cultural relations in the era of European exploration and colonization.

Saturday, June 27, 2 p.m. – Film

The Black Robe (1991), 101 min. Rated R.

In 1634, Jesuit missionary Father Laforgue arrived in the New World, hoping to convert the Huron Indian tribe to Catholicism and expedite the French colonization of Quebec. The Huron greeted Laforgue with warmth and weariness, referring to him and his fellow priests as “black robes.” The plot thickens when one tribe member, a holy man, labels Laforgue a demon and predicts that he will bring nothing but death and destruction to the Huron people.

Saturday, August 22, 2 p.m. – Film

Sitting Bull: A Stone in My Heart (2006), 83 min. Not Rated.

Winner of the Best Documentary Award at the 2008 Big Water Film Festival, this intimate documentary tells the story of Tatanka-Iyotanka in his own words. An oral history recited in earnest authenticity by artist and activist Adam Fortunate Eagle, the film centers around Sitting Bull talking about his life on the Northern Plains, the Battle of the Little Bighorn and his complicated views of Euro-American culture.

Wednesday, September 16, 7 p.m. – Lecture

“Ghost Dances and Identity”

Greg Smoak, associate professor of history, Colorado State University

The Ghost Dance, a powerful religious movement about hope and renewal that spread throughout the Plains in 1889-90, has become a metaphor for the death of American Indian culture. Smoak argues that the Ghost Dance was not the desperate fantasy of a dying people but rather a powerful reclaiming of what it means to be American Indian. In his lecture, Smoak will examine wide-ranging issues of religion, politics and identity through an analysis of the American Indian Ghost Dance movement.

Saturday, September 26, 2 pm – Film

Skins (2002), 84 min. Rated R for language and violence.

Created by award-winning Native American producer and director Chris Eyre, Skins is a gritty tale of Rudy Yellow Lodge, an investigator with the police department, and his brother Mogie, a severe alcoholic. The two men are members of the Pine Ridge Reservation, the famous site of the Wounded Knee Massacre, and their reality is a life in a dreary slum. Faced with a cycle of poverty, violence and despair, Rudy goes on a quest to avenge himself, his family and his culture.

Saturday, October 24, 2 p.m. – Film

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (2007), 133 min. Not Rated.

Beginning with the Sioux victory over General Custer at Little Big Horn, this film intertwines the unique perspectives of three characters: a young Dartmouth-educated Sioux doctor held up as living proof of the alleged success of assimilation; Sitting Bull, the proud Lakota chief who refuses to submit to U.S. government policies and Senator Henry Dawes, one of the architects of U.S. policies on Indian affairs. Focusing on the events leading up to the massacre of the Sioux, the film chronicles what many consider one of the most grievous atrocities in United States history.

Wednesday, November 18, 7 p.m. – Lecture

“The Ball-Headed War Club as Weapon, Ritual Object, and Artifact”

Eric Hinderaker, professor of history, University of Utah

Hinderaker will focus on the fascinating ball-headed war clubs on view in the Splendid Heritage exhibition. He will explore the culture of warfare among Native peoples of the Northeast, a context in which the intimacy of violence shaped the war club’s power and meaning. They functioned as ritual objects as well as weapons, and so linked communal action with an individual warrior’s masculine honor. In the post contact era, war clubs have become objects of fascination outside of their original contexts, becoming in the process both art objects and ethnographic artifacts.

Saturday, November 28, 2 p.m. – Film

The Last of the Mohicans (1992), 112 min. Rated R for violence.

Set in 1757 during the French and Indian War when the British and French are battling for control of North America, this epic film is based on James Fenimore Cooper’s classic novel. Settlers and American Indians are forced to take sides, romances unfold, a Native tribe fights for survival and violence and war break out all around.

Fall 2009 Date TBD – Lecture

“The Art of Plains Indian Dresses”

Arthur Amiotte, scholar and artist

One of the most renowned American Indian artists working today, Arthur Amiotte was born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Also a scholar and educator, Amiotte has studied anthropology, art and religion. In this special lecture, he will discuss the beautifully beaded Plains Indian dresses on view in the exhibition. “Sioux women,” Amiotte has said, “will bead just about anything if it stands still long enough.”

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts is located in the Marcia and John Price Museum Building on the University of Utah campus at 410 Campus Center Drive. General admission is adults $7, seniors and youth $5, children under 6 free, U of U students/staff/faculty free, UMFA Members free. Free admission offered the first Wednesday and third Saturday of each month. Museum hours are Tue – Fri 10 am – 5 pm, Wed 10 am – 8 pm, Weekends 11 am – 5 pm; closed Mondays and Holidays. For more information call (801) 581-7332 or visit