End Date: Saturday, May 3, 2025
Co-curators: Dr. Jennifer Nez Denetdale (Diné) and Lillia McEnaney
**Opening Reception: Saturday, May 4, 2024, from 3-5 pm. Exhibition co-curator Dr. Denetdale will give a brief lecture from 3:30-4 pm, and refreshments will be provided throughout the event.**
Using the photograph as a site of inquiry, this exhibition examines the impact of U.S. Indian Commissioner John Collier’s brutal Navajo Livestock Reduction Program on Diné communities and homelands.
Imposed upon Navajo people in the 1930s, this federal program proposed to eliminate over half of Diné livestock herds. Against the backdrop of the Dust Bowl and the Hoover Dam, livestock reduction was an extreme response to reports of over-grazing throughout Diné Bikéyah, the Navajo homeland. Collier’s policies were carried out in ignorance of Diné land management practices and community needs. Imprisoned for resisting, Diné people were
forced to watch their livelihoods decimated as their sacred animals were taken from them. Livestock reduction resulted in widespread, harmful, and long-term sociocultural, environmental, economic, and political changes throughout Diné Bikéyah.
Diné communities resisted livestock reduction policies. They saw their domestic animals as gifts from the Holy People, who offered them as the foundation for the Diné way of life. As a result of Collier’s tool of colonial control, Navajo people were no longer able to care for their land, their communities, and their herds in the ways they always had. In reflecting on this period, Marilyn Help (Diné) says, “You people...are heartless. You have now killed me. You have cut off my arms. You have cut off my legs. You have taken my head off. There is nothing left for me.”
Hired by the Navajo Service in 1937, non-Native photographer Milton Snow (1905–1986) was instructed to document the the federal government’s supposedly well-intentioned program to address “the Navajo problem.” Over the course of twenty years, Snow produced thousands of images of Diné people, homes, and landscapes, all of which were intended to provide proof that federal technologies were in fact working to “rehabilitate” Navajo lands and lives. Instead, Snow’s photographs show us radically harmed and altered communities, landscapes, and homes. We see the construction of dams, mines, and imposed grazing and agricultural practices; and newly formed political, educational, and socioeconomic organizations, all of which point to the pervasive, oppressive nature of American colonial administration.
By placing Snow’s images in conversation with a selection of archival documents and contemporary photographs, this exhibition foregrounds Diné perspectives on the intersecting and ongoing legacies of both photography and American colonialism.
End Date: Saturday, March 30, 2024
Administrative tablet in clay envelope with seal impressions. King Shulgi of Ur, 2094-2047 BCE. MMA 67.34.1
In 1967, Museum Director Frank C. Hibben donated a small collection of inscribed clay tablets to the UNM Anthropology Museum (now the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology). These tablets, dating between 4100 and 1600 years ago, come from Mesopotamia in modern Southwest Asia, home to the world’s first cities, states, and writing systems.
Since their decipherment in the 1850s, tablets inscribed in cuneiform (wedge-shaped) script have provided insights into the economic, social, and religious lives of ancient Mesopotamians. They have also circulated around the world—as a result of colonial era archaeological expeditions, looting, and rampant site destruction fueled by terrorism, war, and economic desperation.
This exhibition highlights the eight cuneiform tablets in the Maxwell Museum collections and our attempts to uncover their journey to Albuquerque. It explores what such artifacts, once removed from their archaeological context, can – and cannot – teach us about the Mesopotamian past. It also explores the past and present legacies of the removal and destruction of cultural heritage and current efforts toward the restoration and restitution of archaeological heritage in the Middle East and far beyond.