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Temporary Exhibits

"Nothing Left for Me": Federal Policy and the Photography of Milton Snow in Diné Bikéyah

End Date: Saturday, May 3, 2025

Two sites of former hogans. Fartherest [sic] occupied this year, nearest one occupied this year. Red Lake (Tolani Lakes, Leupp, Arizona), 1935-1936. Milton Snow. Reproduction of gelatin silver print, Maxwell Museum of Anthropology Archives, 87.45.116.

Co-curators: Dr. Jennifer 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.**

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.

Exhibition Press Kit is available here.

Exhibition Book List is available here.

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ALL REZ: Kéyah, Hooghan, K'é, Iina / Land, Home, Kinship, Life

End Date: Saturday, July 27, 2024

Rapheal Begay (Diné), Loom (Tó Nehelííh - Tonalea, AZ), 2022

Since the advent of photography, Indigenous people have been subjects, romanticized by both photographers and viewers as “authentic,” “primitive,” and members of a “vanishing race.” This photographic history is inseparably linked to the histories of museums and science, in which curators, artists, anthropologists, and sociologists took Indigenous people’s belongings and stories, captured their images and recorded their voices and fundamentally attempted to strip away their sovereign sense of identity, community, and belonging.  

Within the last two to three decades, Indigenous photographers have finally become recognized as active, generative participants in the telling of their own stories and Diné photographer Rapheal Begay is taking a leading role in this movement. 

The Maxwell Museum of Anthropology and Axle Contemporary are proud to announce a partnership with photographer Rapheal Begay (Diné) and independent curator Lillia McEnaney. ALL REZ: Kéyah, Hooghan, K’é, Iiná / Land, Home, Kinship, Life is a traveling, site-specific, experimental photography exhibition and museological project. 

While the Maxwell will feature an installation of Begay’s photography documenting his perspectives of these cultural themes within the landscape, the traveling portion of ALL REZ will take Begay’s photographs back to his home community in the Axle Contemporary mobile artspace.  

Comprised of a retrofitted 1970 aluminum panel delivery truck, the interior of the Axle gallery will be transformed into a welcoming space for reflection and conversation with the artist about his photographs and the cultural content held therein. As an exercise in creative place-making with the goal of fostering active storytelling, ALL REZ centers the voices and experiences of Diné community members, offering a reciprocal process of exhibition-making. 

The Maxwell invites you to a kickoff celebration with Axle Contemporary at the Museum on June 1 from 4 pm to 7 pm.  

From June 6 through 29, the Axle truck will tour Diné Bikéyah (the Navajo Nation) stopping at a variety of community gathering spaces in Crownpoint, Gallup, and Shiprock New Mexico; Chinle and Window Rock, Arizona; and Monument Valley, Utah. You can keep in touch with the project team while they are on the road this summer through real-time updates in our gallery and on the project website:

To support the project, please visit our campaign at ImpactUNM

Download presskit here

Exhibition Book List is available here.


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Cuneiform and Cultural Heritage: Writing, New Ways of Being, and Displaced Artifacts

End Date: Saturday, December 7, 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.

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