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Important Northern Plains collections result from the work of William Wildschut, Donald Cadzow, and others.
Several collections components originated with military personnel who fought in the “Indian Wars,” including General Nelson Miles and Major John Gregory Bourke, and numerous objects relate to well known individuals such as Sitting Bull, Rain in the Face, Geronimo, Chief Joseph, Standing Bear, and others.
California collections include Pomo baskets (some created by Mary and William Benson for the dealer Grace Nicholson), Yurok, Karok, and Hupa baskets including masterworks by Elizabeth Hickox, featherwork, shellwork, and ceremonial clothing and accessories. The Northwest Coast collections represent all tribes, in depth, and include intricate wood and stone carvings and masks and everyday items such as fishing gear, baskets, and woodworking tools. Tozier (monumental sculpture, particularly Kwakiutl), and objects collected during the 1899 Harriman Expedition Despite inclusion of many pieces classed as masterworks, Northwest Coast collections are deficient in items made after 1930 with the exception of basketry.
NMAI holdings also include significant collections from southern California, including Diegueño and Luiseño objects from amateur anthropologist E. Although Heye began collecting Northwest Coast objects later than many American museums, Tlingit, Haida, Kwakiutl, and Tahltan collections are especially comprehensive and include assemblages from important collectors such as George T. The importance of masks and significant crest items owned by specific lineages, sometimes collected under questionable circumstances, has led to considerable interest in repatriating Northwest Coast items at the NMAI, especially among the Tlingit.
Emmons (Tlingit, Tsimshian, and Tahltan), Thomas Crosby (Tsimshian), Leo Frachtenberg (Makah), T. Arctic collections range from small ivories to fur clothing and skin kayaks, although much is identified simply as “Eskimo.” Alaskan material includes the important Twitchell collection of over 300 Kuskokwim delta Yup’ik masks, clothing, and other items, as well as large collections of Aleutian baskets, tools, and hunting equipment.
Other significant collections derive from the central Arctic and Greenland.
More recent Arctic arts, especially from Alaska and Nunavut, are also well represented.
The Southeastern archaeology collection is among the finest in the museum, with great depth and considerable anthropological and artistic significance.Southeastern collections include Seminole material dating from the early nineteenth century onward including items owned by Osceola, Choctaw, and Creek ball game material, and excellent basketry collections.