Paths of Life: American Indians of the Southwest
"We believe that we are here now, that we have always been here, and that we will always be here.... We recognize that major changes occur, have occurred, will occur—that change is inevitable.
"We accept change, but only on our own terms, which means selective change, slow change, change that does not destroy our cultural fabric."
—Edmund Ladd, Zuni
The American Southwest is known as a region with a mix of many different peoples. Native American cultures flourished thousands of years before Spanish, Mexican, and European immigrants settled here. Today there are twenty-two different Indian nations in Arizona alone.
Each of the American Indian groups of the Southwest has its own unique culture and history—the "Path of Life" that its people follow. These paths have been shaped by the peoples’ views of their origins, their traditional values and beliefs, the landscape, historical events, their relations with the U.S. government, and their interactions with other peoples in the region.
This exhibition takes an innovative look at ten American Indian cultures of Arizona and northwest Mexico: the Seri, Tarahumara, Yaqui, O'odham, Colorado River Yumans, Southern Paiute, Pai, Apache, Hopi and Navajo. For each group, a theme of special cultural relevance is traced through three sections—Origins, History, and Life Today.
Life for Native Americans has changed rapidly in the past fifty years, as it has for all Americans. But, this does not mean that their cultures have died. As with any people, cultures are constantly changing in response to forces from without and within.
The Paths of Life exhibition is intended to increase understanding of the Indian cultures of the Southwest. Despite rapidly changing lifestyles, or perhaps because of them, traditional values remain an important force in the vitality of American Indian cultures.
The museum staff worked extensively with tribal representatives to design an exhibition that takes American Indians out of the history books and gives insight to their own cultural perspectives and values.
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