The Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, announced that it recently acquired the archive and art collection of Suzan Shown Harjo, a Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee American Indian activist. The Suzan Shown Harjo Papers document her work as a Native lobbyist, broadcaster, and scholar from 1965 to the present.
“At some point in your life, you have to divest,” seventy-two-year-old Suzan Harjo said. “You never know what the future holds and what will happen in life. I decided IAIA is the appropriate place for the Harjo Family Collection as it is merely a continuation of a long-term relationship I have had with the institution, which has given me so much, including an honorary doctorate of humanities. It pleases me to give back to the institution and to be able to give to future students and researchers of the archives and collections of IAIA.”
Harjo has known the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts director Patsy Phillips for more than twenty years. Phillips called Harjo a “strategic visionary.” “For decades Suzan has worked for the advancement of Native arts, cultures, and policies. She could have chosen a number of other museums or institutions to donate her collection, but she chose IAIA,” Phillips said.
Harjo’s papers chronicle the development and passage of several important pieces of national legislation, including the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (1978), the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (1990), and the Indian Arts and Crafts Act Amendment (1990). The archive follows Harjo’s role as executive director of the National Congress of the American Indian (1984–89) and the Morning Star Institute (1984–present). It also contains historic materials such as audio tapes from her 1960s and 1970s WBAI New York radio show “Seeing Red,” a collection of unpublished personal poetry, and research files from over fifty years of work.
Harjo’s donation of art comprises about sixty works, many of which were gifted to the activist. It includes pieces by Marcus Amerman (Choctaw), David Bradley (Minnesota Chippewa), Kelly Church (Ottawa), Anita Fields (Osage), Harry Fonseca (Nisenan Maidu/Hawaiian/Portuguese), Shan Goshorn (Eastern Band Cherokee), Ben Harjo (Seminole/Shawnee), Linda Lomahaftewa (Hopi/Choctaw), America Meredith (Cherokee Nation), Dan Namingha (Hopi/Tewa), Tony Tiger (Cherokee Nation), Richard Ray Whitman (Yuchi/Muskogee Creek), among other artists.