Smithsonian Exhibition Exploring African-Native American Identity Opens at the Museum Center at 5ive Points

Comanche family, early 1900s.

The elder man in Comanche traditional clothing is Ta-Ten-e-quer. His wife, Ta-Tat-ty, also wears Comanche clothing. Their niece (center) is Wife-per, also known as Frances E. Wright. Her father was a Buffalo Soldier who deserted and married into the Comanches. Henry (center left) and Lorenzano (center right) are the sons of Frances, who married an African American man.

Courtesy Sam DeVenney. 

Cleveland, Tennessee (April 21, 2015): On April 23, 2015 the Museum Center at 5ive Points premieres the Smithsonian traveling exhibition IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas with a special members-only opening reception at 6 p.m. The exhibit opens to the public the following day, April 24. The exhibit focuses on the seldom-viewed history and complex lives of people of dual African American and Native American ancestry. Through the themes of policy, community, creative resistance and lifeways, the exhibition tells stories of cultural integration and diffusion as well as the struggle to define and preserve identity. “IndiVisible,” produced by the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in collaboration with the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), will remain on view through July 3 and will then continue to travel to museums around the nation.

Since the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas, the lives of Native and African peoples have been closely intertwined. From pre-colonial times, they intermarried, established communities and shared their lives and traditions. But racially motivated laws oppressed and excluded them. Blended tribes worked to preserve their land and rebelled against displacement. Their survival strategies included involvement in social movements, joining together to fight oppressive conditions and regaining economic sustainability. Their unique African-Native American cultural practices such as food ways, language, writing, music, dance and the visual arts have thrived.

“The topic of African-Native Americans is one that touches a great number of individuals through family histories, tribal histories and personal identities,” said Kevin Gover (Pawnee), NMAI director. “We find commonalities in our shared past of genocide, alienation from our ancestral homelands, and the exhibition acknowledges the strength and resilience we recognize in one another today.”

“We are proud to have contributed to this important and thoughtful exhibition,” said NMAAHC director Lonnie Bunch. “African American oral tradition is full of stories about ‘Black Indians,’ with many black families claiming Indian blood.”

“The Museum Center is honored to share this unique story with our community,” said Curator of Education, Joy Veenstra. “We are using the themes of this exhibit – identity and heritage – to highlight other educational ideas like genetic traits and what makes each person unique.”

An online version of the exhibition and full national tour schedule are available at www.americanindian.si.edu/exhibitions/indivisible.

This exhibit is proudly sponsored by First Tennessee, a regional bank serving families and businesses through about 170 locations.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is an institution of living cultures dedicated to advancing knowledge and understanding of the life, languages, literature, history and arts of the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established by an act of Congress in 2003, and will be erected on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Currently, during the pre-building phase, the museum is presenting exhibitions, producing publications, hosting public events and offering an array of interactive programs and educational resources at the museum on the Web at www.nmaahc.si.edu.

SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C. for more than 50 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. Exhibition descriptions and tour schedules are available at www.sites.si.edu.

The Museum Center at 5ive Points tells the story of the Ocoee region through compelling exhibitions and dynamic educational programming that promotes history, culture, and preservation. Hours are Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The museum is closed Sunday, Monday, and on select holidays. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and students, and free for children under 5. Members of the Museum receive free admission.

For further information call 423-339-5745, or visit www.museumcenter.org.