Native New York shows visitors that the region’s story is far more complex and compelling than outdated myths. On view at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York City, this exhibition uses immersive environments, first-person accounts, objects, media, interactives, and narrative comics to demonstrate how New York is and always has been a Native place. 

“Because Native American histories and cultures are still affected by inaccuracy and stereotypes, it is critical that the museum not only offers more accurate stories of the past, but also shows how those histories impact contemporary life and Native people today,” said David Penney, the museum’s associate director for museum scholarship, exhibitions, and public engagement. Penney curated the exhibition with Gabrielle Tayac (Piscataway), whose years of consultations with Native communities (2012–2017) provided the foundation for the exhibition’s scholarship.

The exhibition takes visitors on a journey to locations throughout New York State. Each place serves as a jumping-off point for visitors to encounter a wide range of topics, from Lenape diaspora to an Iroquois Nationals lacrosse game. Woven throughout are narratives of resilience, cultural change and continuity; connection to home and community; and the exercising of sovereign rights. 

In conjunction with the exhibition, the museum’s education initiative, Native Knowledge 360°, released several online resources on the “sale” of Manhattan, including a bilingual (English and Spanish) video that provides Native perspectives, images, documents, and other sources to help students and teachers understand how the 17th-century fur trade brought together two worldviews, one Native and the other Dutch, with different values and ideas about exchange.

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The exhibition was designed by C&G Partners, and the media elements were produced by C&G Partners, Fablevision, and Baker + Hill; the comics were created by AlterNative Media.

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