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Native American Art
PEM’s Native American art collection celebrates more than 10,000 years of Indigenous visual expression and dynamism.
PEM houses among the oldest ongoing collections of Native American art in the Western hemisphere, commencing with the museum’s founding in 1799 and continuing through today. Spanning 10,000 years of Indigenous visual expression in the Americas, these works cross boundaries of region, period, and medium, and emphasize the continuum of creativity and character of change that undergirds Native American art. This distinguished collection is a vital testament to thousands of individual artists from hundreds of distinct Native nations, each with its own history, language, and artistic expressions.
Native communities grow out of a deep relationship to place. Place shapes how Native people know themselves; it holds memories, people, and ways of being. More than 10,500 years ago, Indigenous ancestors moved on the land seasonally in search of caribou, cultivating a sense of place. The 16th-century basalt bear saw Naumkeag, or “fishing place,” transform from a space where generations of Indigenous people moved through and lived to the village called Salem, settled by Roger Conant and his followers.
Explore some highlights from the collection