Suzan Shown Harjo is the guest curator and general editor for the National Museum of the American Indian’s 2014 exhibition and book, “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations.” Harjo, a member of the Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee Indian nations, is a writer, lecturer, curator and policy advocate. She has helped Native Peoples protect sacred places and recover more than 1 million acres of land and has developed key laws to promote and protect Native nations, sovereignty, children, arts, cultures, languages, religious freedom and repatriation.
A founding trustee (1990–1996) of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Harjo began work with a coalition in 1967 that led to the museum and federal repatriation laws reforming museum policies dealing with Native Peoples; she wrote about it in “It Began with a Vision in a Sacred Place,” an essay in Past, Present and Future Challenges of NMAI. A trustee of the National Museum of the American Indian’s predecessor museum/collection, the Museum of the American Indian, she was chair of its first Program Planning Committee, principal author of the NMAI Policies on Exhibits, Indian Identity and Repatriation; director of the 2004–2005 NMAI/ANA Native Languages Archives Repository Project, host of the first three seasons of the National Museum of the American Indian Native Writers Series and organizer/panel moderator of the museum’s 2013 symposium on “Racist Stereotypes and Cultural Appropriation in American Sports.”
Harjo has curated several exhibitions: the “American Icons Through Indigenous Eyes” for the D.C. Arts Center; the first Native art exhibit ever shown in the U.S. Senate and House Rotundas, “Visions from Native America”; the 1998–2000 “Healing Art” exhibit at the American Psychological Association; and the Peabody Essex Museum’s 1996–1997 major exhibition, where her curatorial essay appears in the catalog, “Gifts of the Spirit.” She has also curated print gallery exhibits, including Native Americas Journal: Native Images in American Editorial Cartoons; New Native Warrior Images in Art; Identity Perspectives by Native Artists; and 9-11 Art by Native Artists for Native Peoples.
Harjo has served as president of The Morning Star Institute—a national Native rights organization for traditional and cultural advocacy, arts promotion and research—since it was founded in 1984. She is also one of seven Native people who filed the 1992 landmark case, Harjo et al v. Pro Football Inc., against the Washington football team’s disparaging name, and in 2006, organized Blackhorse et al v. Pro Football Inc. In 2014, Harjo delivered the Dudleian Lecture, the oldest endowed lectureship at Harvard University, where she was the first Native person invited to present the prestigious annual lecture since its inception in 1755.
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