Collections from Prairie tribes, including the Sac and Fox, Osage, and Oto, are especially strong in woven bags, ceremonial items, clothing, and accessories.
Due to early twentieth-century emphasis on collecting Plains and Prairies tribes’ ceremonial objects, the collections include dozens of Plains and Prairies sacred bundles, which are considered culturally sensitive objects.
The Plains collection is large, important, and includes significant early examples.
Every Plains group is well represented and discrete tribal collections are often comprehensive, including Blackfeet, Crow, Lakota, Kiowa, Comanche, Plains Ojibwa, and Plains Cree, with particular strengths in decorated garments and accessories, painted hides, pipes, shields, horse gear, and ledger book drawings.
Important Northern Plains collections result from the work of William Wildschut, Donald Cadzow, and others.
Several collections components originated with military personnel who fought in the “Indian Wars,” including General Nelson Miles and Major John Gregory Bourke, and numerous objects relate to well known individuals such as Sitting Bull, Rain in the Face, Geronimo, Chief Joseph, Standing Bear, and others.
The NMAI object collections (266,000 catalog records) scope encompasses two- and three-dimensional objects/works made, created, used, designed, or commissioned by Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere (excluding Hawai’i); preserved botanical, plant, animal, and mineral samples representative of agriculture, gathering, hunting, medical practices, and other Native knowledge systems; items that illustrate or document the history and work of the Museum of the American Indian (MAI), Heye Foundation, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the life and work of George and Thea Heye; and items that reflect or help interpret attitudes toward Native peoples.
Southeastern collections include Seminole material dating from the early nineteenth century onward including items owned by Osceola, Choctaw, and Creek ball game material, and excellent basketry collections.
During the period of Heye’s active collecting, he sponsored expeditions to Oklahoma, accumulating significant collections from Northeastern and Southeastern tribes removed to the west from the 1830s onward.
Beyond ceremonial materials and objects of everyday life, staff anthropologist Mark Raymond Harrington also commissioned Absentee Shawnee artist Ernest Spybuck to complete a series of paintings depicting daily scenes and traditional life after 1910.
Through work by anthropologist Frank Speck, holdings include the world’s most extensive collections from Mid-Atlantic Native peoples, including the Nanticoke, Rappahannock, and other Powhatan tribes.
Northeast and Great Lakes collections are very large and include New England splint basketry, Ojibwa birchbark and beadwork items, Huron moosehair embroidery, and significant late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Iroquois material, including Niagara Falls beaded whimsies.In addition to the Foster collection from Forts Miami and Michilimackinac dating to the 1790s, the collection includes significant early items purchased by Heye from European museums and private collectors and Joseph Keppler’s Iroquois collections.