Whitman Center celebrates Native American Heritage Month

To celebrate November’s Native American Heritage month, the Whitman Center has an exhibit of Pow Wow Portraits.

This exhibit, containing 22 portraits from the Michigan State University Museum, will be on display through Dec. 3.

The purpose of the exhibit is to show American Indians dressed in contemporary traditional clothing. In the past, many photographers have done studio portraits of American Indians, but not all pictures are an accurate representation of the individual or culture. 

 Douglas Elbinger is the photographer who accurately captured the Native American culture. The portraits are hanging in the hallways of the Whitman Center.

Elbinger has been taking pictures since the age of 12, and was a student at MSU. He now operates an award-winning portrait and commercial photography studio.

Recognized as a leading source for the copy and restoration of historic photographs, Elbinger has also worked with the Smithsonian Institution and the National Archives.

Sandy Kosmyna , director of the Whitman Center,  said the captions under the portraits explain the dance done by the Indian and describe the clothing worn.

“It is quite interesting and I hope that many will come to see it,” Kosmyna said.

The exhibit was co-sponsored by the MCCC Diversity Committee and the MCCC Foundation.

In addition to the Pow Wow portraits, a display case at Whitman showcases Indian crafts and artifacts created by Lambertville resident Ron Mettler. Arrow heads and other authentic items that Mettler collects also are displayed.

A replica of an Indian woman’s dress from the Monroe Historical Museum can also be seen.

 A speaker on Tuesday, Nov. 17, visited Whitman to talk about native gatherings. Rick Schott of the Wolf Clan is also a registered member of Kahnawake Mohawk Territory. He spoke about the history of Powwows. 

 Powwows are gatherings that allow Native American people to join in dancing, singing and visiting. Schott talked about the customs of Powwows, the styles of dance, clothing and crafts.

 Schott is the former president and executive director of the North American Indian Association of Detroit, Inc., the oldest urban Indian agency in the United States. 

 Visit the Whitman Center to see the display of Native American portraits and other display items.