The Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center’s new exhibition, “Always Here: Native Americans in West Virginia,” opens Thursday, February 22, 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. in the Folklife Center on the campus of Fairmont State University. At 5 p.m., after a brief welcome from exhibition curator and the center’s interim director, Pat Musick, Lakota elder Bob Pirner will give a traditional invocation.
This exhibition celebrates the presence, diversity, cultural richness, and lifeways of the Native Americans who lived in what is now West Virginia, as well as creative expressions and experiences of contemporary Native Americans here and around the US.
Countering misconceptions about Native American presence in what is now West Virginia, the exhibition relates the story of multiple cultures that thrived over a period of at least ten thousand years here—and the demise of indigenous cultures shortly before Europeans arrived, meeting tribes that had only recently expanded their territories into this area.
The story is told in words and images through excerpts from regional Native American creation stories and folklore, archaeology, history, language family diversity, a brief overview of US/Native policies over the years, and creative expressions by contemporary Native Americans.
The display includes original ancient artifacts generously loaned by Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex (the museum of the West Virginia Archaeology Association; replica handmade hunting artifacts using historic original materials by John Latocha; contemporary tribal regalia made by John Dailey (Shawnee) and others; animal skins, Native baskets, cornhusk dolls, and other artifacts.
In this exhibition, the Native viewpoint is presented whenever possible. Because detailed accounts of Native/White interactions in West Virginia—particularly conflict—can be found elsewhere (that story is told locally in detail at Prickett’s Fort State Park), this exhibition’s focus is the Native experience—past, present, and enduring.
The opening includes a reception with samplings of refreshments based in part on the traditional “Three Sisters” foods. The exhibition will be on display through April 2018.