Mitchell Museum debuts ‘Native Haute Couture’ exhibit

Sophie Mann, Assistant A&E Editor

This weekend, Native American fashion will head down the runway at the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Evanston.

The museum, founded in 1977, prides itself on being one of the few of its kind in North America. It showcases Native American culture for the Chicagoland community, the Midwest and North America as a whole. The exhibit, titled “Native Haute Couture,” has been long anticipated by the museum and the greater community.

“We have a phenomenal collection of native regalia and clothing, and it has been in our sights to do an exhibit like this for quite some time,” executive director Kathleen McDonald said.

On display will be clothing with items commonly carried by Native Americans, including prized dyed quills, dried cut shells and copper.

Communication freshman Claire Bara said she hopes people “learn the history” of these tribes, especially because their clothing depicts their connections to nature and traditions.

Tristan Metzner, an Evanston resident with Lakota heritage, agreed with Bara. He emphasized that these fashions depict deep-rooted connections to these tribes’ traditions and the environments around them. He said he also hopes the greater community will develop a new appreciation for these people’s heritage.

“People believe that Native Americans just wear loin cloths,” Metzner said. “People need to learn that these clothes have importance.”

According to McDonald, the museum aspires to infuse these cultural pieces into the community, because the museum is such a staple in the Native American community, as a learning tool and a place to showcase these cultures.

“We are part of the American Indian community, but we also serve all people in Evanston, Midwest and United States,” McDonald said. “We get visitors who come here to learn about native cultures.”

The museum works with the Chicago American Indian Community Collaborative, which was established in response to Native American relocation as a result of the Indian Relocation Acts of the 1950s to support the influx of Native Americans moving to Chicago. The museum, as well as the AIC, seeks to touch the greater community with this exhibit, including native people and non-native people seeking to learn about native cultures.

“We are looking to share these pieces with everyone and each group will experience it a little bit differently,” McDonald said. “Native people may be excited to see things their grandparents have worn and that natives appreciate as part of their own culture. I think that people who are non-Natives will appreciate how exquisite some of these ensembles are.”

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