If you caught the documentary "Urban Rez," on Rocky Mountain PBS on May 2, some of the featured American Indian people might have seemed familiar, as if you had encountered them along the very streets of Denver.
Yes, it’s true: you did meet them before—35 years ago in the Denver Museum’s own exhibition, publication and programming called “Moccasins on Pavement. The Urban Indian Experience: A Denver Portrait.” About twenty of the scene-setter and portrait images in “Urban Rez” originated with the anthropology department’s 1978-9 exploration of Native Americans living off-reservation in Denver. There they are again – members of the Tallbull, Standing Bear, Lee and other families, who helped create not only Denver’s American Indian community but also “Moccasins on Pavement,” the American Indian Hall and our Native American Advisory Council!
We were among the first museums to tell the story of Native Americans who left their homelands and moved to urban areas across the country during the 1950s relocation policies. In 1978 then anthropology department head Joyce Herold led the National Endowment for the Humanities grant that made it possible and Michael Taylor (Lakota) wrote the story. Vivid images by Ernie Ricehill and museum photographers accurately portrayed Indian self-determination and the often searing experience of adaption to a different culture in Denver.
The museum produced its first exhibition catalog with “Moccasins on Pavement” and toured the photography exhibit to other Colorado museums, as well as, later, to several European countries.
Now some of our arresting portraits of Denver Indians are reaching another generation, through DMNS Archives, in the documentary “Urban Rez,” released nationally in 2013.
Authored by Dr. Joyce Herold, Curator Emerita, Department of Anthropology