Mississippi Choctaw exhibit to open at WFU anthropology museum

Mississippi Choctaws“Mississippi Choctaws: Traditional Life in a Modern World” opens Nov. 28 at Wake Forest University’s Museum of Anthropology and runs through Jan. 26.

The photographic exhibit portrays contemporary life on the Mississippi Choctaw Reservation, as observed and recorded by tribal archivist and folklorist Deborah Boykin and photographer Julie Kelsey.

Choctaw artifacts from the museum’s collection and from the Schiele Museum of Natural History in Gastonia will also be displayed.

The Choctaw Indians trace their homeland to the area occupied by the state of Mississippi and some sections of Alabama. In the 1830s, the Choctaws were the first group to be forced to move to Oklahoma along the “Trail of Tears.” Although more than 20,000 Choctaws left their homeland, many resisted by hiding in the Mississippi swamps and forests.

In 1945, the Mississippi Choctaw received federal recognition and a tribal government and an elected chief were reestablished.

The Mississippi Choctaw are fiercely loyal to their history and their historical traditions and maintain them through dance, dress and language. Many of the photographs were taken at the Choctaw Indian Fair, held each July to allow tribal members to celebrate the year’s accomplishments and to educate non-Choctaw about Choctaw culture.

As the exhibit illustrates, the Choctaw also continue their tradition through the production of cane baskets.

About 95 percent of tribal members speak Choctaw as a first language. In conjunction with the exhibit, Wake Forest Assistant Professor of Anthropology Margaret Bender will present “Continuity and Change in Southeastern Indian Languages.” The lecture will begin at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 18 in the museum classroom. Bender is a linguistic anthropologist specializing in Cherokee and other Southeastern Indian languages.

Admission to the exhibit is free. The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. For information, call 336-758-5282.

Categories: Arts & Culture, Events