The Museum of Native American History first opened to the public in 2006. Founded by David Bogle, the museum invites visitors to “Walk Through America’s Past” and features artifacts from five different time periods dating back 14,000 years.
Located just west of downtown Bentonville, Ark., visitors can easily find the museum. A sign clearly marks the location, but it is the large teepee out front that is hard to miss.
Admission is free and visitors are provided individual audio wands, which offer an audio/visual tour. Rooms are laid out in chronological order, beginning with “the oldest time period in which man walked the landscape of America.”
Relics from the Paleo (12,000B.C. – 8,500B.C.), Archaic (8,500B.C. – 1,000B.C.), Woodland (1,000B.C. – 900A.D.), Mississippian (900A.D. – 1650A.D.), and Historic (1650A.D. – 1900A.D.) Periods are showcased.
Displays of relics from Pre-Columbian civilizations, including the Maya, Inca, and Aztec, are also featured.
What is immediately noticeable is the impressive collection of what archeologists call “projectile points,” more commonly referred to as arrowheads. The projectile points are arrow points, spear points, or dart points. What you learn at the museum is that, while they seem similar, it is the way they are made that differentiates projectile points and allows archeologists to interpret life in the different time periods.
While walking through the “Mississippian Period,” head pots will make your head turn to get a closer view. According to a sign, “These pots are the rarest of all the various types of pottery recovered…Some appear to bare a striking resemblance to the deceased and may represent human sacrifice, death, or some other aspect of the southern cult mythology.”
The historic period focuses upon Native Americans since their first encounter with Europeans. At the entrance of the “Historic Period” room stands a striking Blackfoot headdress located near a tanned buffalo hide robe known as “Lone Dog’s Winter Count.” It is a calendar that starts with the winter of 1800 – 1801 and concludes with the winter 1870 – 1871. The Dakota people counted their years by winters; thus, the “Winter Count.”
Adjacent to the headdress and buffalo hide robe are displays filled with tomahawks, medicine pipes, rifles, and moccasins. The collection highlights moccasins for everyday wear, festivals, and “burial moccasins” and represents a variety of tribes including Chippawa, Cheyenne, Plains Cree, and Sioux.
A display dedicated to the Apache tribe features a bear paw hat, horse tooth necklace, and a number of bear claw necklaces.
In the Pre-Columbian room one finds Mayan macro-blades and pottery, Aztec blades, Taino celts, Mimbres pottery, and Incan jugs and shawl pins. This room also features a spectacular original Frederic Remington sculpture as well as blankets that tell stories using symbols and colors.
Weapons, tools, clothing and ornaments left behind by the first Americans are carefully preserved and professionally displayed in this beautiful facility. Schools and groups are welcomed, and a gift shop is on the premises.
The Museum of Native American History is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is located at 202 S.W. O Street, Bentonville, Arkansas. Driving directions are available here. For additional information, call (479) 273-2456 or visit the museum’s website.