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The Saint Louis Art Museum has collected Native North American art since the first decades of the 20th century. Among the Museum's earliest acquisitions of Native American art were gifts received during the 1920s, which included several California baskets and a Chilkat dance apron. Over the next several decades, the collection built strengths in Native arts from the Northwest Coast, Arctic, Plains, and Southwest through Museum purchases and the generosity of many individual donors. The Museum's new strength in Plains art results from the important gift of the Donald Danforth Jr. Collection.

The Native American art collection now encompasses almost 700 objects that span prehistoric, historic, and contemporary periods. Click here to explore ancient art from North America at the Museum. Long celebrated as hallmarks of the collection, singular works from the Northwest Coast and Arctic include a Haida shaman figure by the artist Simeon Stilthda, a Kwakwaka'wakw (Kwakiutl) potlatch copper, Dzunukwa mask, and a Yup'ik mask. The Museum has collected works by contemporary Native artists since the 1970s, including prints and photographs by Fritz Scholder, Mark Henderson, and Wendy Red Star.

Since 2010, the Donald Danforth Jr. Collection has transformed the Museum's holdings of Native North American art by expanding the depth and presence of late 19th-century art from the Plains. Personal arts greatly characterize the Danforth Collection. These include an array of moccasins, pipe bags, assorted bags, pouches and cases, jewelry, children's items, and horse regalia, most composed of hide adorned with beadwork and quillwork in many patterns and colors. Some highlights include: Lakota/Dakota (Sioux) moccasins and pipe bags, a Transmontane parfleche, and an Apsáalooke (Crow) model cradle and martingale. Selections from the Danforth Collection can be seen in the dedicated Donald Danforth Jr. Gallery, which opened in summer 2012 as part of the Museum's expansion.

The Museum collaborates with contemporary Native artists to present the collection in relation to indigenous ways of seeing. Painter Dyani White Hawk visited the Museum and then traveled to the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations in South Dakota to interview cultural specialists and tribal elders. Dyani White Hawk has curated an installation of Lakota art in Gallery 322 inspired by these experiences. These works were installed in July 2017 and will be on view for two years.

The Native American art galleries, including the Donald Danforth Jr. Gallery, are located in Galleries 322, 323, and 326. Dedicated to Northwest Coast and Arctic arts, Gallery 326 was reinstalled in summer 2014.

View our Native American Collection


Alexander Brier Marr joined the Museum as assistant curator for Native American Art in January 2016. Marr received a PhD and MA in Visual and Cultural Studies from the University of Rochester, and a BA from Beloit College. In 2014-15, he served as Mellon Pre-Doctoral Fellow in Native American Art at the Portland Art Museum in Oregon. Marr is a co-editor of the revised edition of Art of the North American Indians: The Thaw Collection at the Fenimore Museum published in 2016 and his article "Scales of Vision: Kiowa Model Tipis and the Mooney Commission" was published in Winterthur Portfolio in 2015. He previously served as board secretary for the Native American Art Studies Association from 2011 to 2015 and participated in the Smithsonian Institution’s Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology and the Otsego Institute for Native American Art. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including those from the American Philosophical Society and the Center for the Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art.

Plains Indian Art of the Early Reservation Era

The Donald Danforth Jr. Collection at the Saint Louis Art Museum

Plains Indian Art of the Early Reservation Era details the extraordinary Donald Danforth Jr. collection at the Saint Louis Art Museum. The fully illustrated catalogue presents richly varied perspectives to illuminate the historical and indigenous significance of genres and specific artworks. The catalogue is available for purchase in the Museum shops.

edited by Jill Ahlberg Yohe, editorial consultant Janet Catherine Berlo
essays by, Arthur Amiotte, Kathy Dickerson, Teri Greeves, Emil Her Many Horses, Joe D. Horse Capture, Michael Jordan, John P. Lukavic, Timothy P. McCleary, David W. Penney, Richard Pohrt Jr., Wendy Red Star, Dan Swan, John White Antelope, and Gordon Yellowman.

The catalog can be purchased in the Museum shop. For more information, contact the shop by phone at 314.655.5249 or by email at