New history museum exhibition honors tribes around the world

Samburu women of Africa

The UO’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History will soon unveil its newest exhibition, “DIGNITY: Tribes in Transition,” a collection of portraits by internationally acclaimed photographer Dana Gluckstein, who will appear in Eugene for the exhibit opening.  

Dana GlucksteinSixty intimate black-and-white photographs pay homage to indigenous peoples around the world. Taken in Africa, the Americas, the Pacific islands and elsewhere, the photographs span three decades and honor tribal peoples fighting for their lands, traditions and rights against government and corporate interests.

The exhibit, which goes on view at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 6, will be open for a free public preview and book signing with Dana Gluckstein on Thursday, Oct. 5, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the museum.  Copies of Gluckstein’s book “DIGNITY: In Honor of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” will be available for purchase during the event.

Incorporating the perspectives of the Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and faith keeper Oren Lyons of the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Nations, the exhibit invites visitors to explore issues of social justice and environmental stewardship in connection with traditional cultures.

“This stunning portrait series asks us to deeply examine the challenges and possibilities facing indigenous peoples across the globe and to consider how fundamentally connected we all are to our shared and changing environment,” said Jon Erlandson, the museum’s executive director.

“It’s my sincere wish that ‘DIGNITY’ will serve as a call to action in support of all indigenous peoples,” Gluckstein said of the exhibit, which debuted at the United Nations in Geneva in 2011 and has since traveled the world in support of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The nonbinding declaration, initially opposed by the Bush administration but adopted by President Obama in 2011, recognizes the institutions, cultures and traditions of indigenous peoples as well as their rights to self-determination and freedom from discrimination.

The Los Angeles-based Gluckstein points to her Jewish heritage as part of the inspiration for “DIGNITY.”

“I grew up in the Jewish ‘tribe,’ steeped in knowledge of the Holocaust,” she said. “At our Passover table, I listened to those who recounted their own journey to freedom from the concentration camps. These experiences engendered in me a deep affinity for other cultures facing oppression and erasure.”

In addition to the exhibit preview and book signing, the artist will appear at the museum’s monthly pub conversation series, Ideas on Tap, on Wednesday, Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. Her talk, titled “Can Art Save the World?” will explore the role of the arts in bringing about political change and social justice.

The free event takes place at Sprout! Regional Food Hub, 418 A St. in Springfield.   

—By Kristin Strommer, Museum of Natural and Cultural History