In 1937, Mary Cabot Wheelwright, an East Coast blueblood, founded the Wheelwright Museum to honor the beauty and complexity of Native American weaving, pottery, jewelry and basketry.
The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian pays homage to the Navajo religion and is the product of the joint efforts between Mary Cabot Wheelwright and Navajo singer Hastiin Klah. When the two met in 1921, both discovered their shared reverence for preserving the Native American religion as it was under threat by the U.S. government and other missionaries. Along with Frances Newcomb, they decided to document Navajo religious practices through sound recordings, transcriptions and artworks, some of which can be viewed at the museum.
Even the eight-sided building, designed by architect William Penhallow Henderson, was modeled after a hooghan, a traditional Navajo home and space where ceremonies were held. Today, the museum's focus has broadened to include displays about Navajo and Native American art and culture, both traditional and contemporary.
Photo by John Phelan