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  • Writer's pictureJoey Amato

Eiteljorg to host Why We Serve and Developing Stories exhibitions opening March 23

During spring and early summer 2024, Eiteljorg Museum visitors will experience two intriguing exhibitions: one honoring the history of Native American participation in the U.S. military; the other sharing three contemporary Native photographers’ perspectives on present-day Native communities. Originally developed by the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), both exhibitions open simultaneously at the Eiteljorg in March and will include engaging public programs.


Why We Serve: Native Americans in the United States Armed Forces, an exhibition organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in collaboration with the NMAI, runs March 23 to Aug. 1 at the Eiteljorg. A history exhibition with stories told on large banners, Why We Serve honors the generations of Native Americans and Alaska Natives who have served in the U.S. military – in extraordinary numbers – since the American Revolutionary War. Why We Serve includes historic photographs from different eras in military history, including Army scouts, the Native Code Talkers of both World Wars, Vietnam and related topics. It tells stories of Native peoples who have joined the armed forces to protect their families, people, home communities and the U.S. as a whole, and served in remarkable ways. The Eiteljorg is supplementing the Why We Serve panel exhibit with artworks from its own permanent collections to visually accentuate the narrative. Also on view: three jingle dresses worn by the Native American Women Warriors Association, a color guard group whose members are Native American women veterans.


All veterans and active-duty military personnel who visit the Eiteljorg will receive free admission between March 23 and Aug. 1. Details are at


Developing Stories: Native Photographers in the Field is open March 23 to July 7. Originally developed and presented by the NMAI, the Eiteljorg worked directly with the three featured photographers to share their stories in Indianapolis. Composed of three very different photography essays created by Native photojournalists, Developing Stories explores issues in contemporary Native lives. The photographers and their photo essays are: 

  • Tailyr Irvine (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes) with Reservation Mathematics: Navigating Love in Native America. Irvine’s photographs depict Native American couples who want their children to be enrolled in their tribe but face challenges due to the blood quantum requirements for tribal citizenship. As sovereign nations, Native tribes define their own citizenship requirements, which often impact basic decisions for tribal citizens about whom they marry and whether their children will be eligible to be enrolled.

  • Russel Albert Daniels (Diné descent and Ho-Chunk descent) with The Genízaro Pueblo of Abiquiú. Daniels’ photographs tell the complex story of an Indigenous/Hispanic community in New Mexico and its history of violence, slavery and survival. Descendants of Indigenous peoples who were abducted and enslaved by Spanish and other colonizers, the Genízaros have a unique culture and identity honored and celebrated today in communities such as the Pueblo of Abiquiú.

  • Donovan Quintero (Diné) with The COVID-19 Outbreak in the Navajo Nation. During the pandemic, the 27,000-square-mile Navajo reservation became a COVID hotspot due to its vast, remote 27,000-square-mile terrain, coupled with water, food and economic insecurities. Quintero’s photographs underscore the resilience of the Diné people in the face of illness, death and hardship.


Details of the photo-essay exhibition are at


“We are excited about hosting two traveling exhibitions originally developed and presented by our colleagues at the National Museum of the American Indian, Why We Serve and Developing Stories,” said Dorene Red Cloud (Oglala Lakota), Eiteljorg curator of Native American art. “For those interested in past and current history of Native Americans and Alaska Natives and their roles in the armed forces, Why We Serve will offer insights into why so many Native peoples have enlisted before and since the U.S. became a country. Developing Stories centers on three contemporary Native photographers whose photographs offer glimpses into topics not always covered by the press and that provide insights into the diverse lives of diverse peoples.”


The exhibitions are included with regular Eiteljorg Museum admission, and members are free (in addition to the free admission for veterans and military service members during Why We Serve.) The Eiteljorg will host public programs related to both shows, some of which have additional fees:

·       March 23, Navajo Code Talker presentation: At 11 a.m., Peter MacDonald, Sr. (Diné [Navajo Nation]), a World War II veteran and one of the last surviving Navajo Code Talkers, will discuss his wartime service; the talk is moderated by former Navajo Nation poet laureate and author Laura Tohe (Diné). At 1 p.m., Tohe will discuss her book, Code Talker Stories, and hold a book signing. The fee for both programs is $30 for non-members, $10 for museum members. Register at: Veterans and military can attend both programs at no charge.

·       March 30, Photographer Panel: At 1 p.m., photographers Russel Albert Daniels (Diné descent and Ho-Chunk descent), Tailyr Irvine (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes) and Donovan Quintero (Diné) will discuss their photographs in Developing Stories. It’s included with regular admission; and there’s no charge for members, veterans and military.

·       April 6, Members Brunch: At 9 a.m., in celebration of the Eiteljorg hosting Why We Serve and Developing Stories, museum members are invited to a brunch. Contact or 317.275.1360 for reservations.

·       April 14, Junior and Ambassador Digital Photography Workshop: At 2 p.m., Girl Scouts can participate in a workshop with Roberts Camera. The fee is $10 per scout and $1 per chaperone. Register at:

·       April 27: Native American Veterans Panel: At 1 p.m., hear from Native American veterans about the influence of their military service on their life and work. Panelists are TahNibaa Naataanii (Diné), Jeff DeMent (Navajo) and Dean Orvis (Pokagon Band of Potawatomi). It’s included with regular admission, with no charge for members, veterans or military.

The Eiteljorg is also contributing a video to the Why We Serve exhibition featuring interviews with veterans and current service members. For information about participating in the video, visit or


Why We Serve: Native Americans in the United States Armed Forces is supported locally by Lilly Endowment Inc. and The Hagerman Group.


Developing Stories: Native Photographers in the Field, originally organized by the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian, is supported locally by Lilly Endowment Inc.

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