Heard Museum Internships Connect Venue with the Community’s Culture
Gila River Indian News
Students at the Heard Museum in Phoenix get an opportunity to expand their knowledge and interest in Native American culture through internships. For Napoleon Marrietta and Calista Middaugh, both from the Gila River Indian Community, interning with the Heard Museum has allowed them to get a look behind the scenes at the Valley’s oldest museum dedicated to telling the story of Native people.
“What drew me to the Heard Museum was a range of interests,” said Marrietta, a Community member from District 4. “I wanted to learn everything from the backstory of the artifacts [here] and how the Heard museum works to tell the story of Native people in the Southwest.”
Marrietta said his internship has given him a firsthand view into how the Heard operates, including its marketing, budgeting and organizing of events. He said his internship allowed him to see how the Heard museum creates programs to connect the general public, tribal communities and organizations through the exhibits, workshops and events the museum hosts throughout the year. The internship also allowed Marrietta to connect with the history of the Community and how it ties back to the Huhugam and its history.
“I think it is amazing to see these things still in existence and then I think about how they are still living,” said Marrietta. “They have a story to tell … created for a purpose that goes well beyond the person who made them. It’s a humbling experience to be in the same room with these artifacts.”
Marrietta added that he’s impressed by how many items on display at the Heard demonstrate the resilience of the Akimel O’otham and how they used local materials to create intricate pieces of work that served a purpose. He said some of the more contemporary works made by local basket makers can be distinguished by the unique techniques employed in crafting each basket.
Marcus Monenerkit, the Heard’s Director of Community Engagement, said the museum builds relationships with tribes through its internships, fellowships and veterans program, which serve to better connect the Heard with the Native people it represents.
“We want people come here with an open mind,” said Monenerkit. “As an organization over the years the Heard has stayed relevant by being a part of the local communities. It is always good practice to maintain relationships with the people that you are interpreting.”
Middaugh from District 7, who is Pee Posh and Akimel O’otham said her exposure to the museum began when she was a child. She’s currently a sophomore at the Institute of American Indian Arts Institute in Santa majoring in Museum Studies.
“On the weekends, I would go to the Heard and Pueblo Grande with my grandmother Phyllis Cerna (a Pee Posh pottery maker) to her demonstrations,” said Middaugh. “From those experiences I developed a passion for museums, so I found an internship with the Heard museum.”
Middaugh said due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of her classes are now online, which has allowed her to be closer to home and intern at the Heard. Her internship involves producing media content and material for the museum’s social media outlets. Because she’s also interested in creative writing, she said, the internship has allowed her to combine her passions for art, poetry, non-fiction and the environment.
The museum’s program has also been opportunity to better understand the history of the Gila River and learn from the elders who still have the knowledge about how the river has sustained the Community and its land for such a long period of time. All of these are subjects Middaugh says she may one day explore in her career.
That makes the internship a unique opportunity for her.
“They had so many programs, such as creative writing, I really took an interest in it,” Middaugh said. But what stuck out to me is because of my major, which they offer as well.”