Gates-Lewis Native American Collection

The Gates-Lewis Collection: An Enduring Presence - Cultural Continuity and Change Among the Peoples of the Desert Southwest

Originating from remote regions of New Mexico and Arizona, revealing native cultures of the Navajo and Pueblo peoples. In 1901 together with the Smithsonian Institute, artifacts were collected and donated to the Museum including lithics, pottery and baskets.

The Desert Southwest is a seemingly changeless expanse of magnificant mesas and canyons where spectacular rock formations thrust themselves upward into the cloudless blue sky.This consistency is but an illusion, as change is at the very heart of the desert's nature. Where desert winds now blow across sandy expanses, a vast ocean once existed. Native Peoples have lived and prospered in this region for millennia. Their vibrant culture has always adapted itself to the changes which took place in the world around them. Climatic changes, alterations in subsistence systems and population shifts have each had their impact upon the Native Peoples of the region.  The development and maintenance of complex trade networks has also been a vital aspect of the southwest Native culture. The increasing presence of non-Native peoples into the area during the late nineteenth century was taken advantage of by the Native artisans. Pottery, basketry and textiles were produced to satisfy the demand for Native-made works. Traditional materials and motifs were utilized along with non-traditional forms in response to market demands. At the same time, traditional forms were still being produced for their own use.

At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Peter Gates and Gertrude Lewis-Gates traveled into the remote regions of New Mexico and Arizona. In 1901, they co-sponsored an expedition to the area on behalf of the Smithsonian Institution. They photographed the Native Cultures and made extensive collections of Puebloan and Navajo artifacts.

These artifacts now reside in the ethnographic collection of the Orma J. Smith Museum at The College of Idaho.  A grant was secured to display items from the Gates-Lewis collection of Southwestern artifacts. The collection, housed at the Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History, has been recognized by a number of experts including George Horse Capture, Dr. Max Pavesic and Joe Ben Wheat. The items include ceramics illustrating the theme of enduring cultural continuity; basketry originating on the Hopi Second and Third Mesa; textiles, including blankets, rugs, and horse equipment produced by theDine' (Navajo) peoples who lived in Tusayan and Cibola areas of Arizona and New Mexico.