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Eiteljorg acquires exceptional Native items of the Great Lakes; future exhibition planned

By Bryan Corbin, Storyteller magazine editor

Potawatomi, Otoe, Ojibwe and Wyandot artists
Moccasins, ca. 1800–ca. 1890
Tanned and smoked deerskin, glass seed beads, ribbon applique, silk ribbon, moose hair
Museum purchase with funds provided by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.


The Eiteljorg Museum recently acquired another major, nationally prominent collection, this time of exceptional, historic Native American items from the Great Lakes region.

The more than 400 items were created by artists from the Ho-Chunk, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Menominee and other nations whose historic homelands encompass the Great Lakes region, including what is now Indiana. The items date from the late 18th through mid-20th centuries and feature beautiful examples of beadwork, ribbonwork, weavings and carvings. Shirts, leggings, moccasins, blankets, sashes, bandolier bags, cradleboards and wooden bowls are among the items in the Richard Pohrt, Jr. collection.

According to Scott Shoemaker, Ph.D., (Miami Tribe of Oklahoma) — who is the Eiteljorg’s Thomas G. and Susan C. Hoback curator of Native American art, history and culture — acquiring the Pohrt items fills gaps in the museum’s collections, as the Eiteljorg plans for a major renovation in coming years of its Native galleries.

“The Eiteljorg Museum sits upon historic Miami homelands but is part of the much larger Great Lakes region. Our collection was lacking in historical items from Native nations with historic and contemporary ties to this region,” Shoemaker said. “While the collection will be integral to the reinstallation of the Native American galleries and other future exhibitions, it will also be accessible to the communities whose ancestors made these incredible items.”

Ho-Chunk Artist
Bandolier Bag, ca. 1890
Woven beadwork bag; glass seed beads, wool cloth, wool fox braid, wool yarn
Museum purchase with funds provided by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

A treasured collection
The Eiteljorg purchased the objects from Richard Pohrt, Jr., a respected art dealer in Michigan with a passion for collecting Native American art. His father Richard Pohrt, Sr. also was a prominent Native art collector whose collections were exhibited in major museums. The younger Pohrt started his collection in the late 1970s, and it continued to grow until about four years ago. He amassed an exceptional collection of rare pieces, many of which he displayed in his home.

When Pohrt decided it was time to part with the collection, he preferred to see the items stay together and find an appropriate home rather than auctioning them off individually. Meanwhile, the Eiteljorg wanted to acquire additional Great Lakes items to provide museum visitors a more complete and nuanced picture of the Indigenous peoples of the region. Fortuitously, Lilly Endowment Inc. agreed to support the Eiteljorg’s efforts to acquire Pohrt’s collection. The Indianapolis-based foundation provided the Eiteljorg with a $2.83 million grant that funded purchase of the collection, purchase of new in-house storage units, assistance with cataloging the collection, support for long-term care of the items and consultation with Native communities.

Once the purchase closed, a team of Eiteljorg curators and collections experts traveled in March 2019 to Pohrt’s home and carefully prepared the items for shipment to Indianapolis. In addition to the items purchased by the Eiteljorg, Pohrt donated a number of pieces to the museum.

Over the past several months, Eiteljorg collections department staff have been meticulously cataloguing and processing the Pohrt items into the museum’s permanent collection.

In the Eiteljorg Museum’s collections department, collections assistant Liz Ale examines an Ojibwe beaded vest that is among the Great Lakes Native items the museum recently acquired from art collector Richard Pohrt, Jr.
Image by Aaliyah Hunt.

New look for galleries
Though the objects won’t go on exhibit right away, the museum is preparing to give them a prominent place in its Native American galleries. Under its Project 2021 capital and endowment plan, the museum will renovate and reinstall those galleries so they include a stronger emphasis on the Great Lakes region. In September 2021, the second-floor galleries will close temporarily for renovations expected to last until spring 2022. Once the galleries reopen in June 2022, the public will see a new state-of-the-art exhibition space featuring many of the Pohrt items. The rest of the museum including first-floor Western and special exhibits galleries will remain open during renovations.

In preparing to show the Pohrt items, the museum plans to consult with tribes to gain a better understanding of the objects and their cultural context and determine whether any pieces should be repatriated. In compliance with a federal law, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), the Eiteljorg notified more than 40 Great Lakes Native nations of its recent acquisition. Along with the gallery reinstallation, the museum is developing a related curriculum for teachers. For the latest updates on the upcoming gallery changes, visit

If you are interested in supporting the museum’s Project 2021 plan to renovate the Native American galleries, contact Nataly Lowder at


Mohawk Artist
Cradleboard, ca. 1875
Carved and bent wood; wood, paint, rawhide, metal
Museum purchase with funds provided by a grant from Lilly Endowment


This article appeared in the October 2019 issue of Storyteller magazine



Additional News Coverage about the Pohrt Collection of Great Lakes Native American Objects:

Great Lakes By Design Magazine, November 2019


The Indianapolis Star, Sept. 4, 2019


Inside Indiana Business, July 3, 2019


Native American Art Magazine, Oct./Nov. 2019


Eiteljorg Museum News Release, June 17, 2019


Native American Art Magazine_Pohrt Acquisition article