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Life’s work of two IU scholars lives on through their generous gift of Native art

By Elisa Phelps, Eiteljorg vice president and chief curatorial officer

Dr. Raymond J. DeMallie
Image courtesy of Indiana University

Works by Native artists enter the Eiteljorg collection in a variety of ways. Occasionally, they come as a surprise. The Eiteljorg Museum recently was notified of a bequest from the estate of professors Douglas R. Parks and Raymond J. DeMallie, who both passed away in 2021.

Dr. DeMallie was an anthropologist and ethnohistorian whose work focused on the Native peoples of the Northern Plains, in particular the Lakota. Dr. Parks, whose training was in anthropological linguistics, spent his career documenting and reconstructing Native American languages. Noted scholars at Indiana University Bloomington, DeMallie and Parks co-founded the university’s interdisciplinary American Indian Studies Research Institute, which opened in 1985.

The DeMallie-Parks collection represents extraordinary lifetimes of collecting. Their extensive library and research archive was left to Indiana University Bloomington — a fitting home, given their combined tenure of more than 80 years with the university. Their collection of Native American art and related items was bequeathed to the Eiteljorg Museum.

Dr. Douglas R. Parks
Image courtesy of Indiana University

The collection includes hundreds of items ranging from contemporary and customary Native art, to Native American-themed items of popular culture. The nature of the collection reflects the strength of relationships the two scholars had to Native peoples. Multiple Pendleton and Hudson’s Bay blankets were most likely received as gifts of honor and respect. The collection of star quilts, customary beadwork, paintings, jewelry, basketry and pottery are a testament to their decades of support for Native artists.

Beautiful selection
The unrestricted nature of the bequest allowed the museum to make decisions about what to keep. Dorene Red Cloud (Oglala Lakota), Eiteljorg curator of Native American art, selected approximately 75 pieces for the museum’s permanent collection, including works by Arthur Amiotte (Oglala Lakota), Earl Eder (Yanktonai Sioux), Mirac Creepingbear (Kiowa / Pawnee / Arapaho), Fritz Scholder (Luiseño), Dan Namingha (Hopi), Harrison Begay (Navajo), and a beautiful selection of Northern Plains star quilts. The artworks will rotate into the reinstalled Native American Galleries over time.

In response to receiving the collection, Dorene Red Cloud said, “Learning that Dr. DeMallie and his partner Dr. Parks bequeathed the Eiteljorg their Native American art collection was very humbling, as I was acquainted with DeMallie’s work and study of the Sioux (Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota). Although I never got to meet him, I feel like I know him better after reviewing and selecting works for the collection; DeMallie’s love of the Sioux and other Northern Plains groups lives on. Pilamaya (thank you), Dr. DeMallie.”

We thank them both for their generosity and decades of work.


Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the June 2022 issue of Storyteller magazine.