The Pleasant Collection of American Indian Art
Exhibit On Display June 23, 2022 - May 2023
The newest exhibit at the Tread of Pioneers Museum, “The Pleasant Collection of American Indian Art” opens to the public June 23 and showcases an exceptional array of cultural objects from the Southwest including ceramics, basketry, weaving, and beadwork. Collected by Maybell, Colorado, native H.B. Johnny Pleasant, the extensive collection of exquisite artifacts was gifted to the museum over sixty years ago. This stunning collection primarily comprises pieces from 1900-1940, created by Pueblo, Akimel O’odham (formerly Pima), Tohono O’odham (formerly Papago), Apache, and Navajo artists. Learn about these tribes and their traditions and craftsmanship in this exclusive exhibit from the Tread of Pioneers Museum.
“The Tread of Pioneers Museum is thrilled to serve as the stewards of this priceless collection of American Indian Art,” said Candice Bannister Executive Director of the museum. “We honor this sacred art and the traditions of the American Indian people through the preservation of this collection and this exhibit. We strive to share Native American culture through storytelling, cultural events, and exhibits celebrating indigenous people and art forms from the past and present.”
In these ways, the museum provides a local platform for the presentation, interpretation, and appreciation of Native American history, culture, and art, and offers a place where this culture can be understood and honored by all. “We want to bring awareness to and foster appreciation of Native American heritage, and we directly collaborate with the Ute tribe annually, the original inhabitants of the Yampa Valley,” Bannister added.
When visiting the exhibit, visitors will see and learn about:
- Pottery from 1910-1940 by the Pueblos of Acoma and Laguna, San Ildefonso, Hopi, Zia, and Santo Domingo
- Basketry from the 1920s-early 1940s by the Pueblos of Hopi, Apache, Akimel O’odham (formerly Pima), and Tohono O’odham (formerly Papago)
- Navajo weavings made from 1890-1920
- Stories about the Pleasant family who collected the artifacts, and how the collection made its way to Tread of Pioneers Museum
The exhibit has provided the opportunity for Museum Curator Katie Adams to work with museums and professionals around the nation who specialize in American Indian art from the Southwest, as well as with Pleasant family descendants, to uncover more details about the collection, tribes, artisans, and the Pleasant family.
The Collectors: The Pleasant Family
Any extra time or cash Maybell resident H.B. Pleasant could acquire went towards his passion for traveling to reservations to meet tribal families and tradesmen and women. With the family’s engagement, and his niece Rosamond Carpenter Zars eventually joining him, H.B. Pleasant spent over thirty years amassing a collection of Edward S. Curtis photographs, arrowheads, pottery, basketry, beadwork, and Navajo weavings. The items represented tribes from Mexico to the Northwest coast. While the scope of the full collection is unknown, the Navajo weavings alone are said to have numbered several hundred, though the museum now owns just over a dozen. Pleasant constructed a large log cabin on the outskirts of Hayden to house the collection.
“Few, if any, people from around here were connecting with Native American tribes, much less appreciating and collecting their art,” said Bell Zars, historian and Pleasant family Descendant. “H.B. Pleasant had an affinity for tribal culture and arts. He developed long-lasting relationships with artisans and their families whom he visited regularly. In some ways, he fit into Hayden, running a Texaco station, and in other ways, he was counter-cultural—following his own taste and interests in American Indian art.”
Tread of Pioneers Museum’s land acknowledgment statement: The Board and Staff of the Tread of Pioneers Museum respectfully acknowledge the Ute people, the original inhabitants of Northwest Colorado, and other Indigenous Nations of this area where we now reside. We recognize that the establishment of this region impacted the lifeways of Native peoples and their communities. In accepting this, we are called to utilize this educational institution to teach about Native people, their stewardship of the land, and to continue our commitment of inclusion and respect for these Nations and their traditional values for their homelands.