Native American Museum on the Outer Banks

The Frisco Native American Museum on the Outer Banks is a place of disjointed memory and reconstruction of the past. There are so many artifacts—and their accompanying signs—stuffed into a relatively small space that even several visits could not do it justice.

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And I was there for an hour or two in October 2012. I was, by turns, fascinated, doubtful, and surprised. What an amazing collection of pots, I thought. Where did they come from?

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The tone is hardly that of most museums, but I found it refreshing.

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Sometimes it was gently chiding: “Each day, we are asked several times about the natives who lived on the Outer Banks. Thanks to the kindness and consideration of the Outer Banks Community Foundation, we are able to present the original inhabitants…Our staff researched the native appearance for six months before completing this family group.” (I believe that text goes with this photo, but it has been two years…and the original inhabitants seem to be wearing wool, so that seems to place this family group after European contact.)

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At other times, it sounded like a docent speaking to a school group: “Porcupine quills were the first colored ‘beads’! Used to ornament leather, birch bark, or alone, they were softened, flattened, and then dyed with plant or mineral ‘juice,’ & finally stuck/wrapped into fantastic designs.”

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Here is the text from my favorite sign:

Did You Know?

  • Birds were the original basketmakers and early Native Americans used similar grasses and stems.
  • Native Americans first made baskets at least 9,000 years ago.
  • Before pottery was invented, cooking was done in baskets. Native Americans placed the food baskets near the fire and dropped hot stones into the baskets to bring the water to a boil.
  • Basketry is often called the mother of pottery. Fragments of very early pottery have imprints of baskets, probably used as molds.
  • Before the coming of the European, basketry supplied every domestic necessity of Native Americans from an infant cradle to funerary baskets buried with the dead.
  • Very few of the Native American tribes of America were so unsettled in life as to be without a home. Baskets and wallets were the receptacles for holding personal property and provisions for the future, large and small.
  • The wealth of a family was  counted in the number and beauty of the baskets.
  • The highest virtue of a woman was measured by her ability to produce baskets. The great value of her work reflected upon the maker. Native American basketry workmanship is considered among the finest in the world.
  • Fine art, social functions, religious ceremonies, birth, love, and death, all found expression in Native American basketry. Friendship baskets, wedding baskets, coverings for the dead, and mortuary baskets reflected superb workmanship. Other practical uses included household mats, walls, animal and fish traps, clothing, and armour.
  • Women carried baskets on their heads, backs, arms, and knees. Head rings, placed on a woman’s head, provided support for large baskets carried on the head.
  • I did not, however, take pictures of any baskets. The closest thing I have is my picture of this woven pair of shoes.

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I’d love to visit it again and spend more time with some of the exhibits. But for now I must leave you with this odd, disjointed memory of mine and the BlackBerry 9700.