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Negotiating the master narrative: Museums and the Indian/Californio community of California's central coast

, University of Oregon, United States

University of Oregon . Awarded


In California, third and fourth grade social science curriculum standards mandate an introduction to Native American life and the impacts of Spanish, Mexican, and “American” colonization on the state's indigenous people. Teachers in the state use museums to supplement this education. Natural history and anthropology museums offer programs for teaching third graders about native pre-contact life, while Missions and regional history museums are charged with telling the story of settlement for the state's fourth graders. Clearly, this fact suggests the centrality of museums and Missions to education in the state.

Since only one small tribe on the central coast has federal recognition, non-tribal museums are the only public voice about Indian life. These sites however, rarely address hardships experienced by native people, contributions over the past 150 years, the struggles for sovereignty in their homelands, and a variety of other issues faced by living Indian people. Instead, these sites often portray essentialized homogenous notions of Indianness which inadvertently contribute to the invisibility of coastal Native peoples. This dissertation analyzes visual museum representations in central coast museums and Missions and the perspectives of local Native American community members about how their lives and cultures are portrayed in those museums.

Using methods of critical discourse analysis, the dissertation seeks to locate discontinuities between the stories museums tell versus the stories Indian people tell. It addresses these ruptures through a detailed analysis of alternative narratives and then offers suggestions to museum professionals, both in California and elsewhere, for incorporating a stronger native voice in interpretive efforts.


Dartt-Newton, D.D. Negotiating the master narrative: Museums and the Indian/Californio community of California's central coast. Ph.D. thesis, University of Oregon. Retrieved May 29, 2023 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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