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Native American Consultant

Overview

The Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) traces the history of Seattle and the surrounding region from the 19th century to the present day. MOHAI aims to be treasured locally and respected nationally as a vibrant resource where history inspires us to build a better future. To serve our region, we bridge the past, present, and future by collecting, preserving, and sharing stories through compelling, innovative exhibits and community engagement.

The Pacific Northwest has a vital network of Native American communities and Tribal Nations. MOHAI has a long history of collaborating with Native American scholars, artists, innovators, and Tribal Representatives. However, these collaborations have primarily been project-oriented or focused on specific areas of influence; for example, MOHAI Board participation, Collections Committee leadership, exhibit content contributions, and program collaborations. In 2022, MOHAI employees completed an Introduction to Decolonization training that began a process of reflecting on how we approach our work and our norms, processes, and policies. In January 2020, MOHAI completed the development of our racial equity statement and work plan (view the MOHAI Racial Equity Statement). Our work plan is updated annually and integrates racial equity work into the daily work of all museum teams.

MOHAI seeks guidance on a strategic review of the existing internal policies and processes that guide our care and use of Native American materials as well as our representations of Native American culture in interpretive projects. In addition, we seek to establish best practices for refreshing and deepening our relationships with the Native American communities and Tribal Nations in our region.

Long-term Goals

Overall, we have significant and long-term goals for our museum. We recognize that progress toward these goals will occur in phases and are now seeking support for reviewing our current approach and beginning to identify some specific steps forward. Below are our long-term goals, which we recognize will happen over many years, in multiple phases.

  • Development of culturally appropriate plans and practices for refreshing and deepening our relationships with the Native American communities and Tribal Nations in our region
  • Strategic review of MOHAI policies and processes for managing Native American content in our collections
  • Strategic review of MOHAI policies and processes for integrating Native American content into our interpretive content (exhibits, programs, and education)

Current Scope of Work

The specific scope of work will be defined in collaboration between MOHAI and the consultant(s), appropriate for the time and funds available. We seek help reviewing our current approach and defining next steps. We anticipate that one of those steps will be defining a need for ongoing support. Rather than tell the consultant what the specific scope of work will be, MOHAI staff shares below some of the questions that we are grappling with.

MOHAI is a museum with settler colonial origins, and this work has been led thus far by white staff. We recognize our limitations, are eager to do the work, and are open to being directed. In the short-term, we seek assistance reviewing our current approach and defining some next steps. We are not seeking immediate answers to the challenges listed below, but rather guidance in defining the first steps forward.

  • Deepening and expanding outreach to Tribal Nations and Native American communities in our region in ways that sustain long-term relationships
  • Navigating the tensions created by federal recognition or lack of federal recognition
  • Guidance on collecting materials with Indigenous stories, whether it is appropriate to collect historic items, and best practices in commissioning and purchasing contemporary works
  • How to better research and contextualize Native American items in our collection that were made for a tourist market and how to tell difficult stories about examples of cultural appropriation in our collection
  • Considering next steps on ethical collections management and access policies that go further than what is required by NAGPRA
  • Guidance on determining public access policies for historic photos of Indigenous people, particularly if it is unclear whether the subjects gave consent to be photographed
  • Strategic review of the Coast Salish content in our existing K-12 education programs and guidance on scaffolding future projects and evaluations
  • Guidance on developing long-term relationships with Native American advisors who can consult on short-term projects, review and advise on content that MOHAI receives in traveling exhibits, or collaborate on long-term MOHAI-produced initiatives
  • Guidance on exhibit and public programs development approaches and processes that integrate Native American advisors in respectful, culturally appropriate ways while allowing MOHAI to meet institutional requirements, such as project timelines

Roadblocks and Barriers to Success

  • Teams have tackled these topics separately, so this is our first effort to integrate our approach across all teams
  • We are a white-led team with a colonial history
  • Our Community Engagement Officer is a department of one
  • We do not have a tribal liaison position at this time

Consultant Qualifications

We seek a Native American person or team with the following qualifications:

  • Knowledge of local Native American history
  • Knowledge of current Tribal Nations and communities and culturally appropriate protocols
  • Understanding of ethical museum collections practices specific to regional Native American culture
  • Broad understanding of museum exhibit development processes

Letter of Interest Guidelines

Rather than ask for a detailed proposal and plan of work, we simply request letters of interest that help us to learn about you. We will follow up with a conversation to explore how we might work together. We will define the specifics of the work plan together as part of the paid contract.

Letters of interest need simply to include:

  • Who you are
  • What related experiences you have
  • And your interest in this project

This may take the form of a letter, email, resume, website link, video, or other format that tells us about you and your work.

In our follow up conversation, we plan to discuss:

  • What experiences prepare you for this work?
  • What is your connection to and knowledge of Native American tribes and communities in the Seattle area?
  • How would you approach this project, based on what you know so far?
  • What is your rate of pay?

Please submit your letter of interest to Nicole Robert, Community Engagement Officer (contact information also listed below).

Letter of Interest Due By: April 14, 2023
Project Due By: Complete in 2023
Budget: up to $12,000
Contact: Nicole Robert
Email: nicole.robert@mohai.org
Phone: 206.324.1126 x165

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