Native American Collections Digital Resource Pilot Project

by | May 28, 2023 | Articles, Coe Collaborations, Collections Programming

The Henry Luce Foundation awarded a $100,000 grant to the Ralph T. Coe Center to fund the Coe’s Native American Collections Digital Resource Pilot Project.

The Ralph T. Coe Center for the Arts has received a $100,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to support a pilot project aimed at revitalizing its Collection Management System. The pilot project will focus on making the database more culturally accurate and inclusive, reflecting multiple perspectives and communities represented within the collection. As part of the pilot program, the Coe Center will collaborate with living artists, relatives, and communities represented in the collection to gather culturally relevant information and narratives. This process will help to ensure that the collection accurately represents and respects Native American cultures and traditions. The Coe Center will facilitate meetings, on-site visits, and documentation through a digital archive process.

“We are thrilled to receive this grant from the Luce Foundation, which will enable us to take an important step towards making our collection more culturally accurate and inclusive,” said Rachel de W. Wixom, Executive Director of the Ralph T. Coe Center for the Arts. “We hope this pilot program will serve as a model for similar organizations and contribute to a process that reasserts authorship to Native American artists and community members.”

Guest Collaborators

Renée Wasson Dillard (Anishinaabe)
May 22 – 23, 2024

Find Renée Online:
TikTok: @reneedillard


Thank you to Renee ‘Wasson’ Dillard for visiting the Coe, where she engaged in a comprehensive review of a select group of Anishinaabe works in the Coe Collection as part of the Native American Digital Collections Pilot Project. This initiative underscores our commitment to enhancing the cultural accuracy and inclusivity of our database, thereby honoring the diverse perspectives and communities represented within our collection. This project includes augmenting information about works and correcting outdated terminology through collaborative review with community members.

During Wasson’s visit, we discussed the items within our collection, including the materials utilized in their creation and their historical contexts. By integrating this valuable insight into our database, we are able to cultivate a deeper comprehension of these works and their intrinsic ties to their respective communities of origin. 

 Wasson brings a wealth of expertise to this endeavor. She is a traditional Anishinaabe natural fiber artist and teacher, raised in Anishinaabe communities of Michigan. The art of natural fibers and weaving was passed on to Wasson at an early age, by both her mother and her paternal grandmother. Wasson began weaving her first yarn sash at age nine. Weaving came naturally to her, and thus began a lifetime of artistic expression and community teaching through traditional Anishinaabe approaches. Throughout the years, she has learned from other Anishinaabe community teachers, and today, she continues her path to re-discover knowledge and further sharpen her skills.

 Wasson has given countless presentations, consultations, and exhibitions at universities, museums, and community organizations. In 2010, she received the Michigan Heritage Award for her lifetime achievement in Natural Fiber Arts. In 2018, a studio was donated and placed in her backyard where she lives on her reservation. Additionally, Wasson was distinguished with the First People Fund 2022 Community Service Award to acknowledge her impactful contributions to her community and beyond.

Golga Oscar (Yup’ik)
February 26 – 27, 2024

Find Clarence Online:
Instagram: @quki92


We were thrilled to host Golga Oscar on February 26th-27th at the Coe. Golga, a passionate advocate for preserving Yupik culture and language, currently serves as the Native Arts coordinator for the UAF Kuskokwim Campus in Bethel, Alaska. Golga’s visit was part of the Native American Collections Digital Resource Pilot Project, funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. Thanks to the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation, the cost of his trip to work in the Coe collection here in Santa Fe was funded entirely. To learn more about Golga and his artwork, visit his website! We extend our sincerest gratitude to the Henry Luce Foundation for their support and to Golga Oscar for sharing his expertise and passion.

As we explored the collection together, Golga generously shared insights into the Yupik works contained within, providing valuable updates on materials, locations, and usage. Golga’s expertise was instrumental in ensuring the accuracy of our identifications, correcting any inaccuracies, and refining our understanding of the Yupik works in the collection. 

During Golga’s visit, we also discussed essential components of the Coe database. The database is where all object information in the collection is housed. Various fields in the database, like region and culture/people, can contain outdated information. The community member discussions, like with Gogla, allow us to update the information within the fields in a culturally appropriate way, enriching the overall information about a work. Collections visits by community members breathe life into the records, offering a nuanced perspective that transcends mere data.

Clarence Cruz (Khaayay) (Ohkay Owingeh)
October 2023

Find Clarence Online:


Clarence Cruz is Tewa from the Pueblo of Ohkay Owingeh, a traditional potter and Tenure Associate Professor in the Art & Art History Department at the University of New Mexico, where he teaches both undergraduate and graduate level classes. His accomplishments are many, which he says is a tribute to those who believed in him and gave him the gift of a potter. His continued practice as a Pueblo potter extends to other neighboring Pueblos, where he shares the knowledge of pottery making. It is a gift that was given to me and as my mentors have said and taught me and in return, you too must share that knowledge. “You serve a purpose, function, within a place in your community, just like the pottery you create.”

Cruz has had the honor to work side-by-side with renowned Native artists and scholars in the field of Pueblo Pottery of the Southwest such as, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, School of Advance Research, Maxwell Museum of Anthropology and Poeh Culture Center. He has also traveled to other countries outside of the United States engaging with potters in styles, hand build techniques, material use (clays, slips and pigments), firing techniques, designs, connections to clay within a community, function, purpose, and cultural similarities.

A 2020 Recipient of the Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship, 2012 Awarded “The Lifetime Achievement Allan Houser Legacy Award, Honoring Pueblo Potters”, SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market. In 2023 a participant with the Pueblo Pottery Collective, Grounded in Clay: The Spirit of Clay Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, with the School of Advance Research (SAR) and Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC). In 2023 invited by Coe Center, Ralph T. Coe Center for the Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico as a consultant to look at their collections.

Clarence most resent award in 2023 Honored him with the Research and Creative Works Leadership Award for extraordinary accomplishments in Pueblo Pottery during the Promoted Faculty Reception at the University of New Mexico, In 2023 invited to be part of “Native Soil” in Northern Iraq for two weeks, where he held a weeklong workshop in partnership with the Assyrian community in Bebedeh, Iraq. His next participation will be a seminar in 2024 in Oaxaca, Mexico, with a invite from the University of Arizona (Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society) and the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, University of New Mexico. In 2009 participated in a Ceramic Faculty Symposium, held in the Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute, China, sponsored by NCECA, National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts.

Diné Hataałii Association
Dr. Michael Lerna, Daniel Johnson, Anson Etsitty, Dr. Avery Denny, and Emery Denny (not pictured)
September 2023

Find the Diné Hataałii Association Online:


The Coe Center was honored to host the Diné Hataałii Association on Monday, September 19th. We invited the group to look at the Navajo items in the collection as a part of our ongoing work with a pilot program funded by the Henry Luce Foundation grant.
Bobby Lynn Qalutaksraq Brower (Inupiaq/Native Village of Barrow)
August 2023

Find Bobby Online:
Instagram: @arcticluxe_


Bobby Brower is Inupiaq and is an enrolled member of the Native Village of Barrow tribe in Utqiagvik, Alaska. She currently lives and works in Anchorage, Alaska. She specializes in one-of-a-kind pieces that are handmade by the artist. Her older daughters have learned a few of the techniques and help her as well. She also designs ready-to-wear fashions.

As early as she can remember, Brower’s life has been surrounded by art. Her uncle would carve baleen and ivory and make beautiful jewelry. Her grandmother Emily was also an expert seamstress. Brower’s mother learned sewing techniques from her mother Maryjane who had learned from Brower’s grandmother Emily. Then taught Brower those same techniques.

After High School, Brower had her first child. Then took up sewing with her aunt Florence Brower. Florence inspired her to start skin sewing again. Growing up in her community, she learned to skin sew at the age of 13 during her Inupiat Language class. Brower’s aunt had convinced her to enter the Top of the World baby contest they hold every 4th of July. Over the years, Brower continued sewing and eventually started her small business Hallelujah Designs in 2010. Since then, she has changed the name over to Bobby Itta Designs, and now is Arctic Luxe.

In 2015, Brower decided to sign up for a fashion show with the Alaska Native Heritage Center. This was her start in fashion. Since then, she has shown her work all over Alaska, Washington, New Mexico, New York, and Canada.

Itta has work in the permanent collection of The International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She also is an advocate for MMIWGS, and is working on a touring exhibit with the Bunnell Arts Street Center in Homer, Alaska.

Melissa Shaginoff (Ahtna and Paiute)
August 2023

Find Melissa Online:
Instagram: @mshaginoff


Melissa Shaginoff is Ahtna and Paiute from Nay’dini’aa Na Kayax (Chickaloon Village, AK). Her work is shaped by the framework and intricacies of Indigenous ceremonies and social structures. Melissa utilizes visiting in her art practice, searching for deeper understanding through moments of exchange and reciprocity. Melissa has completed residencies in New Mexico, Sweden, Italy, Canada, and Alaska. She has curated and juried art exhibitions with the Anchorage Museum, Alaska Pacific University, the University of Alaska Anchorage, the Coe Center, the Fairbanks Art Association, and the International Folk Art Museum. Melissa is also curating and operating the Kuzuundze’ ts’eghaanden Gallery.

An Indigenous-centered space that supports Elders, youth, and emerging artists interested in developing their exhibition readiness. Melissa has been published in the Alaska Humanities FORUM Magazine, First American Art Magazine, Inuit Art Quarterly, and the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center’s Learning Lab. She is a founding member of Luk’ae Tse’ Taas (fish head soup) Comics, a new media collective focused on BIPOC representation in printed narratives. Melissa reclaims power for Indigenous peoples through movements of Land Back and what she calls an eclipsing of Land Acknowledgements. Working with settler communities on her traditional homelands, she is actively part of returning land to Indigenous ownership. Melissa has also created a Land Acknowledgement workshop that is aimed at settler labor and acts of reparations.


Recent Articles