Despite the fact we arrived in Phoenix a day late we were able to visit our two planned stops on our itinerary.
The first was the Heard Museum which is a museum dedicated to Native American arts and culture with a focus on the tribes from the southwest. This museum is one of the finest I have been to. The collections were thorough and clearly interepreted. There were many hands on activities to keep the kids interested. We also joined a tour which gave us even more in depth information.
The most compelling exhibit was about the Indian Schools which were started in the late 1800s to deal with the “Indian Problem”. Indian children of all ages were packed up and sent to Pennsylvania to be indoctrinated into the white man’s culture. More school were created across the country and some are still open today. Initially, these schools were all about making the Indian children be like white children. The first groups of children through these schools were caught, they had lost their Indian culture but didn’t really fit in the white man’s world nor did they feel comfortable with thier own people. Gradually, these schools changed to better meet the needs of the children attending. Some of the interviews of children who attend in the 50s-70s actually had positive experinces at these schools. I believe some of these schools are open as a way to educate high school age students who live on remote reservations. This was a really eye opening exhibit because I was unfamiliar with the history behind them.
We also managed to squeeze in a late afternoon visit to the Desert Botanical Gardens. The advantage to this is that it was cooler and less crowded. After years of hearing about the saguaro cactus and deserts in 5th grade state reports, I finally see a real saguaro cactus. We saw some on the roadside as we were heading into Phoenix but the ones in the garden were more cultivated and looked more like a “cactus”. We also got to see a little bit of wildlife. It is amazing the variety of plants and animals that live in the desert.
Now that Jim has headed home we are getting homesick and we are ready to be home. But, we have many miles to cover before we get there. We do have a few more stops to make which will help break up the ride.