In an effort to reclaim some of its cultural heritage, and strengthen the ties to its past, the Fort Independence Tribe has embarked on an effort to showcase its history to the public.
Thanks to a cooperative effort between the Inyo County Eastern California Museum and the Fort Independence Paiute community, members of the tribe as well as the public can enjoy beautiful examples of the Fort’s cultural heritage, right in their own backyard.
Fifteen assorted Native American baskets and artifacts have been loaned to the tribe by the Eastern California Museum from its own extensive collection and are now on display inside the Fort Independence Travel Plaza.
The addition at the plaza – an economic development project operated by the Fort Independence Tribe – has helped fortify the tribe’s link to local history and bring tribal members closer together, according to Fort Independence Tribal Chairman Israel Naylor.
“Our cultural heritage is an important aspect of what binds the members of the tribe together,” Naylor said. “Many of our members now live in places outside of the Owens Valley, but all of us retain strong ties to our past. We feel our rich history and the traditions and customs of our ancestors form the core basis of who we are as a tribe and as individuals.”
The artifacts themselves are something to behold.
“We have beautiful hand-made baskets, hats and even a cradle board, all made by Owens Valley Paiutes from years ago,” Ft. Independence Historical Preservation Officer Priscilla Naylor said. “Through museum records, we have been able to identify some as being made from direct relatives of a few of our members. We are exceptionally pleased that the Eastern California Museum has allowed us to display these beautiful pieces from our heritage, not only for the tribe, but for our customers to enjoy as well.”
She added, “There has been another significant benefit to this exhibit. After seeing the new exhibit, a few local residents have come forth with Native American artifacts they have in their possession, and have loaned or given them to the tribe to add to the display. We hope this pattern will continue so we may be able to assemble a more comprehensive and permanent collection of these types of items to display for all to enjoy.”
The display is inside the store at the Fort Independence Travel Plaza. The tribe invites everyone to stop in and enjoy these treasures from the tribe’s past.
“Like branches on a tree, our lives may grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one.”
– Paiute proverb