These two statues, Hiawatha and Minnehaha, reside in Gallery 759 in the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. One of my favorite podcasts, The Memory Place, has a series of 8 episodes each focusing on different pieces of artwork at the Met. I had wonderful time listening to these episodes while viewing the artwork at the Met and that’s best way to experience them. However, most of the world is shutdown right now and visiting museums is not possible so we need ways experience things beyond our homes without leaving our homes. And in that context, listening to these episodes while looking at photographs of the artwork is a compelling way to do a virtual visit to the Met.
The podcast episode Two Small Sculptures is about these two small statues. The episode is a masterpiece. In the episode, Nate DiMeo, the creator of the Memory Place, tells a beautiful and haunting story about these two statues, the then famous poem, The Song of Hiawatha, from which two characters originate and about the arist, Edmonia Lewis, who created the statues. DiMeo’s story vividly illuminates how culture myths, like that of Native Americans being noble savages, give cover to atrocities.