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Standards for Museums with Native American Collections

”The Standards for Museums with Native American Collections (SMNAC) is a comprehensive document for use by museums with Native collections to clarify their roles as stewards and improve the museum field as it relates to Native American peoples, communities, and cultural items. The SMNAC document will provide support for institutions to become true community partners, enabling them to connect collections with descendent communities for more meaningful, relevant and culturally sensitive interpretation and documentation. The SMNAC will serve to guide all aspects of work within museums holding Native collections, making recommendations for the seven Function Areas as identified by AAM’s Standards of Excellence: Mission and Planning, Collections Stewardship, Facilities and Risk Management, Education and Interpretation, Leadership and Organizational Structure, Financial Stability, Public Trust and Accountability.

In addition, the SMNAC provides case studies from several institutions that exemplify meaningful collaboration and inclusion. At the end of the document is a list of resources for further exploration and research.

The SMNAC is generously supported by the Anne Ray Foundation with additional support by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian



Tony Chavarria, Curator of Ethnology, Museum of Indian Arts & Culture

Cynthia Chavez Lamar, Director, Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian

Deana Dartt (Facilitator), Principal, Live Oak Consulting

Stacey Halfmoon, Chair, Indigenous Peoples Museum Network

Janine Ledford, Executive Director, Makah Cultural and Research Center

Elysia Poon (Facilitator), Indian Arts Research Center director, School for Advanced Research

Landis Smith, Conservator, Museum of New Mexico

Please email us at iarc@sarsf.org



  • Provide actionable recommendations for Native inclusion;
  • Motivate museums toward collaboration and partnership with Native communities;
  • Emphasize the responsibility and accountability inherent in the stewardship of Native collections and teaching cultural content;
  • Recognize the colonial legacy of museums and provide opportunities to educate about this history and its ongoing impact on Native people;
  • Address the need for cultural sensitivity and competency;
  • Provide support for Native American museum professionals, staff, board members, and volunteers;
  • Inform museums about the unique status of tribal governments and sovereignty;
  • Develop methodologies for working with Native communities



The CSMNAC document is currently in the vetting process and has entered the case studies development phase.  It is scheduled to be presented at the American Alliance of Museums’ annual conference in May 2023 in Denver, Colorado. Please check back periodically for updates on the CSMNAC document.

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