Published September/October 2012

Amerind Museum

Ancient artifacts reveal southern Arizona's past

BYDan Davis
To see the best of Arizona, you sometimes have to get off the pavement and stir up a little of that desert dust. About an hour east of Tucson, exiting Interstate 10 onto Dragoon Road, we found a true cultural oasis in the highly regarded Amerind Foundation Museum and Research Center.
“We’re trying to educate people about the rich, cultural tapestry throughout the Americas,” says Eric Kaldahl, the museum’s chief curator, who explains that behind the scenes, the museum houses an impressive research library used by scholars from around the world. But for curious travelers, the real treasures are in the museum itself and adjoining gallery, exhibiting 1,600 square feet of ancient art and artifacts.
One that Kaldahl is particularly proud of is a large basket in the middle of the main exhibit hall. In 1910, some young Apache sheepherders found the basket, which dates back at least 126 years to 1886. That was the year the U.S. government shipped all the Chiricahua Apache to Florida and held them as prisoners of war, finally releasing them in the early part of the 20th century. 
“He held on to the basket until he was well into his 80s,” Kaldahl says of the person who discovered it near the Mexican border. “He passed it to another ranching family in southern Arizona, and when the lady of the house died, her husband was looking for a place to store it.” With the encouragement of the Chiricahua Apache Tribe, the basket was put on display here about three years ago.

Other artifacts in the museum date back a thousand years, to the time of the ancient Paleo-Indian period, and were almost all collected by founders William and Rose Fulton. The Fultons originally wintered in the area to escape the chill in Connecticut, until they fell in love with the ancient, native culture of the Southwest and Mexico and made the Amerind Foundation their home in 1937.
Visitors are often surprised to discover that the interests of those living in southern Arizona during ancient times aren’t so different than now. “I think all people find fun, no matter where they are or their circumstances,” Kaldahl says. “They took time to beautify their world and share as gifts, trades, or exchanges.” And, here, the ancients are still sharing that beauty with us today.
DAN DAVIS is the host of AAA Presents Highroads with Dan Davis
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If You Go
2100 N. Amerind Road 
Dragoon, Ariz. 
Tues – Sun, 10 a.m.  – 4 p.m.
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