Native American Cultures, North and South


My father, Gordon W. Smith, was a student of and collector of American Indian art and culture and was inducted into the Oglala Sioux tribe at age 16. He was also an artist trained and working in the European tradition, so from childhood I was surrounded by art and ideas from both cultures.

The majority of his collection is now permanently housed in the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and I serve on the museum's Anthropology Committee.

My own background also includes working with Linda Schele at the University of Texas at Austin, the scholar who led the international team that deciphered the ancient Maya hieroglyphs in the 1980s. Based on my work with her, in 1986 I initiated the exhibition “The Blood of Kings: A New Interpretation of Maya Art” at the Kimbell Art Museum, the catalogue of which, called “The Blood of Kings: Ritual and Dynasty in Maya Art”, has been seen as a landmark addition to Maya scholarship.

For several years, I served on the board of the Maya Research Program, an archaeological foundation that conducts projects in a Classic-period Maya archaeological survey area in Blue Creek, Belize, as well as projects in Peru.

Currently, I serve on the Advisory Board of the Plains Indian Museum of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming. My colleagues on the museum board include many Plains Indians representing various tribes whose cultures are represented in the museum, and it is an honor to serve with them.

I am working to complete and edit a book that my father wrote about his experiences as a child and young man among the Plains Indians in the 1920s and 1930s, left unfinished upon his death in 2010, entitled “The Search for High Bear”.

I am also interested in the wider native shamanistic traditions of the Americas—including how they relate to similar global traditions, and what we can learn from them, particularly about alternate approaches to leadership.

Scott Malcomson