Note: This story was first published in a previous edition of the Gypsy Journal.
Travelers along busy Interstate 10 in southeastern Arizona are often delighted and amazed at the rock formations of Texas Canyon, located between Benson and Willcox. But few know of the historical and cultural treasure awaiting them at the Amerind Foundation Museum, located just a short drive off the highway.
Housed in a historic Spanish Colonial Revival style building that was constructed in stages, beginning in the 1930s, the private, non-profit museum contains one of the finest collections of archaeological and ethnological artifacts in the nation.
The Amerind Foundation (Amerind is formed from the words American and Indian) was founded in 1937 by William Shirley Fulton, a native of Connecticut whose interest in archaeology began when he was a young man. Between 1906 and 1917, Fulton made repeated trips from his New England home to Arizona, exploring the mountains, canyons, and mesas in search of archaeological sites.
It was on one of his visits to Arizona that Fulton first learned of Texas Canyon, with its rugged vistas and beautiful rock formations. He was further intrigued by rumors of prehistoric agricultural villages in the canyon.
Fulton bought the FF Ranch in Texas Canyon in 1930 and began excavating sites there in 1931. He became convinced that one of the few means of interpreting ancient cultures was to collect and preserve their surviving material. Fulton published his first scholarly articles in 1934 and 1938, based on his field work, entitled Archaeological Notes on Texas Canyon, Arizona. His ongoing interest in the people who first inhabited this region led him to form the museum and research foundation that we know today.
The Amerind Museum’s exhibits tell the story of America’s first peoples from Alaska to South America and from the last Ice Age to the present. The museum is a hidden gem that includes a 1,600 square-foot gallery that showcases a permanent exhibition illustrating Native American cultures with figures of humans, animals and even plant motifs. Exhibits include textiles, organic fibers, clay, stone, wood, ivory, metal, beads, and leather. Displays include an impressive collection of artifacts such as woven baskets, pottery, tools, and other implements.
In addition, archaeology exhibits interpreting the prehistoric Indian cultures of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico are showcased. Other displays include exhibits of Plains Indian beadwork and costumes, masks, shields, weapons, and children’s toys.
The museum also showcases art of Native American artists and 19th and 20th century western artists.
The Amerind’s Fulton-Hayden Memorial Art Gallery features works on western themes by artists such as Harrison Begay, Carl Oscar Borg, William Leigh, Frederic Remington, and Andy Tsihnahjinnie.
The Amerind experience is more than art and artifacts. On special Native Arts weekends, visitors can watch Indian artists demonstrating their skills in the museum’s main gallery. The Amerind also has a comprehensive hands-on education program for children of all ages, and special events and openings are a periodic feature of the Amerind calendar.
In addition to its museum and public programs, the Amerind Foundation’s archaeological and ethnographic collections, research library, and archives are important resources for scholars conducting research on southwestern anthropology, archaeology, history, and Native American studies. Special resident scholar and advanced seminar programs address important research issues in anthropology, archaeology, and related disciplines. Seminar proceedings are regularly published in Amerind’s New World Studies Series through the University of Arizona Press.
The museum includes a small store offering southwestern arts, crafts, and books on prehistory, history, and Native American cultures. For many visitors, the opportunity to experience the solitude of the high desert, with its native plants, birds, and animals is a wonderful side benefit of a trip to the Amerind Foundation. The grounds include a secluded picnic area with tables and rest room facilities, offering a quiet retreat amidst the massive granite boulders of Texas Canyon.
The Amerind is located just off of Interstate 10, approximately 60 miles from Tucson and an easy three hour drive from Phoenix. Follow the signs on the highway and take the Dragoon Road exit (318) and proceed east one mile to the Amerind Foundation turnoff. Turn left at the entrance sign and proceed to the museum. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The museum is closed most major holidays.
Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors age 62 and over and college students with student identification, and children ages 10 to 17 are $8. Children under 10 are admitted free. There is parking and turnaround space available in front of the museum for cars, recreational vehicles, and tour buses. The Amerind Museum is housed in a historic building, and modifications to allow wheelchair access are difficult and expensive, but the museum staff are trying to make more areas in the museum accessible, and will do as much as possible to accommodate the needs of visitors with physical disabilities; please check with a museum staff member for assistance. The Art Gallery is not accessible. A wheelchair accessible rest room is located in the picnic area.
Pets are welcome on the grounds, but must be confined in your vehicle or walked on a leash. No pets allowed in the museum buildings, except service dogs. For more information on the Amerind Foundation Museum, call (520) 586-3666.
Thought For The Day – Ambition beats genius 99% of the time. – Jay Leno