Native American Gift Giving
For centuries, gift giving has been an important aspect of intertribal and interpersonal relations among Native Americans and Alaska Natives. The giving of gifts has symbolized friendship, respect, honor, and much more.

Gift to Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Ada Deer from the Alaska Federation of Natives, Anchorage, Alaska, October 15, 1993.

Today, gift giving is still an important symbol of the relationship between sovereign tribal governments and the United States.
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Gift to Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk from the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation, May 3, 2010.

Gift to Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Neal A. McCaleb from the Alaska Federation of Natives, October 27, 2001.

To mark important occasions or to thank individual Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) employees for their work, a Native artist or other tribal member may present an employee with a gift.

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Gift to Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Ada Deer from the Lummi Indian Business Council, 1993.

Gift to Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Ada Deer from the Alaska Federation of Natives, October 20, 1995.

To honor the object as a symbol of the relationship between two sovereign governments, the BIA Museum Program preserves these objects to ensure that they are available for the enjoyment and enrichment of generations to come.

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Gift to the Director of the Office of Indian Education Programs from the artists, 1993-94.

Gift to Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk from the Yakama Tribe, September 2, 2010. Presented in Washington, D.C.

These gifts are on exhibit nationwide in BIA offices, Bureau of Indian Education schools, and in the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Stewart Lee Udall (Main) Interior Building in Washington, DC.

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Gift to Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Neal A. McCaleb from the San Felipe Indian School, May 16, 2002.

The Main Interior Building is open to the public and hosts visits from tribal governments and tribal members throughout the year.

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Gift to Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Kevin Gover from the Chairman of the Jamul Mission Indians, April 5, 1998. Presented at the Child Abuse Prevention Meeting in San Diego, California.

BIA’s exhibits educate staff and visitors about Native American and Alaska Native cultures.

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Gift to Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Ada Deer, January 1993.


Gift to Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk from the All Indian Pueblo Council, March 11, 2010.

With these exhibits, the BIA Museum Program seeks to continue to honor the spirit in which the gifts were given and those who gave these gifts.

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Gift to Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk from the Cherokee Nation, November 6, 2011.


Gift to Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Ada Deer, September 1996. Accepted at the grand opening of the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Business Information Center.

Gift to Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn from the Chairman of the Spokane Tribe, December 2012.

Given to Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn, March 16, 2015, during the Tanana Chiefs Conference 2015 Annual Convention and Full Board of Directors Meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Credits: Story

Native American Gift Giving was developed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Museum Program, September 2016.

Shannon Stiles, Staff Curator
Annie Pardo, Museum Program Manager
(with assistance from the summer intern)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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