Empty Space!

Karen Coody Cooper

Karen Coody Cooper

Since beginning my museum career in 1979, I focused on battling stereotypes and misinformation about American Indians. For almost a decade, I worked in a small museum in Connecticut, researched Southern New England Native history, and wrote and spoke throughout the Northeast on Native American topics. In 1989, the New England History Teachers Association presented me with the Kidger Award for excellence in history education. I also wrote for, and served on the board of, Eagle Wing Press, a New England American Indian newspaper. EWP produced the book, Rooted Like the Ash Tree, containing the writings of American Indians, distributed to every school in New England (and I married EWP editor, Jim Roaix). I learned to finger weave (a Native craft turning colorful yarns into patterned sashes).

I continued at the Museum of the Great Plains in Oklahoma and at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in Maryland. In 1994, I was recruited by the Smithsonian to manage their museum training program as mandated by the legislation establishing the National Museum of the American Indian. That work took me to more than half the Native museums in the United States, and brought me into contact with Native museum leaders. I completed my museum career at the Cherokee Heritage Center by supervising its replicated 19th century living history Cherokee settlement for four years and then serving as interim Executive Director in 2012. My book, Spirited Encounters, chronicles Native protests of museum policies and is used in museum studies and American Indian studies. I have had a long interest in stereotypes about American Indians and have an interesting collections of old stereotype materials. I now live in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, having returned to the state of my birth and the Cherokee Nation. In my retirement I provide museum consultations, teach occasional courses at nearby Northeastern State University, continue to write, and indulge in finger weaving and creating contemporary as well as replicated wampum belts. For additional information, please visit my website:  KarenCoodyCooper.com