The Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College acknowledges the Tongva peoples as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (the Tongva world, including the Los Angeles Basin, South Channel Islands, San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, and portions of Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties) and are grateful to have the opportunity to work for the Taraaxatom (Indigenous peoples) in this place. As an institution located on unceded Indigenous land, we pay our respects to Honuukvetam (ancestors), ’Ahiihirom (elders), and ’Evoohiinkem (our relatives / relations) past, present, and emerging.
The language of art history, anthropology, and archaeology—among many other disciplines—is constantly evolving. Terms such as work of art and artifact and temporal designations such as pre-Columbian introduce categories imposed on a vast range of items created through time and across continents. These categories neither reflect nor respect the diversity of material cultures around the world and the conditions of an item’s creation and use within those cultures. As we learn more about the language used by Indigenous cultures to describe their items, the language of art history will continue to evolve.
Pomona College has a collection of approximately 4,000 Native American items that represent more than 100 tribes and peoples in North America. The collection is particularly rich in Californian and Southwestern basketry, Southwestern ceramics, and beadwork of the Plains and Great Lakes. It includes clothing and household items, decorative works, weapons, and ritual items. The majority of these artifacts came to the College through a series of significant gifts from a small number of donors over the past 70 years (see Provenance).
This section of the Benton’s website is devoted to contextualizing both the contents and origins of the College’s collection. Here you will find information about the items themselves and how they came to Pomona College, and the steps that the College and the Benton Museum of Art continue to take to ensure ethical and responsible stewardship of them, including compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and the museum’s outreach initiatives.
View our Collections
The Benton Museum of Art is eager to provide access to its collections to tribal members seeking items made by their ancestors or contemporaries. Keyword search, images, and basic information are available through this portal. Records are continually updated to reflect current research and conversations with Indigenous community members. Community members that would like to reconnect with and view our collection should email associate director/registrar Steve Comba at firstname.lastname@example.org.