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So We Beat On: How Native Interpreters at Living History Museums Experience Racial Microaggressions

Thesis by Sierra Young (2016)

For a long and painful time, dominant society has chosen how and for what purposes Indigenous history and identity is portrayed to the general public. From the racist ethnographic displays of yesteryear to the often problematic living history museums of today, Native American interpreters have had to cope with the fundamental disconnect between the reality of contemporary Native American culture and non-Native individuals’ expectations of it. The purpose of this study is to understand the extent to, and ways in which, Native American interpreters at living history museums experience and deal with instances of racism while interpreting their Native history. This study was guided by Indigenous research methodologies, and includes interviews with six Native American interpreters working at sites across the United States. Using Derald Wing Sue’s racial microaggression framework, this study found that all of the interpreters experienced racial microaggressions, and that they have found ways of mitigating the effects of their negative experiences. Living history museums can consider some of these mitigation techniques in order to encourage and maintain Native participation at their sites.


Keywords: research, living history museums, interpretation, museum staff, social change, indigenous research methodologies, microaggressions, Native Americans


Young, S. A. (2016). So we beat on: How native interpreters at living history museums experience racial microaggressions. (Order No. 10138625). Available from Dissertations & Theses @ University of Washington WCLP; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1821306965). Retrieved from