JOB OPPORTUNITY: Senior Native Organizer with The Natural History Museum
“On the brink of crisis and major global collapse, museums are, and need to be, agents for change.”
—Valine Crist (Haida Nation), at the ICOM NATHIST conference Anthropocene: Natural History Museums in the Age of Humanity
We are seeking a Senior Native Organizer to join us in our mission to transform museums of science and natural history. The successful candidate will work with our team to guide sympathetic museums toward becoming more effective allies of Native-led struggles to protect land, water, cultural heritage and our collective future.
Museums are influential. According to the American Alliance of Museums, the museum sector is a $50 billion industry in the United States. Museums see more visitors annually than sporting events and theme parks combined. They are a top three family destination, and polls show they are among the most trusted sources of information in society.
This trust is not universal. Born from a history of plunder, natural history museums in North America are slowly rebuilding relations with Native communities. For decades, Native activists have placed demands on these institutions, making real gains in the process: from the repatriation of human remains and sacred objects to the affirmation that Native Peoples should have authority over the representation of their cultural traditions and histories.
From this lineage of museum-focused activism has emerged new demands of museums of science and natural history. In the post-Standing Rock moment, museums are being called on to not simply describe the loss of life on Earth, but to act as allies and amplifiers of Native-led movements to protect water, land, sacred sites, and in the context of a changing climate, our collective future.
VIDEO: The Museum has an Opportunity and an Obligation, featuring Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe), Rueben George (Tsleil-Waututh), and Patricia Gualinga (Kichwa). Credit: The NHM.
Who is “we”?
The Natural History Museum (est. 2014) is a project of Not An Alternative, an activist art collective and nonprofit founded in 2004 that uses cultural organizing and creative advocacy to build a more equitable and just society.
The Natural History Museum was created as both an institutional transformation project and traveling museum. Teaming up with 150 top scientists and Nobel Laureates, we released a letter urging fellow museums to cut all ties to fossil fuel interests, and persuaded 9 museums to divest from fossil fuels, drop fossil fuel sponsors, or implement ethical funding policies. These efforts led oil mogul David Koch, a top funder of climate denial, to step down from the board of New York’s American Museum of Natural History after serving for 23 years.
After four years of attending and participating in museum conventions and professional associations, we have built relationships with museum directors and curators around the world. The Natural History Museum now partners with Indigenous communities to develop exhibitions and programs that bring environmental and climate justice concerns into mainstream natural history museums across North America. We research, publish and present; organize workshops, symposia and coalitions; and provide consulting to museum professionals on strategies for exhibitions, programs, public education and advocacy.
This may be unorthodox but we believe a job description should be discussed and developed collaboratively with you. This is not a cookie-cutter position, and your interests, skills and experience will shape it. We can say this: the successful candidate will work within our small team of activists, artists, and scholars on two main initiatives, bringing your own traditional teachings and an excitement for learning from other tribal cultures…
1) Helping to design a program of presentations, workshops and curricula for museums and related disciplines exploring the question of how institutions of natural history can play a role as allies to Indigenous-led movements and tribal nations to protect natural and cultural heritage.
2) Organizing ongoing public programming and events in association with exhibitions that take place in museums and cultural venues around the country.
Who should apply?
This is an unusual project and so it is an unusual opportunity. Having a background in anthropology, Native history, political theory, critical museology, heritage studies, Indigenous land rights, and/or grassroots organizing could be helpful. A strong candidate will have some experience with event planning and community organizing, especially with Native institutions or communities, as well as past or ongoing involvement in environmental and social justice movements. They will have impressive public speaking skills, and will be comfortable delivering compelling presentations and talks to museum professionals and the general public. They will have experience or ideas for developing environmental justice-themed curricula and trainings, and can develop educational programs that expand upon and activate environmental justice-themed exhibitions. Past experience working with or within art, culture, or educational institutions or with Native or tribal entities is a plus.
More than anything, we are looking for someone who can convincingly relay the vision of what museums must become. This doesn’t mean relinquishing criticality. It means harnessing a critical perspective in order to nudge would-be allies in the right direction. You don’t have to have experience with museums. We didn’t. Confidence and strong public speaking skills are essential.
This position requires frequent travel: you may be going to conferences, museums, protest camps, tribal offices, and periodic in-person work sessions at our office outside of Seattle. You must have personal knowledge and experience working with and in Indigenous communities and a willingness to deepen your understanding of traditional protocols and practices. You must be able to confidently speak on camera, moderate or speak on panels, and deliver talks and trainings. You must be comfortable working within institutional non-profit settings.
Your employment will kick off with a 4-week orientation residency at The Natural History Museum’s primary office outside of Seattle, WA (Vashon Island) so that you can become familiar with our organizational history, programs, workflow, culture and structure. Thereafter you are welcome to work remotely from your home community. Travel expenses and housing during the residency will be covered by The Natural History Museum.
Salary range is $50-60k plus benefits, depending on experience and skills.
How to Apply
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with a cover letter, CV or resume, and any work samples (writing, videos) you feel may be relevant to share or may be helpful in us getting to know you. The position is open until filled, but you are strongly encouraged to apply by February 25, 2019.
“The Right Side of History: How can museums support Native-led climate justice initiatives?”, Museum Magazine, July 2018
“Archaeologists and Museums Respond to Destruction of Standing Rock Sioux Sacred Sites”, Open letter organized by The Natural History Museum, September 2016
NHM exhibitions: https://thenaturalhistorymuseum.org/explore/exhibitions/