Museum Interns Take New York: A Photo Journal

On July 10, 12 NMAI interns and fellows visited the National Museum of the American Indian’s George Gustav Heye Center in New York City. We arrived at the museum as thousands of fans poured into lower Manhattan to shower us with cheers and admiration, or was that for the U.S. women’s soccer team?

As the crowds dispersed we headed into the museum, but not before taking a picture with a U.S. marshal (below).

Interns & US marshal

We were greeted by Duane Blue Spruce , public spaces planning coordinator (below, wearing a red shirt). After a round of introductions, he told us about his involvement with the Heye Center. His experience began when the museum was the Museum of the American Indian at West 155th and Broadway, before it became part of the Smithsonian and moved downtown. Duane showed us two books he created to illustrate the experiences of Native peoples in the New York City area—Mother Earth, Father Skyline: The Native American Experience in New York City and Concrete Tipi. “It’s fun to come and work here every day,” he said, “because the things we produce represent Native people and educate the public. We’re doing good stuff.”

John Haworth and GGHC staff speaking with interns

We were joined by John Haworth, NMAI assistant director for Museum Programs (above, far right), who told us about the imagiNATIONS project being developed in New York. This new hands-on learning space will be geared towards pre-teens and will demonstrate the ingenuity of Native peoples, including their contributions in food, medicine, and architecture. Connor Bliss, an intern in the Exhibits Department, explained that “being able to witness the progress that is being made on . . . the imagiNATIONS Activity Center has further increased the understanding of the exhibitions process I’ve learned here during my time at the Smithsonian.” 

Peter BrillLater, Peter Brill, deputy assistant director of the museum in New York (right), walked us through the exhibit design process. His enthusiasm for the museum was infectious, and he encouraged us to speak up and present our ideas: “In these projects, you have a voice, and it’s important to think and be responsive to each other, bring your ideas forward, and try not to be fearful of making a silly suggestion.”

Charlotte Basch, an intern in Community and Constituent Services, told me she was impressed by how encouraging the New York staff is: “It was a great opportunity to see that each individual plays an important role in the NMAI and Smithsonian network. . . . Peter and Duane and everyone else were obviously excited about the work they do for both tribal communities and their fellow New Yorkers.”

Carrie Gonzalez 1 Carrie Gonzalez 2
Carrie Gonzalez 3

Carrie Gonzalez, a cultural interpreter on the Heye Center staff, then guided us on a wonderful tour of the museum (above and right). She also led us through three major exhibitions: Glittering World: Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family, Infinity of Nations: Art and History in the Collections of the National Museum of the American, and Cerámica de los Ancestros: Central America’s Past Revealed, as well as Circle of Dance.  

Carrie told us that she leads school groups on tours during the school year, sometimes with over 50 kids! I think we were slightly easier to manage.  

We also got the chance to explore the museum’s activity center (below). Some interns tried their hand at a Yup'ik yo-yo a game that requires the player to take two sealskin balls attached by a caribou-sinew string and swing them around in opposite directions. I ventured into a tipi with Sara Morales, a Collections intern, and spent some time looking at the artwork on the interior. 

Yoyo 1 Yoyo 2 Tipi interior

After the tour was over, the interns scattered across the city—some uptown to see friends, some to Brooklyn. We all left the Heye Center with an appreciation for how the museum is changing understandings of Native lives in New York City.


—Sarah Frost

Sarah Frost spent her summer internship at the museum in Washington, D.C., as a member of the Web staff, working on the Inka Road website and new projects online and in social media. 

Photos: Tipi interior courtesy of Conservation intern Rachel Mochon. View of Manhattan courtesy of Applications intern Abby Malkin. All other photos courtesy of Sarah Frost.

The National Museum of the American Indian's Internship Program offers sessions in the spring, summer, and fall. The next deadline for applications—for the spring 2016 session—is November 20, 2015.

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July 30, 2015

Meet Native America: Tribal Chief Phyliss J. Anderson, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians

In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native people today. —Dennis Zotigh 

Chief Phyliss Anderson
Tribal Chief Phyliss J. Anderson, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

Phyliss J. Anderson, tribal chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

Where is your tribe located?

The majority of the tribe is located in Mississippi, with a small community in Henning, Tennessee. There are eight official communities—Bogue Chitto, Bogue Homa, Conehatta, Crystal Ridge, Pearl River, Red Water, Standing Pine, and Tucker—located in 10 counties in central Mississippi. Tribal headquarters is located in the Pearl River community.

Where was your tribe originally from?

For centuries the Choctaw have lived in the Southeastern United States, largely in what is now the state of Mississippi.

What is a significant point in history from your tribe that you would like to share?

Our tribe has evolved over the centuries to become a progressive and diverse people. The Choctaw people have overcome seemingly impossible obstacles because our ancestors believed that one day we would not only survive, but thrive. From the time of removal from our lands and battles with disease to our fight for sovereignty and self-determination, we have shown that Choctaws are a resilient people.

The Choctaw journey—that of economic progress and knocking down barriers—is still young. We have many more achievements in our future. I share in the spirit of optimism inherited from our ancestors. Our story is just beginning, and I look forward to what the future holds for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

How is your tribal government set up?

Our government is democratic, with three official branches—executive, legislative, and judicial. The tribal chief is the head of the executive branch and the chief principal officer. A 17-member Tribal Council makes up the legislative branch. Council members are elected from each of the Choctaw communities. The judicial branch is made up of the Choctaw Supreme Court and Choctaw Tribal Courts.

Is there a functional, traditional entity of leadership in addition to your modern government system?

Not in an official capacity. As with most Native cultures, we view our elders with high esteem and respect. From time to time I may seek advice from our elders. They are our true historians and keepers of our cultural heritage, and I believe it is important to learn as much as we can from them.

 Thanksgiving Feast_Chief and Elders

Chief Anderson speaking with elders at the Choctaw community Thanksgiving feast, November 2011. Photo by Vince O. Nickey (Choctaw). 

How often are elected leaders chosen?

The tribal chief is elected every four years. This year happened to be an election year for the tribal chief position. Tribal Council representatives are elected to staggered four-year terms—eight positions during tribal chief elections and nine seats two years later during midterm elections.

How often does your Tribal Council meet?

Regularly scheduled Tribal Council meetings occur every quarter in January, April, July, and October per the Tribal Constitution. However, special-call Tribal Council meetings can be scheduled at any time by the tribal chief.

How did your life experience prepare you to lead your tribe?

I was born on New Year’s Day in 1961 and grew up during a time of racial turmoil in the South. My community and family bonded together during those years to become a strong unit, and that’s what I have tried to share with the Choctaw people. There is so much strength in unity and love.

My path to leadership certainly had some challenges, but I learned to face adversity with positivity and determination. I come from a rural area and a poverty-stricken home. My six sisters and I were raised in a tribal frame home located in the Red Water community in Leake County, Mississippi.

My mother was a strong woman and instilled so many important values into us girls. We knew the importance of education, faith, integrity, right, and wrong. But she also demonstrated the value of hard work, determination, dedication, and perseverance. I can remember my sisters and I would work in the cotton fields with Mom. I even remember saving up all of my money to buy five-cent Coke bottles and refashioning them into Barbie dolls.  

At the time I did not fully realize I was poor, but looking back now, I can see it. To some people, my family experienced a less-than-desirable environment; however, we were surrounded by encouragement, trust, honesty, support, and a belief that we could accomplish any goals that we set for ourselves. These are the traits that were instilled in me by my mother.

Now as a mother and grandmother myself and as the tribal chief of our great tribe, I have used these same traits to raise a family and provide solid leadership for our Choctaw people.  

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader?

As the chief principal officer of the tribe, I am responsible for the well-being of the Choctaw people.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

Many people have inspired me throughout my life and career. There have been many elders that I have had an opportunity to learn from. One of those is my mother, as I mentioned before. Another is our late Choctaw Tribal Chief Phillip Martin.

I started my career as a receptionist and payroll clerk at Choctaw Development Enterprise. Chief Martin recruited me to work for him, but the director of Choctaw Development at the time did not want to lose me, so he offered to pay me more than Chief Martin was offering. In the end, Chief Martin won after he told my boss, “I’m the chief, and she’s coming with me!” I served as an executive assistant to Chief Martin where I worked my way through our tribal government programs and eventually landed a position as the director of Natural Resources. Early on I believe Chief Martin saw my qualities as a hard worker and leader, and for that I am grateful. 

In 2003 I decided to run for elected office as a council representative from my community of Red Water. I was elected and served eight successful years on the Tribal Council, including four years as Secretary–Treasurer. Those eight years were extremely tough for my family and me. However, Chief Martin mentored and encouraged me to lead with grace, poise, and determination. 

Are you a descendant of a historical leader? 


Approximately how many members are in your tribe?

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has an enrollment of just over 10,800 members. 

What are the criteria to become a member? 

Our Tribal Constitution calls for a 50 percent or more blood quantum to become an enrolled member.

Is your language still spoken on your homelands? 

The Choctaw language is still spoken across our communities. Our language is an important part of our identification of who we are as Choctaw people. The Department of Chahta Immi Language Program does a fantastic job of maintaining our traditional language through written documents and traditional songs. This program also offers Choctaw immersion classes for adults and students in our Choctaw Tribal Schools and culturally centered activities throughout the year.

What economic enterprises does your tribe own?

Mississippi Choctaws have pursued various economic development opportunities on our reservation for over 45 years. In 1969 we started a construction company to build houses on the reservation. In the 1970s and '80s, we opened four manufacturing companies that employ more than 2,000 residents in our community. In the 1990s, we expanded into gaming and tourism with the development of casinos, hotels, and golf courses. Our tourism efforts have created more than 3,500 jobs for our community. In the early 2000s we expanded into more high-tech business ventures that require higher skills, but also pay higher wages for our tribal members.

Today, the Mississippi Choctaws operate a diversified portfolio of businesses that provide direct employment for approximately 4,000 workers.

What annual events does your tribe sponsor?

Throughout the year the tribe holds many events for our tribal members. We have Community Field Days in each community. I host a reservation-wide Thanksgiving feast and one in the Henning, Tennessee, community. We also celebrate the holidays with a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. These are all events that are mainly for our tribal members.

We do host a few events open to the public. Our main event, of course, is the annual Choctaw Indian Fair, now in its 66th year. The fair is held every year the second Wednesday through Saturday in July. This is where our Choctaw people showcase the pride we have in our culture. A month after the Choctaw Indian Fair—Friday, August 14, this year, beginning at 10 a.m.—we commemorate and honor the day our Mother Mound was returned to us with the Nanih Waiya Day celebration. The day includes a morning wreath-laying ceremony at the Nanih Waiya Mound near the Kemper–Neshoba county border and All-Star stickball games in the evening. 

What other attractions are available for visitors on your land?

Visitors to our reservation are encouraged to learn about our Choctaw people by visiting the Chahta Immi Cultural Center (CICC) or taking a pre-scheduled tour of our reservation lands, including the Nanih Waiya Mound, Lake Pushmataha, and the Choctaw Veterans Memorial. A popular tourist destination is our Pearl River Resort, with the Silver Star and Golden Moon casino–hotels, Dancing Rabbit InnDancing Rabbit Golf ClubGeyser Falls Water Theme Park, and Bok Homa Casino.  

How does your tribe deal with the United States as a sovereign nation?

We have a very good relationship with leaders on the federal government level. I have met with the president on a couple of occasions. I have made frequent travels to the U.S. Capitol to discuss a range of issues with our congressional delegation. Members of the delegation, in turn, have visited the reservation several times in the past few years and have been very supportive of our efforts. It’s important that we, as leaders, build and nurture strong government-to-government relationships that are mutually beneficial.

Chief Anderson and President Obama 2011

President Barack Obama and Chief Anderson during the 2011 White House Tribal Nations Conference at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C. Gannett/Stephen J. Boitano photo. 

What message would you like to share with the youth of your tribe?

Hard work, dedication, determination, and faith are the keys to success. Failures and mistakes can and will happen. But take those experiences as life lessons and move forward. Never let negativity or adversity keep you from reaching for the stars. Remember, we are all travelers on this journey called life. Keep in mind where you’ve come from and keep looking ahead to see where you are going. Always have appreciation for those who have supported you and always give God the glory.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I’m grateful for this opportunity to lead my people as tribal chief. I am able to use this position to put forth many ideas and plans that I believe have and will greatly benefit the tribe and improve the quality of life on the reservation. None of this would have been possible without the support and encouragement from my fellow tribal members. To them, I offer my sincerest appreciation, and I pledge to keep doing my very best to ensure a better future for our people. 

Thank you.

Thank you.

All photos courtesy of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians; used with permission.

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July 23, 2015

Meet Native America: Chairman Leonard Forsman, Suquamish Tribe

In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native people today. —Dennis Zotigh 

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

I'm Leonard Forsman, chairman of the Suquamish Tribe

Can you share with us your Native name and its English translation?

It's ˇGvύí (GwoWee). It means Raven.

Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman
Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman. 

Where is your tribe located?

The Suquamish Tribe is located on the Port Madison Indian Reservation in Kitsap County, Washington. We are located in the central Puget Sound region and are approximately a half-hour away from the city of Seattle by water.

Where was your tribe originally from?

The Suquamish Tribe’s traditional areas encompass much of the Puget Sound region.

What is a significant point in history from your tribe that you would like to share? 

Chief Seattle, for whom the city of Seattle is named, is a hereditary leader of the Suquamish People. Seattle signed the Point Elliott Treaty in 1855 on behalf of the Suquamish and Duwamish People. His father’s village of Old Man House was probably the largest winter house in the Northwest Coast, reaching nearly 800 by 40 feet (32,000 square feet).

Today, the Suquamish Tribe continues to be a leader in government-to-government relations. The Suquamish Tribe is one of the first tribes in Washington to collaborate with state government in order to create a new Tribal-Compact schools system. Suquamish was also instrumental in the implementation of a Native American curriculum in schools across Washington State.

How is your tribal government set up? How often are elected leaders chosen?

The Suquamish Tribe is led by a seven-member Tribal Council. Members are elected each March by the tribe’s voting body, known as the General Council. The Tribal Council consists of four officers—chairman, vice-chairman, treasurer, secretary—and three at-large council members. The chairman only votes in case of a tie. Tribal Council officers and members serve three-year staggered terms.

Is there a functional, traditional entity of leadership in addition to your modern government system?

No, but we have an Elder Council and a Youth Council that advise us on a variety of cultural and social issues.

How often does your Tribal Council meet?

Suquamish Tribal Council meets twice each month. Suquamish General Council—the community—meets annually.

Suquamish Tribal Council 2015
The Suquamish Tribal Council, 2015. Left to right: Council Member Rich Purser, Council Member Sammy Mabe, Treasurer Robin Sigo, Chairman Leonard Forsman, Secretary Nigel Lawrence, Vice-Chairman Wayne George, and Council Member Luther "Jay" Mills.

How did your life experience prepare you to lead your tribe?

Members of my family, especially my father and older siblings, were very active in tribal government, setting a great example. I was a student-athlete at public school, as well as a member of our tribal baseball, softball, and basketball teams. My oldest sister and brother were involved in education and national politics, which inspired me to get involved in both. I also was exposed to some of our cultural values and teachings at a young age, which led me into my work as a cultural researcher and anthropologist.

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader?

My first responsibility is to organize and lead our Tribal Council meetings and our annual General Council meeting. My second responsibility, in my opinion, is to represent the Suquamish Tribe and its interests within our tribal community, with other tribal governments, and with outside governments on the local, state, and national level. I also serve on many boards and commissions within and outside the tribe, which work to meet the interests of our people and the greater community, including serving as a member of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation since being appointed by President Barack Obama in 2013.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

My parents, who lived through the Depression, met and married during World War II, and raised their family here on the reservation. Also my oldest brother, Jim, who inspired me to go to school and get active in politics, and my late sister, Marion, who taught me to work hard and to learn my culture.

Are you a descendant of a historical leader? If so, who?

I am a descendant of the family of Chief Seattle, signer of the Treaty of Point Elliott of 1855.

Approximately how many members are in your tribe? What are the criteria to become a member? 

There are approximately 1150 Suquamish tribal members. Automatic adoption requires descendancy from a Suquamish tribal member and one-eighth total Indian blood.

Is your language still spoken on your homelands? If so, what percentage of your people would you estimate are fluent speakers?

The Suquamish people traditionally speak a Salishan language called Lushootseed.

Several years ago, the Suquamish Tribe had very few Lushootseed speakers. The language was in real danger of becoming extinct. However, a group of dedicated tribal members worked to create a language program. At first the program was volunteer. Now it is a fully funded division of our Education Department, where we have Lushootseed classes for students at our schools and family classes for our community members.

What economic enterprises does your tribe own?

Over the past 25 years, the Suquamish tribal government has diligently worked to ensure economic opportunities for tribal members. In 1987, the Suquamish Tribe established Port Madison Enterprises (PME) as an agency of the Suquamish Tribe. PME’s operations are aimed at developing community resources while promoting the economic and social welfare of the Suquamish Tribe through commercial activities. What began as a modest retail endeavor has grown exponentially over the last quarter century. PME now encompasses several businesses including Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort, the historic Kiana Lodge, three retail outletsWhite Horse Golf Course, and a property management division.

PME operations are conducted at the direction of a Board of Directors comprised of seven tribal members who are appointed by the Suquamish Tribal Council. With more than 800 employees in fields ranging from information technology to hospitality, the Suquamish-owned company is fast becoming one of the largest employers in the greater Kitsap area.

In addition to PME, the Suquamish Tribe also operates a growing seafood business. Established in 1996 by tribal charter, Suquamish Seafoods Enterprise (SSE) was formed to develop seafood markets for tribal fishermen, as well as market the bountiful harvests of geoduck clams that populate the tribe’s surrounding waters. SSE benefits tribal members by supporting seafood sustainability, subsistence living—the traditional conservation and perpetuation of resources—and the tribal economy as a whole.

What annual events does your tribe sponsor?

The Suquamish Tribe is one of several tribal governments in the Salish Sea who coordinate the Tribal Canoe Journey. The annual event, where tribes and First Nations travel the waterways of their ancestors in dug-out cedar canoes to share traditional ways with one another, has become a vehicle for cultural resurgence throughout the region.

Chief Seattle Days is a three-day public festival established in 1911 to honor Chief Seattle. The first event was held on the current Celebration Grounds in downtown Suquamish by local tribal members, community residents, and civic leaders from the city of Seattle. At the time, the new town of Suquamish was linked to Seattle by foot-passenger ferries, which allowed city residents to travel across Puget Sound and enjoy the celebration.

Many of the same activities from the 1911 celebration are still featured today, including the traditional salmon bake, canoe races, baseball tournaments, drumming and dancing, and a memorial service for Chief Seattle at his gravesite in Suquamish. 

Throughout the years other events have been added to the celebration. These include a Coastal Jam that brings tribes together from throughout the region, a powwow, and a fun run, craft and food vendors, and the Chief Seattle Days Youth Royalty Pageant. This year's Chief Seattle Days takes place in Suquamish August 14 through 16.

What attractions are available for visitors on your land?

Our location along the shores of Kitsap County in the Puget Sound region provides an abundance of tourism activities. People visit our area for recreational fishing, kayaking, hiking, and camping. Many of our businesses, including the White Horse Golf CourseKiana Lodge, and Clearwater Casino Resort, have been developed to grow tourist activities in the region.

In 2013, the Suquamish Tribe completed a decade-long capital campaign to create a network of structures in culturally significant areas on the Port Madison Indian Reservation. The network includes the Suquamish Museum, Chief Seattle’s gravesite, the House of Awakened Culture, the Suquamish Community Dock, and the Veteran’s Monument.

How does your tribe deal with the United States as a sovereign nation?

The Suquamish Tribe is a sovereign nation. As such, we have a government-to-government relationship with the United States, as outlined in the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliot. We see the U.S. as our trustee, responsible for defending our treaty rights and resources.

What message would you like to share with Suquamish youth?

Know and respect your culture. Listen to your elders and know your family tree. Work hard and get an education and training so you can support yourself. As you go through your life, honor the seven generations that preceded you and leave something for the seven generations that will follow you.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

The last ten years of my life as chairman of the Suquamish Tribe have been very rewarding, and I am blessed. I was lucky to be here to oversee completion of our capital campaign to support Suquamish Dock, the House of Awakened Culture, and the Suquamish Museum, and to witness the election of President Obama, resulting in the most progressive administration in the history of U.S.–tribal relations.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Photos courtesy of the Suquamish Tribe; used with permission.

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July 17, 2015

The 6th annual Living Earth Festival is on!

YoughtanundThe group Youghtanund demonstrates women’s powwow-style dancing in the Potomac Atrium during the 2015 Living Earth Festival. Photo by Dennis Zotigh, NMAI.

It’s that time of year again: The Living Earth Festival—a signature program of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC—takes place today, Friday, July 17, through Sunday, July 19. This ecologically friendly family festival has something for every age group! This year’s highlights include a ladybug release in the garden outside the museum, Native dance performances, Native foods, artist demonstrations, a wine tasting, gardening workshops, an Indian Summer Showcase Concert by Quetzal Guerrero, a Native chef cooking competition, hands-on  bracelet-making, and a symposium titled On the Table: Creating a Healthy Food Future.

The events begin at 10 am each day and run until 5 pm. Native food chefs Julio and Heliodora Saqui create traditional Mayan dishes in the Akaloa fire pit outside the museum's first floor. Artist demonstrations are being offered by Janie Luster (Houma), who makes unique jewelry and other items from alligator gar scales found in her home state of Louisiana. Also taking part in the festival are artists Stephanie Madere Escude (Tunica–Biloxi); father and daughter artists Juan and Marta Chiac (Maya) from Belize; Peruvian jeweler Evelyn Brooks (Ashaninkas); and Guatemalan weaver Angelica Lopez (Maya).

Information booths have been set up by the InterTribal Buffalo Council, Traditional American Indian Farmer’s Association, Native Seed/SEARCH, and Twisted Cedar Wines. Navajo Community Health Outreach has a poster exhibit of its work. These presentations take place in the Potomac Atrium and outside the Rasmussen Theater on the first floor. 

Visitors ages 5 and up are invited to make ti leaf lei bracelets in the imagiNATIONS Activity Center on the 3rd floor. This hands-on activity is first come, first served basis.

Music and dance take place in the Potomac Atrium on the first floor: The Youghtanund Drum Group from Richmond, Virginia, will perform powwow-style dances and songs each day at 11 am and 2 pm (2:30 on Friday). At 12:30 and 3:30 pm on Friday and Sunday, 12:30 only on Saturday, musicians from the Washington-area Central American group GuateMarimba join Grupo AWAL to present traditional Maya dances.

Each afternoon of the festival, the Cedar Band of Paiute Indians of Utah host a wine tasting of their tribally owned Twisted Cedar Wine. Times vary, but the wine tastings all take place in the Mitsitam Coffee Bar on the first floor. 

On Friday at 2 pm, the Living Earth symposium On the Table: Creating a Healthy Future features speakers Ricardo SalvadorClayton Brascoupe (Tesuque Pueblo), and Robin Kimmerer, and moderator Tim Johnson (Mohawk). The symposium—a lively discussion covering sustainable farming, the impact of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the conservation of heritage seeds, and traditional Indigenous approaches to the environment and harvest—takes place in the museum's Rasmuson Theater. If you can make it to the National Mall, you can watch the symposium live via webcast

On Saturday at 3 pm in the Potomac Atrium, the museum hosts the first of three Indian Summer Showcase concerts for 2015. Quetzal Guerrero and his band bridge Latino and American music styles, including blues, jazz, and hip-hop.

Sunday's highlights include a Native chef cooking competition between Hawaiian chefs Kiamana Chee and Robert Alcain, beginning at noon on the Welcome Plaza outside the museum's main entrance. This year's secret ingredient is cacao, but don't tell anyone. Beginning at 2:30 pm in the Rasmuson Theater, Navajo young people working with Navajo Community Health Outreach will share their tribe’s effort to improve health education and access to healthy foods in the Navajo Nation. Come by and let them know you appreciate the important work they're doing.

—Dennis Zotigh

Dennis Zotigh (Kiowa/San Juan Pueblo/Santee Dakota Indian) is a writer and cultural specialist at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Events from the Living Earth Festival are webcast live throughout the weekend. Take a look at what's on the schedule or go directly to the museum's Live Webcasts page.

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July 16, 2015

Summer webcasts: Music, dance, and Indigenous approaches to healthy food and gourmet cooking

The National Museum of the American Indian presents live webcasts of music and dance performances, lectures and symposia, storytelling, and other public presentations hosted by the museum, bringing Native scholarship and cultural arts to a worldwide audience. Programs can be seen on the museum's Live Webcasts page. Between events, the webcast page often replays the most recent rebroadcasts.

Here's what's on the webcast calendar for this summer. 

Living Earth 2015LIVING EARTH FESTIVAL 2015 
Friday, July 17, through Sunday, July 19

This year the museum's hosts the 6th Living Earth Festival. Living Earth shares sustainable living practices from traditional indigenous perspectives and celebrates Native music and dance. The webcast program will provide a cross-section of programs and performances from the three-day event. 

Living Earth Symposium—On the Table: Creating a Healthy Food Future
Friday, July 17, 2:00 to 3:30 pm EDT

Green chiles roasting
Green chiles roasting at the museum. Photo by Katherine Fogden (Mohawk), NMAI.

A healthy diet is a key component of sustainable living. The symposium On the Table: Creating a Healthy Food Future promises a wide-ranging conversation about sustainable farming, the impact of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the conservation of heritage seeds, and indigenous approaches to the environment and harvest. Speakers include Ricardo Salvador (Zapotec/German–American), senior scientist and director of the Food & Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists; Robin Kimmerer (Citizen Band Potawatomi), award-winning writer, scientist, and professor; and Clayton Brascoupe (Tuscarora/Tesuque Pueblo), director of the Traditional Native American Farmers Association. 

Living Earth Festival—Performances from the Potomac Atrium
Saturday, July 18, 11 am to 2:30 pm EDT

Saturday the festival presents live performances in the museum's beautiful Potomac Atrium. This year Living Earth presents traditional singing, drumming, and powwow style dances by the Youghtanund Drum Group.

Guate Marimba will perform Guatemalan folk music played on the marimba, drums, turtle shells, maracas, and whistles to accompany traditional Mayan dances performed by Grupo AWAL.
Youghtanund Grupo AWAL

Music and dance at Living Earth: Left: Youghtanund Drum Group. Right: Grupo AWAL. 

Indian Summer Showcase at the Living Earth Festival—Quetzal Guerrero 
Saturday, July 18, 3 to 5 pm EDT

Indian Summer Showcase intersects with the Living Earth Festival on Saturday afternoon when Quetzal Guerrero (Native American, Mexican and Brazilian heritage) headlines the first of two concerts to be webcast live this summer. The man with the blue violin returns to the Potomac Atrium stage to wow the audience with his fusion of Latino, jazz, blues, and hip-hop originals. 

Quetzal GuerreroQuetzal Guerrero.

Living Earth Festival—Native Chef Cooking Contest 
Sunday, July 19, noon to 2:30 pm EDT

Chef KaimanaOn Sunday the museum will webcast one of the festival’s signature events, an Iron Chef–style competition. Native Hawaiian chefs Kaimana Chee and Robert Alcain compete for bragging rights as they create a full course meal in which every dish features a special ingredient that is indigenous to Native America. The secret ingredient? Tune in to the live webcast to find out! 

Chef Kaimana Chee.

Indian Summer Showcase—The Ollivanders and Dark Water Rising 
Saturday, August 29, 2 to 4 pm EDT

The Ollivanders

Dark Water RisingIndian Summer Showcase features two Native American Music Award (NAMA)–winners. The afternoon concert opens with the rock-based music of The Ollivanders, from Canada's Six Nations Reserve. Last fall Martin Isaacs, Ryan Mickeloff, and Ryan Johnson won the 2014 NAMA for Best Rock Recording for their album Two Suns

Headlining the performance will be Dark Water Rising, members of the Lumbee and Tuscarora nations. The music of Charly Lowry, Aaron Locklear, Corey Locklear, Tony Murnahan, and Emily Musolino  is described as full of soul, blues, and tradition. Dark Water Rising has won three NAMA awards, most recently Best Gospel or Inspirational Recording of 2014 for Grace & Grit: Chapter 1. 

Above: The Ollivanders. 
Dark Water Rising; photo courtesy of Greensky Records.

Stay tuned for future posts about webcasts planned for this fall and winter.

If you're in the Washington, DC, area this weekend, July 17 through 19, and would like to know more about the Living Earth Festival at the museum on the National Mall, the symposium program and festival schedule are available online.

All photos are used courtesy of the artists unless otherwise credited.

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July 15, 2015

The Great Inka Road: Engaging visitors in the Inka creation story

One of the best examples of collaboration and synergy across a project I’ve been part of is the “Origin Story of the Inka,” an interactive book produced for the exhibition The Great Inka Road : Engineering an Empire. This simple touch-screen experience allows visitors to page through a digital book and see and hear the Inka creation story brought to life through brilliant images, with audio for every page in English or Spanish. People can read it online by scrolling down in the Ancestors section of the Inka Road website, and a printed version is for sale in the museum shop.

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According to the Inka myth of origin, Inti, the sun, sent two of his children—Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo—to bring order and civilization to humankind. The pair emerged from Lake Titicaca and headed north to found a city. The city was Cusco. Their path was the first Inka Road.

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Sample screens, in English and Spanish, from "The Inka Creation Story." Design by Juanita Wrenn/WrennWorks, illustrations by Alejandra Egaña.

The museum’s production team worked together to shorten the story into a form that would work well for visitors in the gallery. Illustrations by Alejandra Egaña, an artist based in Chile, bring the story to life. Using reference visuals of museum objects and other Inka material culture, Alejandra produced images based on Inka iconography and colors. Her delightful compositions fit within the scholarly context of the exhibition and, we hope, will excite the imagination of younger visitors. These illustrations so inspired the exhibition team that we reached out to her to create drawings used to visualize aspects of Inka engineering elsewhere in the exhibition.

Juanita Wrenn of WrennWorks designed and programmed a simple, intuitive interactive experience accessible to even early readers. Juanita, who is based in North Carolina, surprised the team by offering to bring an early prototype to the museum, to make sure that what she was producing would work on the gallery touch-screen monitors. Her visit reflects her passion and her dedication to getting all the details right.


The interactive book's narrator and her proud mother.

For bilingual audio and sound design we relied on the expertise of the museum’s staff. Veronica Quiguango (Quechua), a collections specialist at the museum’s Cultural Resources Center, offered the talents of her six-year-old daughter. We set up a recording session engineered by NMAI Media Group senior producer Gussie Lehman, and our narrator amazed us by enthusiastically recording the stroy, in English and Spanish, in a single session. She has so much energy we had to take a couple breaks to let her get up and run around the studio a little bit. We felt lucky to capture a wonderfully unique performance that shows off this young person’s fantastic personality. We may eventually add narration in Quechua, since her mother is fluent and she is working on that language as well!

With a wonderful narration in hand, we turned to NMAI Media group producer Mark Christal to add a bit of ambience and sound design. Mark recorded sounds of water, footsteps on a gravel road, and electronic effects combined with music from NMAI Cultural interpreter José Montaño (Qulla [Aymara]) to provide audio details to match the colorful illustrations and the power of the myth.

This project has surpassed our expectations with brilliant contributions from international artists, technicians, staff, and certainly the youngest narrator we have ever worked with. We know that it is an important part of the Inka Road exhibition, helping visitors of all ages access the story of the origin of the Inka Empire and understand the importance of the city of Cusco. Collaborative projects like these are especially exciting, since each contribution complements the others and we end up with something that no single person here could have imagined.

—Dan Davis 

Dan Davis is the manager of the NMAI Media Group.

The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire is on view at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., through June 1, 2018.

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I paged through this interactive in both languages several times. I couldn't get enough! I grew up with this legend. Every elementary school student in Peru must learn it. The narration and sound effects were utterly captivating. I just wanted to find your narrator and give her a big hug! The illustrations are simply beautiful, and so appealing! I feel a coloring book coming. You really captured, in a most charmed way, this well loved origin story and have made it even more accessible for generations to come. Buen trabajo!




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