When I began applying for internships this past winter, the National Museum of the American Indian was on the top of my list for several reasons. One was its commitment to showcasing Native voices, an approach that makes it unique among the Smithsonian museums—or museums in general, for that matter. Programs featuring Native performers and artists make the NMAI a living museum, a site for meaningful interactions between the traditional and the contemporary. Another reason I wanted to intern at NMAI was for its beautiful landscape, which serves to establish the museum as an organic oasis amidst the bustle of downtown DC.
Now that I’m at the as a summer intern, I’m thrilled to be working on a program that combines all the things I love about the museum. The Living Earth Festival, which takes place this weekend, July 22, 23, and 24, celebrates indigenous contributions to environmental sustainability and activism. The festival seeks to present both traditional and modern methods of addressing climate change, environmental issues, and health concerns.
This year, the Living Earth Festival is being held in tandem with several other museum programs. Conversations with the Earth: Indigenous Voices on Climate Change, a new multimedia exhibition, will open on Friday, July 22, alongside the festival. Also Friday, as part of the Dinner and a Movie series, artist Will Wilson (Diné) will present his Auto Immune Response project, a work that examines humans’ impact on the environment.
Knowledge and Technologies
The festival will showcase three themes, the first of which is knowledge and technologies. Both Native and non-Native researchers and practitioners will demonstrate how they and others in their fields apply science and technology to current environmental and food health concerns. Friday from 2 to 4 PM EDT, the museum will host a live webcast on diabetes awareness, education, and healthy living with the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (IPCC) in Albuquerque, NM. Panelists include Dr. Neal Barnard, Margaret Brascoupé (Tesuque Pueblo), and Caitlin Baker (Mvskoke Creek) in the museum's Rasmuson Theater, and Lois Ellen Frank at IPCC.
Saturday from 1:30 to 4 PM EDT, the symposium Creating a Climate of Change: A Sustainable Future for the Living Earth, featuring Jeremy Rifkin, Gregory Cajete (Santa Clara Pueblo), and Melissa K. Nelson (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), will discuss how we can cultivate a culture that embraces the principles of sustainability. also available via live webcast.
Celebration and Ceremony
The second theme highlighted at the festival is celebration and ceremony, which rejoices in and respects the complex relationship between ourselves and the environment. Native performers will demonstrate traditional and contemporary songs, dances, and storytelling that honor our relationship with the Earth. As part of the Indian Summer Showcase concert series, an outdoor concert Saturday from 5 to 8 PM EDT will feature Native musicians including Gregg Analla (Laguna and Isleta Pueblo), the Plateros from Tohajilee, NM,, and the Pappy Johns Band, from the Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario, as well as the Santa Fe Indian School Spoken Word Team. The festival will also include hands-on activities that utilize natural materials and traditional techniques, giving visitors the chance to create their own pottery and make cornhusk dragonflies.
Plateros, a three-piece family band from from Tohajilee, New Mexcio, the eastern agency of the Navajo Nation, will perform Saturday evening, July 23 at the Living Earth Festival. Photo courtesy of the artists.
Bounty and Artistry
The final theme showcased in the festival is bounty and artistry, acknowledging the Earth’s role in nourishing both our bodies and our creativity. Native artists will demonstrate traditional arts including basket-weaving, bow-and-arrow-making, and carving. Demonstrators will also illustrate traditional culinary methods and dishes. On Sunday, an outdoor cooking competition will pit Don McClellan (executive chef of Atria Vista del Rio) against reigning champ (and Mitsitam Native Foods Café executive chef) Richard Hetzler in a battle to serve up appetizers, entrées, and desserts that incorporate local foods and the traditional Three Sisters: corn, beans, and squash. Each of the competing chefs will be accompanied by culinary students from the DC Central Kitchen. In support of the DC Central Kitchen's Healthy Returns Program, festival-goers will receive a biodegradable totebag as a thank you for making a $10-value food donation such as granola bars, packets of trail mix, individual 100% juice boxes, or individual boxes of raisins or nuts. (Please do not donate perishable items or sweets such as candy or cookies.)
The 2011 Living Earth Festival will include an outdoor farmers’ market with fresh produce, New Mexico roasted peppers, and traditional American Indian dishes from local and Native-owned farms and cooperatives. Photo by Katherine Fogden (Mohawk), NMAI.
Local farmers will participate in an outdoor farmers’ market, and each participant will address an aspect of agriculture, covering topics such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), urban gardening, bees, and commercial vs. free-range beef.
Finally, visitors will be able to purchase green chiles and have them roasted by the University of New Mexico Alumni Association (UNMAA), Washington, DC, Chapter. Donations accepted by UNMAA for the roasting go to support their scholarship fund.
Whether you are interested in environmental issues, traditional Native arts, or just love great music and fresh food, the Living Earth Festival has something for you! The festival is a great opportunity to experience all of NMAI’s excellent programming, all rolled in to one fun-filled weekend. We hope to see you there!