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September 25, 2009

Reflections on a living memorial


On warm afternoons and early evenings outside the National Museum of the American Indian, people gather. Some sit on the low walls built around the museum’s Welcome Plaza talking, while children play. Some read books. Others examine the boulders gathered from the four corners of the Western Hemisphere for this landscape.


Who are they? Travelers most likely, making what for many will be a once in a life time trip to the Smithsonian Institution’s museums. People of all backgrounds congregate, shaded by native shrubbery and tall trees. A fountain and a wetland cool the air.


Five years ago when the National Museum of the American Indian opened its building in Washington, D.C., most of the young plantings were too small to provide much shade. The marvel that sunny day was the Native peoples who came by planes, trains and even old pick up trucks to the opening. Some 80,000 joined in a procession on the National Mall that morning of Sept. 21, 2004.


Another anniversary comes to mind when speaking of people and the American Indian museum.


It is the 1989 Congressional act which established the museum. Public Law 101-185 states, “There is established, within the Smithsonian Institution, a living memorial to Native Americans and their traditions which shall be known as the ‘National Museum of the America Indian.’” 


In a city filled with memorials for fallen heroes and founding fathers, the idea of memorializing the living is startling. But if books and exhibitions once routinely treated living Indian nations as historic, maybe memorial is the right word. But a memorial turned on its head. Instead of a memorial for the past, a memorial for the living.


In five years since the museum on the mall opened, and 15 since the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City opened, Indian peoples are alive in this museum. They are alive in the steady stream of artists, performers, writers, curators, language keepers, cultural interpreters, thinkers, researchers, visitors and school children who enter the doors. They are alive in the arts and materials in the collection, whether the artists are contemporary or ancient. 


Hospitality, a value across indigenous cultures, is abundantly on display among visitors who start up conversations inside the grand Potomac Atrium or families who find rest outdoors as they sit side by side, listening to the wild birds which inhabit the landscape.    

Comments (9)

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This is a place where I often go to reflect.

veryyy gooooooood

great information thank you

hmm good deal

This is a place where I often go to reflect.

Very interesting stuff!


Great! very interesting and informative. Please keep it up.

This is a place where I often go to reflect.

Keep up the good work!

September 21, 2009

National Potluck Event Offers Unique Fundraising Opportunity

Potluck Post Card - FrontTheresa Secord (Penobscot, b. 1958), Ear of corn basket, 2003. Natural and dyed wicker-plaited black ash splints with wart-weave overlay, diameter 10 cm., length 42 cm. Photo by Ernest Amoroso. 26/1694

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the opening of our flagship museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This event culminated 15 years of dedicated work to accomplish the dream to create a national museum for and about the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere in the nation’s capital.

This year, we are not only celebrating this 5th anniversary, we are also celebrating the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Cultural Resources Center, our collections storage facility in Suitland, MD, the 15th anniversary of the opening of the George Gustav Heye Center in New York City, and, on November 28, we mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the legislation that gave birth to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI).

Five years ago nations assembled in Washington, D.C. to mark the opening of the Mall Museum. The NMAI community finally had its flagship building. This anniversary, we want to bring the NMAI community to your hometown and everyone is invited.

On November 28, we will be holding the first-ever National Potluck. This is a social fundraising event where all who support and believe in the Museum are invited to become a fundraising ambassador for the NMAI.

We have a goal to raise $50,000 because we not only want to celebrate the past, but look forward to the future. Proceeds from the National Potluck will go toward our exhibitions, public programs and other activities.

Participation is easy and fun. First, go to our National potluck website http://go.si.edu/NMAIpotluck and register to be a Host. When you register you will be able to create your own Personal Potluck web page that you can send to your family and friends. They will be able to make a donation to the Museum through your page.

Next, plan your potluck event. You can host a potluck in your home, raffle off a piece of your art or keep it virtual. See our Potluck Ideas page (click on “Resources”) for some other ideas for fundraising events.

Finally, join us on November 28, for our Foodways of the Americas program. We understand that not everyone can make it to D.C., so we will be webcasting portions of this public program, bringing the NMAI community to your home so that you can share our community with your potluck guests.

We couldn’t think of a better way to end our anniversary season by gathering together supporters of the National Museum of the American Indian from all over the country and the world. I hope you will be joining us.

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Ahhhhh I'm definitely going! I'm so excited, American Indian culture is so beautiful and inspiring. So many amazing visuals and customs.

The American Indians are amazing. I will take my little girl their to see this museum. "Welcome to the Big Museum" she likes to say!

I love american indian culture.

I wish you luck in acheiving your goal of raising $50,000.

I also like your saying "we not only want to celebrate the past, but look forward to the future"
Although I acknowledge alot of wrongs were inflicted upon native americans, dwelling on the past doesn't help and focusing on a better future is the way.

I commend you for your efforts to celebrate and immortalize American Indian culture through the museum and website.

It reminds me of our very own Kenya culture where some marginalized indigenous people are forging ahead in the face of seemingly insurmountable difficulties.

Keep up the good work!

I find it very warming that someone is close to his roots. There should be more like you. I am originally Pakistani British Born and many people forget their roots. Hats off to you.


the National Museum of the American Indian is very amazing. I think many people like that.

Being an American Indian, I'm glad to see the progress of our people and of the national museum. Keep up the good work! Tyler

It is such a good idea for having those ways for collecting funds for the projects. Surely donors would appreciate the outcome of their kindness.

I wish you luck on raising $50,000


Thanks for the post, would love to go there one day and see what its like first hand.

September 12, 2009

First in anticipation and then in reality

"The coming... was so very near at hand that first in anticipation and then in reality it became henceforth [the] prime object of interest." J. Austen, Emma

(Five weeks out. It’s a hive of activity.)

It must be italian
Fragile. It must be Italian. Objects of interest: the first crates of Brian Jungen’s pieces, on loan from museums, galleries, and privates lenders, have arrived.

Scissor lift
Scissor lift
at rest. The hook from which Crux will be hung is being installed.

Demolition. Dry wall and spackle. The changing exhibitions gallery regenerating for Strange Comforts.


Michael Jordan was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame yesterday.

Video of the installation of an amazing piece, Waste Not, by Beijing-based artist Song Dong, at our museum neighbors to the north. (And more images from that exhibition.)

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