« November 2009 | Main | January 2010 »

December 18, 2009

Minnesota’s “Native Report” Visits NMAI - December 15, 2009- 1:00PM

  Today, Abby and I, shadowed a Highlights tour of the National Museum of the American Indian with the camera crew of “Native Report.” “Native Report” is a public television program based in Duluth, Minn. When the film crew arrived, Abby, Ramsey Weeks (NMAI Cultural Interpreter) and I were waiting at the museum doors. Ramsey (
Assiniboine) is one of the newest Cultural Interpreters for NMAI and he was selected to lead this group. This was his first opportunity to speak about the museum on camera. I asked Ramsey if he ever gets nervous in front of a group. Ramsey replied, “Yes, I get nervous but I seem to handle it well.”


Ramsey Weeks-Cultural Interpreter

Weeks began the tour by going over interesting facts about the architecture and overall early history of the museum. For instance, did you know that almost all of the museum artifacts were collected by ONE man? True story. I didn’t even know that one. Or what about the fact that each stone that was used to create the foundation of the museum as a building was individually hand-crafted to create a building with no sharp angles or edges? Yup, some pretty interesting information.

The National Museum of the American Indian (Washington, D.C.) encompasses four major galleries, two theaters, and changing exhibitions. We visited most of them. The first one we walked through was the Our Universes gallery. This gallery exhibits the traditional philosophy and way of life for many tribal nations. It represents the profound reverence for North, East, South, and West, as well as the natural elements that make life tangible for Native peoples. Ramsey made sure to note an item within this exhibition in particular. He brought “Native Report’s” attention to a Mohawk pincushion that seems to never fail in striking a steady flow of questions from visitors young and old alike. This particular pincushion has a well-known symbol placed upon it that many people, who are familiar with WWII, would categorize as a Nazi swastika. Many people on tours of the museum ask the question, “Why does the National Museum of the American Indian have a Nazi pincushion on display”? Well, in actuality, it is an ancient symbol that does not derive from Nazi or German culture rather it has been used to convey many different meanings. Ramsey mentioned that when he looks upon the symbol he sees the “four winds.” I know when I look at the symbol I see “balance” or “the progression of life.”

While still within the Our Universes exhibition we came up the Denver March Pow Wow section which had plenty of audio and pictures to keep any audience attention. Ramsey explained that the reason we celebrate our veterans in the grand entry of pow wows is because in doing so we are bringing our past histories to life with our present ones. “So many of our Native peoples come from warrior pasts”, Ramsey continues, “... we are just honoring our warriors today.”

We then moved to the Oneida, “Allies in War, Partners in Peace” sculpture on the fourth floor. This is our Cultural Interpreter’s favorite piece in the entire museum! You MUST hear Ramsey’s story of Polly Cooper’s 700 mile walk and where the term, “burying the hatchet” really comes from! After recovering from a near outburst of tears from his stories, we all gathered our composure to travel down to the Our Lives exhibit to see the faces of contemporary Indigenous people. “You might be walking next to a Native American and not even know it,” Ramsey states. He emphasizes that the National Museum of the American Indian does not seek to educate the world about a past people and culture but rather, a very rich Native American culture that continues to thrive. Finally, we came to the close of the museum tour. To conclude his presentation, Ramsey took us to “IndiVisible” (I’m sure he was looking for one last “WOW”, and we certainly gave it to him, as if he hadn’t impressed us enough). He went over the very important meaning of the “IndiVisible” exhibition because it is just one more example that although their might be many preconceived notions of “who is an American Indian” or “what a Native American should look like”, not all Indigenous Peoples of North and/or South America are the same, but rather we vary in appearance and backgrounds. We might be the stranger across the street, or perhaps your very best friend.

Native Report is beginning its 5th season. This episode is scheduled to premiere mid-March or April. For more information go to www.NativeReport.org. To experience a Ramsey Weeks tour in person come visit the National Museum of the American Indian, Monday through Friday anytime between 10AM and 5:30PM and be sure to tell him Glenna sent you!

-Glennas’ba Augborne (Navajo)

NMAI Public Affairs Intern

Comments (3)

    » Post a Comment

I m an architecture student... I really do appreciate the info that u have put up about The National Museum of the American Indian".
Do write more of these kind of articles...

Check out my blog that i made for architecture students:

I hope u wud like them...
Can i post ur link into my blog??

Hello BenzuJK,

Thank you for your comment. We really appreciate your support. Look out for my next blog about my recent trip to the National Museum of the American Indian in New York (GGHC)!

Please feel free to post our link on your blog. Thanks again!

Hi, also i'm a student from Europe, and i was impressed by this museum when i visited it. I will create also a website with nice places like this one, for visit and fun websites for everybody. You post good material here.

December 11, 2009

Details, details

The last few months have been busy, plugging away at completing the publication manuscript and working on the script of the next exhibition I’m organizing, “HIDE: Skin as Material and Metaphor.”  There are so many details!  We are still putting the finishing touches on the exhibition catalogue, starting to design the invitation, the exhibition brochure, the website, working on the press release…you don’t fully realize how much work goes into these projects until you work on one.  I stumbled across some photos (above) from my studio visit with Sonya Kelliher-Combs in Anchorage in July 2008 when it really kicked into gear, but the inspiration for the show really happened in November 2007 when I saw her work at the 2007 Eiteljorg Fellowship for Native American Fine Art exhibition in Indianapolis.  I had seen reproductions of her work, but experiencing it in person really made things in my mind start to crackle and pop, especially connections between her work and Nadia Myre’s.  They will both have solo installations in the first part of HIDE, opening on March 6th at the GGHC.

Comments (2)

    » Post a Comment

Hoping that this exhibition turns out to be
really awesome!

I'm super excited to see this exhibit! I'll have to make a special trip to NYC to see it..

December 07, 2009

An Infinity of Nations

In October 2010, a spectacular permanent exhibition of 700 works of art from throughout Native North, Central and South America will open at the Heye Center in New York.  Infinity of Nations: Art and History in the Collections of the National Museum of the American Indian will demonstrate the great depth of the museum’s collections and explore the historic importance of many of these magnificent objects. 


More than forty Native historians and community members have collaborated with the museum to interpret highlighted objects, including ten works that will serve as focal points. These key pieces will demonstrate the degree to which Native America was interconnected before European peoples arrived and reveal how the visual arts were often important vehicles in this exchange. 



Inuit tuilli or woman’s inner parka, ca. 1925, Nunavut.This finely crafted and elaborately beaded Inuit tuilli or woman’s inner parka, was made from caribou skin for the mother of a newborn baby. –The mother keeps her baby protected from the harsh Arctic weather in the warmth of her parka by carrying the baby in a special carrying pouch at the back of the parka. With the intensification of European exploration and trade in the Arctic in the 19th century, brightly colored glass beads, referred to as sapangat ("precious stones"), became more widely available and were used elaborately to decorate tuilli. This Inuit tuilli is the focal point for the Arctic region.

Comments (15)

    » Post a Comment

That's a beautiful piece, I can't wait to travel to New York and see the exhibition. My son and I recently visited the Burke Museum in Seattle (http://www.washington.edu/burkemuseum/) and he loved the costumes.

Thanks, Randall. The exhibition opens this fall and we plan to publish more blog posts about its development soon!

I liked the piece too.Its very beautiful.I can't make it too New York,is there any way to watch exhibition may be like online?

There will be an online version of the exhibition -- as well as a publication -- closer to premiere on October 23!

That is a beautiful tribe cloth. Thanks for the descriptive text on it. Amazing how they use it for new moms and their babies.

The posting is incredibly marvelous. You analyse in your round.I will go on to interest your other marvelous posts. I like this form of post quite a great deal.

I hear that there is an online version of this exhibition coming in the next few days - looking forward to it as Native American history is my hobby.

Fascinating! Reminds me how similar native cultures are all throughout the world. I am a native of north-east India on the border with Myanmar. I am from a tribe called "Paite". We are today about 45,000 in number. We too have costumes that are handmade in the villages that still exists. And the use of color and threads are so similar although the pattern differs a bit.

Wow!!that's a beautiful piece of costume, I wish I could make it to New York and see the exhibition. But I just bought a house and I'm broke till next year. However, you made my day with such a constructive piece of information. Keep the hard work...
Best Regards

I was enchanted by the Inuit tuilli and happy to find that there is many objects to see like this is the Burke Museum in Seattle. I will be traveling to Seattle and on to British Columbia the beginning of May. I will definitely go to the Burke Museum. Are there any places in British Columbia I should also go to?

Nice blog.
Very nice picture. I love all the thing report indians.
Thank you

I absolutely love the Indians. I try to incorporate Indian art into my designs.



"Inuit tuilli or woman’s inner parka... This finely crafted and elaborately beaded Inuit tuilli or woman’s inner parka, was made from caribou skin for the mother of a newborn baby." If I can buy this anywhere I would still use it for my baby to use during the harsh cold weather. I'm also into all sorts of costumes, but one in particular I'm currently loving are fighter costumes.

that's a cool mother's parka..

Thanks for the descriptive text on it. Amazing how they use it for new moms and their babies. Somehow I will go to the Burke Museum.