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June 30, 2011

Canada Day Eve


Today is the eve of Canada Day! July 1st will be filled with celebrations across Canada to commemorate the foundation of Canada and Canadian First Nations cultures. As a part of the celebration, Canadian Mohawk musician Robbie Robertson will be featured on the Canadian stamp, a component of the third installment of the Canadian Recording Artists Stamp series. It is nice to see First Nations talent on official Canadian stamps! Robertson is part of Up Where We Belong, an exhibition that highlights Native people who have been active participants in contemporary music for nearly a century. Up Where We Belong was shown at the museum in Washington in 2010 and will travel to the museum’s Heye Center in New York next year.


Robbie Robertson Stamp 


Here’s how NMAI research specialist and music buff Chris Turner, the curator of Up, describes Robertson’s contributions:  “Robbie Robertson (Mohawk, b. 1943) was already an accomplished songwriter and guitarist when Bob Dylan hired him and his friends to be his backup band for an upcoming tour. After Dylan went solo, Robertson and company adopted the name The Band—a moniker they were given during their time with Dylan. They went on to become a commercially successful roots music vehicle, groundbreaking in the world of Americana for their eclectic instrumentation, purity of sound, and pop refrains sung in a unique, angelic tonality. After the demise of The Band, Robertson established a successful solo career and brought Native musicians together in the recording studio with music icons such as Bono and Peter Gabriel.”  


Bob Dylan and Robbie Robertson performing in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1965. Photo by Robert Bolton.

So this year, not only are we celebrating Canada, and First Nations, we are honoring a talented Mohawk musician!

03 - Broken Arrow


 Lea Toulouse Florentin (Anishinaabe), Public Affairs Intern.


Comments (4)

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I did not know Robbie Robertson was Mohawk. I too am a guitar player and a Mohawk (well, does 1/16th count?). Maybe music runs in the blood:).


Ken Theriot

I never knew that the Band was playing with Bob Dylan. Very interesting read. Great to honor Robbie on the stamp.

I am of Cherokee descent, I never knew Robbie Robertson was Mohawk! He is very deserving of being on the stamp. I am a huge fan of The Band because it is some of the most honest and heartfelt music I have heard. Also I am a singing drummer so of course I am a Levon Helm fan. As a Cherokee I am even more of a Robbie Robertson fan now!

Man I love those original recordings. I still have them on vinyl, and I also did not know that Robbie was a Mohawk. It makes the situation so much more lush with eclectic culture.

Conversations with the Earth: Indigenous Voices on Climate Change

Jimmy John (Gwich’in) at his winter camp near Arctic Village, Alaska.

Have you ever wondered how climate change is affecting people in different parts of the earth? The National Museum of the American Indian will address this question when the exhibition Conversations with the Earth: Indigenous Voices on Climate Change opens on July 22, 2011, in the Sealaska Gallery on the second level of the museum in Washington. Through photographs, video, and audio, tribal communities from the Arctic to Brazil give first-hand accounts about the effects of climate change on indigenous peoples, as well as examples of traditional knowledge and its value in developing appropriate global responses. 

Voices from 15 indigenous communities in 13 countries come together in the exhibition, which is collaborative effort with the nonprofit organization Conversations with the Earth (CWE). Starting with the Gwich’in, who relate how the caribou and other wild foods they rely on are declining due to erratic temperatures, forest fires, and melting permafrost. The Gwich’in, who live in northeastern Alaska and the northern Yukon and Northwest Territories in Canada, call themselves the “People of the Caribou.” According to residents and scientists, warmer temperatures have created an array of complex problems. “We need cold weather,” said Allen Tritt (Gwich’in), a resident of Arctic Village, Alaska. “The elders said if it doesn’t get cold, in the future everything’s gonna be changed.”


Charley Swaney (Gwich’in), Arctic Village, Alaska. Swaney and other Gwich’in hunters are concerned about new patterns in caribou migration and declining herd numbers. They constantly monitor the landscape and its animals and their movements. “We may not have much,” Swaney said, “but what we have is out there.”

Contrasting with the Gwich’in of Arctic Village are the Guarani of Brazil. Some 10,000 people live in and around the Guaraqueçaba forest on Brazil’s southeastern coast. Restrictions on subsistence practices have created a regional poverty belt for the Guarani. Over the last two centuries, Brazilian policies have caused steady encroachment on the Guarani territory where indigenous people have never held formal title. After centuries of development, just seven percent of the original Atlantic forest jungle remains. Many people whose families have lived in the forest for generations are now forced to resettle in the state capitol of Curitiba.

“The indigenous people are the true environmentalists. It’s the Indians that preserve the land. Locations where you have the most jungle, best preserved, are the indigenous lands. It’s because nature to us, the Guarani, is living and has to be respected. The laws imposed here in Brazil are already complicated. And when foreign companies come here investing in this area and buying land, it affects us even more because there is greater restriction,” said Jorge Gonzales Wochnicki (Guarani), a resident of the Guaraqueçaba forest. “They don’t want us here [in the forest] . . . but human beings are part of the ecosystem. All this richness that you see was preserved because the people have been here.”


Regional leader Leonardo Werá Tupa (Guarani), prayer house on Cutinga Island, Brazil. “Before the lines were drawn for Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia," Werá Tupa explains, "the Guarani were here.”

Other communities who collaborated in creating the exhibition include the Kichwa from Mojandita Village, Equador; the Manus from Manus Province, Papua New Guinea; The Gamo from the Gamo Highlands of Ethiopia; the Zanskari from Ladakh, India; the Yaqui and Comcaac from Sonora, Mexico; the Kuna from Ustupu Island, Kuna Yala, Panama; and the Quechua and Aymara from a number of locations in the Peruvian Andes.

Conversations with Earth will be on view at the museum through January 2, 2012.

—Dennis Zotigh, NMAI

All photographs by Nicolas Villaume, ©2011 CWE/Nicolas Villaume. Used with permission.

The museum is grateful to The Christensen Fund for its generous support of this exhibition.

Follow Conversations with the Earth on Facebook and Twitter!

Comments (5)

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What a night. I love all pictures in ths blog. Just can't wait to see another story of Amercan Indian.

Excellent article. I find it particularly interesting to find out how the indigenous people of the Arctic region will adapt to global warming. This and other factors are changing the migratory patterns of many of their food sources. We are seeing the natural food chain being gradually displaced in these areas, not to mention their entire way of life.

For the most recent updates from the Conversations with the Earth (CWE), please visit CWE FB Page @ http://www.facebook.com/pages/Conversations-with-the-Earth/159461664069502

One of the biggest problems we have culturally is governments and the people of the new countries overlook the ways of the natives.
Natives have done what they do for thousands of years for a reason. Then we come in and literally mess everything up.
There is a lot we can learn from them because they know more.

We need to save the planet for all future generations. The Indian people were there time far ahead!

June 28, 2011

Summertime and the Fooding is Easy (and delicious)

The new menu for Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe made it’s debut last week.   As always, this summer’s menu brings tastes from five distinct Native regions. Using traditional summer foods, the variety of dishes is truly inspired. 

SummerMenu 073(Fresno Chili, Coffee Rubbed Pork Loin, Coconut, Vanilla Bean Sauce)
(Photo by Brieahn DeMeo, NMAI)

From the Northern Woodlands, Crawfish Gumbo serves as an appetizer followed by Chilled Tomato Soup, Fried Okra and Cucumber Dust.  Choose a hot dish of Stewed Summer Squash and Zucchini, Pumpkin Seed Oil, Oven Roasted Crab Apples and New Potatoes or a cold dish of Wild Rice and Watercress Salad for the main course and finish with one of this summer’s berry tarts.  YUM! 

Journey to South America for Pheasant Croquette dressed in an Olive Oil Puree, with Pimientos Rojas, Smoked Chili Sauce and Cilantro Oil.  Cool off with Conch ceviche, fresh papaya and chives.  As a main course the Fresno Chili Coffee Rubbed Pork Loin in a Coconut and Vanilla Bean Sauce or the Annatto Spiced Yucca and Chayote Salad provide an adventure for the taste buds. 

SummerMenu 019 (Pheasant Croquette, Olive Oil Puree, Pimientos Rojas, Smoked Chili Sauce, Cilantro)
(Photo by Brieahn DeMeo, NMAI)

The Northwest Coast offers a delicious variety of seafood dishes starting with Baked Oysters with Yellow Potato and Corn Cream.  Feeling in the mood for the daily catch?  The Maple Juniper Glazed, Cedar Planked Fire-Roasted Salmon is the perfect choice.  Also on the summer menu is Hominy and Parched Corn Salad with grilled leeks and roasted garlic vinaigrette.  The Cornmeal Buck Skin Cake with Saskatoon berries  and whipped cream is a must. 

SummerMenu 007
(Baked Oysters, Yellow Potato, Corn Cream)
(Photo by Brieahn DeMeo, NMAI)

Mesoamerica adds a little spice to the menu featuring Roasted Calabasas Squash and Plantain Burrito with a Red Chili Sauce and Beef Tongue, Pork Pibil and Fish Tacos. This is not your grandmother’s salsa:  Fried Plantain Salsa, Tomatillo and Raspberry Salsa and Salsa Quenmada, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. 

  SummerMenu 050
(Roasted Calabasas Squash and Plantain Burrito with a Red Chili Sauce)
(Photo by Brieahn DeMeo, NMAI)

SummerMenu 031
(Fish Tacos)
(Photo by Brieahn DeMeo, NMAI)

Buffalo is the focus of many of the dishes from the Great Plains beginning with Buffalo Chili. Buffalo burgers served with Green Chilies, Duck burgers, pulled Buffalo Sandwiches and Buffalo chili cheese fries bring a new spin on classic dishes. Tepary Bean Salad with caramelized onions, roasted fennel and agave offer an alternative to the many buffalo dishes.  I’m having memory flashes of the first time I saw herds of buffalo across the plains of Oklahoma, AMAZING! And of course delicious.  

Chef Richard Hetzler has created a cornucopia of dishes that highlight each unique region through the very best foods the summer has to offer.  There is something for every palette this season

SummerMenu 098
(The ladies of the Choctaw Nation sample Chef's dishes- Chef is explaining the dishes from just outside the frame. Photo by Brieahn DeMeo, NMAI)


 - Brieahn DeMeo (Osage), Public Affairs Intern

Comments (5)

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What I find most impressive in this article is that the meals on the menu are quite varied, sound extremely appetizing, and are very healthy for the most part. I particularly like the fact that it tells the Native region that specializes and contributes each of the dishes.

nice food photos brie! can't wait to lunch with you at the nmai :)

The meals look delicious and amazing. It reminds of the risotto my mom used to cook. This is a subpar version of my mom's risotto but it brought back memories.

Sam, we wouldn't dream of doubting the wonderful quality of your mother's risotto. It may, however, be necessary for us to taste it, if you would post the recipe or, better still, invite us to dinner. . . .

Hello, thank you so much for the share recipes about vanilla bean. I am vanilla farmer from West Java, Indonesia

June 27, 2011

Have you heard the word?

Have you heard the word around town? Starting this fall, the National Museum of the American Indian’s Family Activity Center will be the place to get down.

In September 2011, NMAI will be opening its doors to an exciting new Family Activity Center called imagiNATIONS. In the Activity Center there will be three great areas that I find particularly interesting: The craft, music, and reading areas will provide three different creative elements that will allow visitors the opportunity to engage with and immerse themselves in American Indian culture. We hope people’s time in the Activity Center will inspire them to create something amazing like a garment, musical instrument, song, or story.

Possible bag The craft area will provide visitors the opportunity to watch a live art demonstration, work with a Native artisan, and make and take home an example of an object based on American Indian arts and crafts. Our make-and-take activities come from Native communities and are true to Native techniques, skills, cultures, traditions, and education. The activities in the craft area will allow visitors to learn the basics of a craft and make it their own. A range of different craft activities will be presented throughout the year. One of my favorites is plaiting, a type of weaving. As a designer and a Native woman, I saw that this activity could be used to create a possible bag—a mini-purse or wallet used to carry all the small things you might possibly need during the day. I was able to make the plaiting project into something of my own. Hopefully future designers visiting the activity center will see that they too can take an activity and make it into something of their own.

Puniu 2 Another great area is the music room. In the music room visitors will interact with percussion instruments—drums and rattles. Visitors will be able to listen to recorded music using these particular instruments and be challenged to play along following the beat. This space facilitates the appreciation of Native music. We hope it will help visitors understand that music is important to Native peoples, as well as that musical instruments are built with resources found around a community's environment. Who knows? This room could inspire future musician to write a song or create a musical instrument.


Lastly, our story room will provide visitors the opportunity to do library research, play a memory/match game, or choose a book and settle into a reading nook. Also in the story area, Hok-noth-da?—which means “Did you hear?” in the Shawnee language—is a twenty-minute, hands-on reading program. Through the use of interactive teaching methods, Hok-noth-da? helps kids make stronger connections to the themes and characters introduced in books by Native American authors. The story-reading program, suggested for visitors in grades K through 5, presents Native stories read by Cultural Interpreters and Activity Center staff. The reading area can serve as inspiration for future authors, illustrators, and historians.

Looking back, I see that the three sections of imagiNATIONS I've chosen to talk about are areas that inspire and nurture creativity, as well as teach about the Native American past and our contemporary history. No wonder I'm so excited about spreading the word.

—Angelia Collins (Lumbee), Cultural Information Assistant
NMAI Community and Constituent Services

Images (from top to bottom):

The writer's possible bag, made during a test session for a plaiting activity in the imagiNATIONS craft area. NMAI photo.

Puniu (Hawaiian knee drum). A contemporary puniu wil be available for playing in the imagiNATIONS music area. Photo © Peabody Essex Museum 2006. Used with permission.

NMAI education specialist Renée Gokey (Eastern Shawnee/Sac and Fox), presenting a story in Hok-noth-da? NMAI photo.

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imagiNATIONS sounds like a fantastic idea, who know where it lead to. Let´s face it we wouldn´t have Disney Land if Walt hadn´t used his imagination to conjure it up.

I think we all need people to inspire us.

Best of luck with this project. The world needs more things like this.

Yay! Finally an initiative about crafting, one of my dearest fields of interest :)

Glad to have found this post. Thanks for the tips and for taking the initiative to do this. I was getting tired of looking through the internet for something like this


June 24, 2011

Live from the Choctaw Days Festival at the Museum

Choctaw Days-Ron McKinney
Choctaw Days well underway, Ron McKinney (Choctaw) leads Choctaw young people and visitors to the museum in a dance. Photo by Lea Toulouse Florentin (Anisinaabe), NMAI.

As the sun emerged over the U.S. Capitol, my old friend Presley Byington conducted a purifying ceremony for the Choctaw Youth Dancers. In a secluded area in the shade of the small woodland at the National Museum of the American Indian, the dancers faced to the east to greet the morning sun. With burning sage and eagle feathers, Presley blessed each dancer one-by-one. Upon completing the ceremony, the dancers walked single file toward the museum’s side entrance. I am very sensitive to Native expressions such as this ceremony. As we opened the doors and began entering the museum, I sensed billows of positive energy, life, entering as well.

More than fifty Choctaws were waiting for the museum to open and our visitors to arrive. They had been remarkably punctual, having set up the museum’s Potomac Atrium the night before and gotten up early to be ready two hours before the festival was scheduled to begin. At 9:55 a.m., the Choctaw Youth Dancers and their singer made their way to museum's outdoor Welcome Plaza for the opening of the festival. Dressed in colorful outfits with Choctaw diamond designs, the dancers began with a series of traditional dances, including the stealing partners dance and the snake dance. A large crowd began gathering to witness their dances. Each dancer went into the audience and picked visitors to join in as the snake dance progressed.

The lead dancer continued this follow-the-leader style of dance into the museum where the other Choctaws were eagerly awaiting. Gregory Pyle, Chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, delivered the official welcome to Choctaw Days. Chief Pyle's words were followed by a series of performances. I took a seat by Presley at his booth and watched as he mesmerized the audience with his flute-playing skills. The Johnson Family Singers followed with a traditional Choctaw hymn sung in three-part harmony. After the hymn, the audience was encouraged to assemble outside the north entrance for a series of lively tales vividly told by renowned Choctaw story-teller Tim Tingle.


Choctaw athletes play stickball, a traditional game that is a precursor to lacrosse. Photo courtesy of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

During this time, I went to visit another old friend, Olin Williams, who was sitting behind the Choctaw stickball booth. Williams is Mississippi Choctaw and a Choctaw elder and historian. He shared with me information about the sport known to the Choctaw as “the Little Brother of War.” Stickball is played with two sticks similar to a modern lacrosse stick, only smaller. The game, which can be rough, was once used to decide disputes between tribal towns. Olin had an example of the sticks used in ancient stickball games and new sticks used in modern stickball. “A long time ago, Choctaw sticks were fairly uniform and about the same size. Today they have evolved. Shorter sticks are used by scorers. Longer sticks are used by the goalie,” he said.

After this explanation, Olin shared traditional philosophical information concerning the role of males and females, and how the concepts are applied in traditional Choctaw culture. He explained that these roles are changing due to involvement with modern culture, as well as other outside influences. He stressed that a balance is needed between traditional and modern knowledge for Indians today to be successful. Olin will be conducting a re-enactment of a Choctaw wedding on Saturday afternoon, June 25, in the museum’s Rasmuson Theater.

Following this visit, I went to find another Choctaw friend who is now living in Oregon. Roger Amerman is a traditional Choctaw beader who has researched ancient designs and brought them back to life through his creations. At his booth he was working on a leather frock coat worn traditionally by Choctaw men. “I tanned one of the hides used in the coat,” said Amerman. “It is a work-in-progress that I have been steadily working to complete for the last  three years.” While I was at Roger’s booth, visitors from Connecticut dropped by. They said they are of Choctaw decent and had heard of the festival through the Choctaw newspaper Biskinik, so they were very excited to come to Washington to participate.

Next to Roger’s booth is the booth of his brother Marcus Amerman. Marcus has set the standard for American Indian beadwork by beading landscapes and portraits of individuals in his pieces. Of great interest to guests who visit his booth is a beaded portrait of President Obama. Another beaded piece features Marcus’s girlfriend, Kateri Walker, the lead actress in the movie Kissed by Lightning, which will be screened at the museum on Saturday night, July 2, as part of NMAI’s Dinner & A Movie series.

I am looking forward to bringing my family to the museum tomorrow to see the Choctaw wedding. I hope I see you there!

— Dennis Zotigh, NMAI

Click here to see the schedule of events for Choctaw Days tomorrow, Saturday, June 25.

To see more snapshots of the festival, visit the photo album on the museum's Facebook page.


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I read this blog this blog is very useful.Nice picture.