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July 06, 2011

Walk in (Sustainable) Beauty


Understanding and sustaining a biodiverse planet is one of four themes chosen by the Smithsonian to focus the Institution's work on the major issues of our day. At NMAI, our contributions to environmental research and related public programs center on American Indian knowledge. At its finest, Native knowledge reflects a relationship developed over millennia with the living earth, an ethos of balance derived from observation and analysis of the natural world. When applied to contemporary global challenges, Native knowledge can bring a different perspective to the quest for solutions. 

The museum's staff is committed to applying the value of sustainability at work—to walk the walk—through an on-going sustainability program led by the museum’s Facilities Management Office and a committee of volunteers. For example, the museum separates paper, plastic and glass for recycling at literally every workstation, and uses drop-off points to collect and recycle less common materials, including batteries, light bulbs and printer cartridges. Facilities Management has taken the initiative to switch to environmentally safe cleaning products and supplies throughout the museum. Aerating faucets have helped the museum reduce indoor water use by more than 10 percent between May 1, 2010 and April 30, 2011. Outdoors, the museum and Smithsonian Horticulture have collaborated to reduce the use of potable water for landscaping by 95 percent. Smithsonian Horticulture composts or recycles ground materials from the museum’s landscape, as well. Conservation efforts—office lights automatically turn off at 8 p.m., as those of us who work on deadline know all too well—and new technologies like solar panels and highly efficient hand dryers in the public restrooms have reduced the museum’s energy use by more than 17 percent in the last few years.

In short, the museum is striving to be more than a place that evokes the beauty of the natural world. We want to do our part to work sustainably. For more specifics on the museum’s efforts, visit the NMAI Sustainability Practices website hosted by the Smithsonian Office of Facilities Engineering and Operations. And if you’re going to be in Washington the weekend of July 22 through 24, take Metro or ride your bike down to the museum’s annual Living Earth Festival and the symposium Creating a Climate of Change: A Sustainable Future for the Living Earth to discuss more ways we can all help build a culture of sustainability.

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Can someone call maintenance please? Tell them to bring the mop and bucket, its like a swamp out here! And where are all the mosquito's coming from anyway?

Like this blog I am reading it from the Scotland UK.

I helped engineer some fake rocks used on this property. The designers used them to hide some utility boxes. They really have all the bases covered as far as sustainable design and making the entire grounds appear natural. Nice work!

I think it is so important that companies and people in general understand their responsibilities when it comes to nature. We must maintain the balance, we humans sadly forget we belong to the earth the earth does not belong to us. However we applaud your stance.

July 04, 2011

The 4th of July at NMAI

Block parties, barbeque, watermelon, water fights and fireworks.  These are my childhood memories of the 4th of July.  A time for friends and family to get together and enjoy the relaxing days of summer.  More food than anyone could imagine eating, paired with an annual bicycle decorating contest and parade and finishing off with some Piccolo Pete’s and Sparklers  (back when you could have small fireworks in the middle of your street) made the whole day complete.  It’s been a few years since I’ve lived in a neighborhood like the one I grew up in, but that feeling of celebration comes back each year.  There is something about the nation coming together, setting aside all our differences and realizing that when it comes down to it, we are just a nation of people, from so many different backgrounds all celebrating the same thing. 

The relationship between Native Americans and the United States has at times, been a tumultuous one.  At NMAI you will find various manifestations of the relationship between Native people and the U.S. I took a walk through the exhibitions the other day in order to get a sense of where the United States as a nation fits into the narrative of the Native nations represented within the museum. 

Beginning my adventure through the museum in search of American flag images I entered “Our Lives,” located on the 3rd level.  Fritz Scholder’s The American Indian (1970) is housed within this exhibition.  The description accompanying the piece reads “The relationship between Native nations and modern nation-states is full of complexities and ironies, confrontations and negotiations.  Every nation-state in the Americas regards indigenous peoples as citizens of the countries that took over our lands.  But many Native peoples do not submit to this assertion of citizenship, considering themselves to be members of their own nations.  And some see themselves as citizens of two nations.”  Scholder’s piece illustrates the complex nature of Native identity in the United States.  A Native figure draped in the American flag suggests the ongoing occupation of Native homelands.  Across the Americas these complex relationships continue and sometimes result in struggle between the two parties. 

The American Indian(The American Indian; Fritz Scholder)


The second stop on my patriotic tour of the museum found me at Jenny Ann “Chapoose” Taylor’s “Nations: a mourning tribute.”  A beautifully beaded piece, Nations was the product Taylor’s frustration in the lack of information regarding Native history.  A tribute to the original nations of people who lived in the U.S. before it was the U.S., Taylor hoped that this would serve as a marker for moving forward together.  The piece was started long before September 11th but the events of that day only reaffirmed her belief that as Americans we need each other, more than ever, “if we are to create a future that our descendants deserve to inherit.”

Nations Flag (Nations- A Mourning Tribute; Jenny Ann “Chapoose” Taylor)

As I stepped off the elevator on the 4th floor and into “Our Universes” I immediately gravitated towards the display of the Denver March Powwow.  One of the largest powwow’s held in the United States, Native Americans from all over travel to Denver each year to participate.  Among those in attendance are U.S. military veterans who reunite with members of their old units and celebrate their Native and military heritage.  On display we have a quilt with the colors of the American Flag represented within the official logo of the Denver March Powwow.  There is also an Osage purse (my familial tribe) honoring military service.  A beautiful Miss Denver March Powwow replica crown by Iris Rouillard can also be seen in the display.  This display shows us the close relationship that some experience with their dual identity; Native and American.    

Denver March Powwow 007
(Our Universes The Denver March Powwow Display 4th Level, image by Brieahn DeMeo, NMAI)

I come from a family of many backgrounds, my paternal grandfather is Italian and my grandmother is Osage.  I am beginning to understand more fully what it means to live a multi-faceted identity.  I am Italian-Native-American, 3 identities, the product of my roots.  For me, the 4th of July is not just about celebrating the War of Independence; it’s about feeling proud of who I am and where I come from. 


Brieahn DeMeo (Osage) Office of Public Affairs intern

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July 01, 2011

Indian Country in the News: June 24-July 1, 2011

This week's news highlights include the disputed election to determine who will lead the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, the discovery of a 1,500-year-old Mayan tomb in Mexico, a new website launched by the White House to improve communication between tribal leaders and President Obama, and continued protests among indigenous groups in Peru over the country's mining and mineral policies:

  • AP: Okla tribal election compared to Florida 2000 vote - "The disputed election to determine who will lead the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma for the next four years is drawing comparisons to the Bush-Gore recount in the 2000 presidential election in Florida. Unofficial returns posted Sunday morning had longtime councilman Bill John Baker beating three-term incumbent Principal Chief Chad Smith by 11 votes. But Monday afternoon, the tribal election commission certified Smith as the winner by a seven-vote margin out of more than 15,000 cast."
  • UPI: Camera used to probe hidden tomb - "Archaeologists in Mexico using a tiny camera fed into a narrow opening say they've discovered secrets of a Mayan tomb hidden from the world for 1,500 years. The underground tomb located in stone ruins in Palenque in the Mexican state of Chiapas was discovered in 1999 under a temple building, but the stonework and location prevented any exploration utilizing excavation, LiveScience.com reported Friday. So archaeologists from Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History fed a remote camera through a small 6-inch-by 6-inch hole in the tomb's ceiling to capture images of its interior."
  • White House launches Native American outreach webpage - "The White House launched a new webpage Tuesday to help tribal leaders across the country navigate the federal government and communicate with President Barack Obama. The site “Winning the Future: President Obama and the Native American Community” can be found at www.whitehouse.gov/nativeamericans and includes blogs, news and multimedia releases from the White House. Staffers from Indian Country Today listed the launch of the site as a positive for the presidency that has had some missteps including budget cuts to Native programs and the use of Geronimo as a code name for Osama bin Laden this spring."
  • TIME: Peru's Airport Siege: A Bad Omen for the New President - "If the past few days are any indication of things to come, Peru's President-elect Ollanta Humala is in for a rough ride when he takes office on July 28. On Saturday, indigenous protesters in the country's southeast radically upped the stakes in their nearly seven-week campaign against the government's mining and oil/gas policies by taking over an airport in Juliaca, the business hub of the Puno department. Five protesters were killed by the police the previous day in an earlier attempt to take the airport. The losses from the series of strikes and shut-downs is estimated at close to $100 million and, apart from the violence, are sending shudders through an economy already nervous about Humala's left-leaning proclivities. Indeed, the controversy has become more than a quarrel about a single project but has come to symbolize a larger debate about development in Peru."

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its a great move from white house and Mr president is doing really good work to get in touch with old things.

Rajesh Arya

What a wonderful Blog, and the new webpage to help tribal leaders across the country navigate the federal government and communicate with President Barack Obama, can only be a good thing, as to the use of Geronimo as a code name and linked to bin Laden, well that's a different matter entirely! Kind regards, Maria

Happy Canada Day!

July 1st is celebrated as Canada Day across the Canadian nation. Like Americans on festive July 4th, Canadians commemorate the founding of their nation with fireworks, parties, BBQs, and ceremonies. In Ottawa, Ontario, Canada’s capital, thousands of people will congregate on Parliament Hill to watch the Canada Day Noon Show, this year with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Governor General David Johnston, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages James Moore, and their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The Noon Show will feature a ceremony, a flyby of CF 18s, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds Air Demonstration Team, and a list of Canadian performers. Personally, I have never attended Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa; the Canada Day I know is in Vancouver, British Columbia. Fireworks and massive crowds of spectators come together downtown at Canada Place or at one of the beaches in Vancouver. Hours before the evening fireworks begin, people bring blankets and stake a spot on one of the beaches, awaiting the show to commence. Many of the celebrations stem from Canada’s colonial heritage, when the union of the British North America provinces formed in a federation under the name of Canada. Although this historical event has shaped the great Canadian nation, it is important to celebrate the First Nations who are central to Canadian culture.


Here at the NMAI, my friends and I are celebrating Canada Day by visiting the permanent exhibitions that feature four Canadian First Nations—the Anishinaabe in Our Universes, and the Igloolik, Kahnawake, and St. Laurent in Our Lives. The focus of Our Universes is Native cosmology and the spiritual relationship between humankind and the natural world. The works of art in this exhibition reference and access Anishinaabe stories, histories, and experiences that provide a dynamic, indigenous perspective of the Great Lakes region. Walking through the Anishinaabe section of the exhibit, I read several quotes revealing important teachings such as respecting animals, elders, and the land. These philosophies are central to many First Nations cultures as ways to live a healthy and balanced life. At the back of the space, a reconstruction of an Anishinaabe gathering in a teaching lodge is displayed for viewers to get a glimpse into traditional ceremonial life. As an Anishinaabe person, when I walk into this room I feel a strong connection to the representations, words, and images.


Our Lives is about the identities of Native people in the 21st century. It demonstrates how our identities are the result of deliberate, often difficult choices made in a climate of challenging circumstances. The Kahnawake, who are located near Montreal, Quebec, display contemporary objects, interviews, photos, and quotes related to their nation. An interesting display is the Haudenosaunee passport, which reinforces Haudenosaunee identity as a league of First Nations peoples, including the Kahnawake. Not far from this area is the Igloolik section representing contemporary Inuit life in the Arctic. The exhibit features a large display case of caribou-hide clothing and floater suits worn when boating. A video presents an Igloolik village and hunting practices. It is quite impressive to view Inuit territories as they are quite different from my hometown in Vancouver, Canada. The last Canadian First Nation exhibit is the Saint-Laurent, Métis peoples from Red River. I was intrigued by the heritage of the Métis as many are a mix of Cree, Saulteaux, European, and French. A video shows Jigging dance lessons and people playing the fiddle, their traditional instrument.

The four First Nations displayed at the NMAI represent only a fragment of the vast number of Aboriginal peoples across Canada. Happy Canada Day!

Lea Toulouse Florentin (Anishinaabe), Public Affairs Intern.



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Thanks for this post. We lived in Canada and loved celebrating Canada Day. Now that we are in the United States, we celebrate July 4th with music!

Thanks for giving us the chance to look at such the beautiful places on earth. I have started planning the tours to these places. For sure looking for your updates...thanks