Native Unity = Native Pride!
Ivan the Terrible’s tropical storm winds had scoured out the remnants of D.C.’s summer pollution and the skies were a brilliant blue to welcome some 20,000 members of America’s First nations. Estimates vary on the size of the ceremonial bedecked crowd ( and non-Natives) from 10,000 as reported on Dan Rahter’s evening news broadcast, to 20,000 as reported in The Arizona Republic to the 30,000 to 40,000 estimate in the AP story featured in The Yuma Sun – so I’ll stick to the halfway mark.
Museum director Richard West, the trim, soft-spoken Cheyenne, was featured on Rather’s broadcast in business attire but wore a Cheyenne headdress during the procession. “Today Native America takes its rightful place on the National Mall, he said, “in the very shadow of the nation’s Capitol building itself.”
Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican and member of the Chickasaw Nation, read a statement from President Bush calling the museum ”A powerful remainder of the spirit, pride and vitality of our native peoples.”
Sen. Daniel Inouye - D-Hawaii, sponsor of the Senate bill that authorized the museum said he was motivated by a sense that Indians had not been recognized in the nation’s capital.
The museum’s design makes a dramatic architectural statement, unlike any other structure in Washington, and was built at the cost of $214 million. “The sweeping lines are intended to represent the kind of communion with nature common to many tribal religions.”
It houses 8,000 objects from across the western hemisphere. Four million visitors a year are expected to see view the museum’s films, see the paintings, photographs masks, sculptures, weapons, jewelry and hear the vibrant drumbeats of traditional music.
These exhibits will span 10,000 years within an area from the Arctic Circle to the tip of South America. The Smithsonian gained the cornerstone of the displays when it acquired the 800,000 item collection from George Heye, the German–American entrepreneur and oil heir, whose museum opened in New York in 1922, that became a part of the Smithsonian in 1989.
I wish I could have attended the ceremony but editing this article brought back fond memories of the 1976 Bicentennial Festival when I spent the summer, as a Maryland resident and Smithsonian docent, working with Indian tribes on the same National Mall.
NATIVE UNITY - A place for Native American Peoples to solidify their tribes to make a positive impact on the cultural, social, economic and political fabric of American society and a place for non-Natives to better understand the ways of the American Indian.