Navajo Nation Museum - Census Information
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK – As a young boy, Manuelito Wheeler used to hang out with his friends in the area where the present day Navajo Nation Museum is located.
“I used to ride my bike and make jumps over there. Now I'm working down there, representing the Navajo people and our culture,” he said Friday.
But the museum, like Wheeler and the Navajo Nation itself, has grown. A central place of understanding where people can come and learn what it means to be Dine – an ethnobotanical garden – is needed to help retain this wisdom before it is lost, according to Wheeler. He hopes to expand on what has been created and turn his vision of a cultural landscape into a reality.
But just as the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, once said, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” For Wheeler, that first step was getting the Resources Committee to approve amending the museum's plan of operation.
“They would like to proceed to be acknowledged as a department within the Division of Natural Resources. Presently, the program is under Historic Preservation,” Chairman George Arthur, sponsor of the legislation, told the committee.
By becoming its own department, officials would have more freedom in decisions about the museum's future.
“It just takes off that other layer, meaning Historic Preservation department,” Wheeler said. “I'm thankful that they took us under their wing, but as any institution, we've grown and we're ready for this.”
Though the Navajo Nation is the largest tribe in the United States, the museum does not reflect that when compared with other tribes throughout the country, he said. “When you guys travel, I'm sure you visit with various Indian nations and they have recently come into funding, primarily from casinos; so when you go to them and you see their museum, they are a step up above from our Navajo Nation Museum.”
Since Wheeler became director in January 2008, the museum has made some major improvements and has brought in exhibitions that are very beneficial to the Nation and the Navajo people, Arthur said.
Prior to coming to Window Rock, Wheeler spent more than 10 years working at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. “I saw how professional museums are organized and how they are run,” he said. He wants to take Navajo's museum to that level.
“Within two years, I think all of you have been there and have seen what I can do. And that's using the exact same budget that the previous director had. I didn't get an increase in budget, I didn't get an increase in help. We were able to make huge improvements, and I want to make even bigger improvements,” he said.
A four-color booklet outlining plans to cultivate the museum landscape “into a place where our connection to the land can be shared with our people, as well as with those who visit us,” was given to the committee.
Wheeler said he receives comments such as: What happened to grass that was growing there? How come all the plants are dying?
“It's just a dustbowl. That's not acceptable for us, as the Navajo people, to have,” he said. “The landscape plan calls for all plants and materials that are related to the reservation – medicinal plants, plants that are used for dying and rugs, etcetera.
“The Navajo Nation Museum is like an incubator for our culture. Our Navajo culture is growing and going in many directions right now as modern people, so we need to have an area that we can keep our traditions alive. I hope you have the same vision as I do to make this a reality,” he said.
The cultural landscape plan carries a price tag of $3.34 million and would use local work force to do as much of the work as possible.
According to the booklet, an entry rock sculpture will display boulders from the four sacred mountains. A peaceful park environment with rock benches where visitors can relax and enjoy the outdoors will be created amid landscape elements displaying Navajo craftsmanship and ingenuity. Male and female hogans, a corral, fire pit and sweat lodges will introduce visitors to the Dine ceremonial life.
An amphitheater located among gardens of native plants will provide a gathering place for outdoor performances of traditional and contemporary music, dance and theater. Shelters similar to the traditional chaha'oh (brush arbor or shade house) will provide gathering places for picnickers.
Rainwater will be collected from the roof of the museum and filtered back into the ground to support native wetland vegetation. A sculpture garden will showcase Navajo art.
Wheeler said improvements already have been made to the snack bar area, using existing budget.
“It's available as a rental space. It's a moderate revenue generator when we rent it out, but it will be much more of a revenue-generating mechanism for the museum when it's opened officially,” he said.
The committee approved the resolution 7-0. It now moves to the Government Services Committee.
SPREADSHIRT AND NCAI ENCOURAGE NATIVE AMERICANS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE U.S. CENSUS
Submitted by Holly Jobbagy
Hi there -
With the U.S. Census survey date just a few days away, there is a lot of buzz about participation. While participating in the survey is very important, so is participation in making others aware of diversity and how important the cause is. Spreadshirt, a leading online platform for creating, buying and selling “me-shirts”—stylish conversation starters that people love to wear—is working with the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) to help encourage the importance of filling out the upcoming Census. Together they are promoting the U.S. Census survey to ensure an accurate count of American Indians and Alaska Natives in the 2010 Census.
The NCAI (National Congress of American Indians) has its own partner shop on Spreadshirt. The shirts in the NCAI shop feature unique and meaningful sayings such as “I’m Tulalip and I count” and “I’m Navajo and I count”. The NCAI is one of the oldest, largest and most representative national Indian organizations serving the interests of tribal government.
Spreadshirt is proud to partner with the NCAI in offering a FREE customized tee to the first 1,000 to pledge to participate in the U.S. Census Survey. It is quick and easy. Please share with your readers that they can pledge to participate at the Indian County Counts website. By pledging to participate, your readers can get a free customized tee from Spreadshirt that says, “"I'm [your tribe] and I Count".
In addition, the commission that the NCAI receives from shirt orders from their shop will all be donated to their organization to further help and serve the American Indians and Alaska Natives.
While there is a lot of buzz around the U.S. Census, it is important to feature stories about specific sectors who have been working to serve their nationality for a long time. The NCAI has been serving since 1944. Please share this wonderful news with your readers. They, too, can team up with the NCAI and Spreadshirt and get more people to pledge!
CENSUS NEWS FROM CHRISTINE YAZZIE
Hi! I wanted to update you on what I am doing at this time. I am part of
the American Indian/Alaska Natives team recruited by the U.S. Census
Bureau. The 2010 Census is underway across the nation. Next week,
you will be receiving the official form. BE COUNTED. I'm excited to be
part of this service directed to the American Indian, Alaska Natives
communities. You will be seeing me and/or my coworkers at various events
throughout Southern California. Come on by and say Hi.
You are invited to the American Indian Music Festival that is slated for
Saturday, March 27 from 12 PM to 5 PM. It's family-friendly.
Other websites: Native Biz http://www.nativebiz.com/content/view/4415/508/
U.S. Census Bureau http://www.census.gov/
Native count website
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