March 8, 2009

The National Museum of the American Indian, Washington DC

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:55 am by classicalmusic

The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. is the newest branch of the Smithsonian Institution, America’s collective national museum series. The museum is probably the least well known of the National museums, but that’s a shame because it is one of the best. The museum is especially good at highlighting little known episodes in history that provide much greater historical context to the story of the American Indian than one is liable to get anywhere else.

For example, a current exhibition is called “They Came as Sovereign Leaders.” This photo and text exhibit tell the story of President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1905 inaugural parade in which he invited six prominent Indian chiefs to participate. To the new President, including the Indian chiefs was done to add a touch of the exotic to the festivities. Yet the six chiefs believed that they were being invited as representatives of their people to discuss the actual needs of their tribes with the President. This episode, unknown to most Americans, sheds light on what the attitude of the establishment had been toward the Indians. It was done at a time when the Indians saw the federal government taking more and more of their land away without due process — at least from the standpoint of the Indians.

The museum is not immense and all the exhibits can be seen if you give yourself about three hours. The museum is located right on the national mall alongside such famous counterparts as the National museum of American History and the always popular National Air and Space Museum.

It is best to arrive early as the museum can become crowded in the afternoons, especially on weekends and holidays. There is a great bookstore as well as a coffee shop on the premises.

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