After another slow start to our day (this has been a lazy summer schedule for sure) the Teen and I visited the Museum of the American Indian. The curvy, light-colored stone exterior is surrounded by native plantings and some outdoor structures that look like teepees and other dwellings. When we entered the building, we were struck by the sense of space and roundness, very welcoming and soothing and wonderful. The rotunda is open all the way past the four floors of exhibits to a center dome with a sky light and displays four examples of boats–birch bark and seal skin kayak and woven reed and a beautiful wooden example from the Hawaiian Islands.
I loved this carving “The Beaver and the Mink, Susan A. Point (Coast Salish), 2004.
Our travels have this way of connecting. When we visited Seattle, we were exposed to the Northwest Indian art like this carving. When we visited Hawaii, we saw examples of native Hawaiian boats. Now in D.C., these and many, many other examples of American Indian culture are brought together under one dome.
I was struck by how important this city is as a repository of American culture and history–defining history in this case as the history of the land. We can go all the way from prehistoric mammals of North America in the Museum of Natural History, through the history of the native peoples who have been here the longest of all of us, up to the pivotal (and certainly destructive for the American Indians) moment of discovery and exploration and settlement by the Europeans here in the Museum of the American Indian, and on to the birth of our nation and the subsequent timelines and historical moments in the American History Museum–including the lives and times of the colonists, the founders, the African peoples brought here as slaves, the immigrants who came here for more opportunity, and even the current popular culture that we all swim in today regardless of when or how our ancestors arrived on these shores.
We decided to start on the fourth floor in the Our Universes exhibit which focuses on Native belief systems. Most of these beliefs revolve around the idea of connectedness between the Earth and everything on it. Communion with nature, not conquest.
The Mayan Calendar on display was beautiful and fascinating. . . and I’m thinking this must be drawing more interest as we head toward the year 2012 and the supposed “apocalypse” or “change” that is to come based on this calendar. Click HERE to read a basic article about the end of this particular Mayan “era” in 2012.
The objects on display were so beautiful and artistic, from exquisitely embroidered clothing to drums such as this one.
The third floor houses the Contemporary Art exhibit.
We were struck by the beautiful blue color against the dark background and the swooping lines of the images.
Downstairs on the first floor, just outside a cafeteria offering Native foods, was this case full of food products based on plants native to North and South America.
We browsed for a bit in the museum store (I found a pretty red glass bead/juniper berry necklace) and then headed outside to look at the fountain before going home for the day. Of course, I want to go back and see some more exhibits. There is so much to learn!
I came away with my convictions about the need for sustainability, the interconnectedness of life, and appreciation for the world with all its diversity strengthened. If you are ever in D.C., put this museum on your “must see” list.