Back in 2005, I had exactly half a day during the week and two days over the weekend to sightsee in Washington D.C. I had imagined myself spending one and a half days trying to cram in all the Smithsonian Museums and the final day touring the numerous monuments and memorials. Of the museums, I was targeting the Air and Space Museum and Natural History museum. However, on that first free half day, I stumbled upon the Smithsonian’s newest museum, the National Museum of the American Indian (opened in 2004). I liked it so much, I returned the next day and spent another half day there; severely curtailing my visit to the Air and Space Museum to just a couple of hours and causing me to miss the Natural History Museum altogether.
I am not idolising the Native Peoples. They are human as are all of us and because of that, they have their short-comings and flaws. However, also because of that, there is also greatness and as it is in all cultures, there is both common and unique wisdoms and perspectives of life. These are jewels worth preserving and worth knowing and internalising. I am glad that the U.S. finally is promoting and showcasing the cultures of their First Peoples.
The museum is good and has room for improvement. Amongst the first things to try is their cafeteria which gives you an opportunity to try the traditional staples and meats of native peoples throughout the American continent. I could spend a few lunches there.
There were of course many interesting exhibits of the different tribes and peoples. One of my favorite places was this dark chamber where you can sit and listen to different stories and fables. I could fall a sleep and find myself in those stories when I dream.
Of course, the museum has also to deal with the dark truth of the decimation of the native peoples with the coming of the Europeans. There is a wall with all the names of all the tribes and native peoples in the Americas. All have been decimated and many have even ceased to be but their names still live on in the stories told and on the wall was these words, “We are the Evidence.” And now, there is this fantastic museum to help keep their names from fading into the mists of time.