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Stateside With Rosalea: NMAI, Haere Mai

Stateside With Rosalea Barker

NMAI, Haere Mai

Greetings from Indian Country this Thanksgiving Day. Because, as the narration of one of the movies at the National Museum of the American Indian says, all of the Americas is Indian country.

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The opening statement in Our Peoples, one of four permanent exhibitions.

There is no cloakroom at the NMAI, and no restriction on taking photographs. You are simply asked to treat what you see with respect. Out of respect, I wouldn’t normally take a photo of artifacts such as the ones above, but the kid down on the right hand side seemed to be giving me the high-five. It’s an important statement.

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Our Universes begins with the story of how Raven Steals the Sun, here represented in a 2003 blown and sand-carved glass sculpture by Tlingit artist Preston Singletary. The Raven stories are particular to the Pacific Northwest.

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Hiding behind the backs of General George Washington and Oskanondonha, his ally during the American Revolutionary War, a young girl admires the not-so-partridge in a white pine tree. The 2004 bronze sculpture by Edward Hvlaka was a gift of the Oneida Indian Nation of New York. The white pine is a symbol of peace.

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The entry hall to the museum features an atrium and, high up on one wall, this window of prisms, which bring the outside world into view and reflect rainbows on the interior of the atrium dome and on the floor.

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The magic of light on stone.

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Pretty much all of the building is constructed using curves rather than straight lines. This is the Mitsitam Café, which serves food “inspired by Native dishes of the five regions of the Western Hemisphere.” The café is a food court, so you can try something from each region. It’s on the list of best places to eat in DC.

As I left the museum, a storm blew up--delighting the flocks of birds that live in the trees along the National Mall, on which the NMAI sits. And in a kind of autumnal reverse of having my way in life strewn with roses, a little whirlwind swept all the leaves away from in front of me.


National Museum of the American Indian:



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