Thursday, December 29, 2011

National Museum of the American Indian

One of the main draws for me when John and I decided to visit Washington, DC last October was the chance to visit the newest Smithsonian Museum on the Mall, the National Museum of the American Indian, opened in 2004.
How appropriate that the landscaping surrounding the curving, sand-coloured, building, should include a planting of the "Three Sisters" -- corn, beans and squash. These are the basics of Native American diet and horticulture. The beans grow up the corn, the broad-leafed squash discourages weeds, and they compliment each other nutritionally.
George Gustav Heye collected most of the material that now comprises the permanent collection. Display of the artworks and artifacts has been directed by inspired input from the American First Nations people. Who can help but be amazed by the design skills of the Plains Indians on display above.
John loved this gorgeous Buffalo drum
and this Painted Rawhide storage envelope.
Besides displays of Native American history and culture before the arrival of the White Man, the museum displays artifacts that inspired the greed of Europe. For instance, It was Aztec gold like the display above that  led the Spanish conquistadors to subjugate the original inhabitants of South America. 
The fascinating permanent exhibits include displays of the lives of Native People in the Modern world, like this funky Metis ice-fishing vehicle from Northern Saskatchewan.
We love the work of contemporary First Nations artists who make traditional objects out of  modern manufactured utensils. Here we see an Inuit mask, Tunghak Inua, by Lawrence Beck, a Seattle, Washington artist with Native Alaskan blood. Love the spatulas and steamer! Reminds us of Canada's Brian Jungen.
When we were about to leave the museum, I was approached by museum staff for an survey of visitor opinions about the collection and my opinions of plans for an upcoming temporary exhibition of Hawaiian Native culture. It was easy to be enthusiastic.
Just as we were about to leave this spectacular building and collection, John and I noticed a visitor being photographed in a prism of light and decided that we wanted to have our portraits taken in the magical puddle.
The National Museum of the American Indian will bring out the Shaman in you!

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