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|Location||Fourth Street and Independence Avenue, Southwest, Washington D.C. (main location)|
|Visitors||1.2 million (2017)|
|Public transit access|
The National Museum of the American Indian is part of the Smithsonian Institution and is committed to advancing knowledge and understanding of the Native cultures of the Western Hemisphere—past, present, and future—through partnership with Native people and others. The museum works to support the continuance of culture, traditional values, and transitions in contemporary Native life.It has three facilities: the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., which opened on September 21, 2004, on Fourth Street and Independence Avenue, Southwest; the George Gustav Heye Center, a permanent museum in New York City; and the Cultural Resources Center, a research and collections facility in Suitland, Maryland. The foundations for the present collections were first assembled in the former Museum of the American Indian in New York City, which was established in 1916, and which became part of the Smithsonian in 1990.
The Smithsonian Institution, founded on August 10, 1846 "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge," is a group of museums and research centers administered by the Government of the United States. The institution is named after its founding donor, British scientist James Smithson. Originally organized as the "United States National Museum," that name ceased to exist as an administrative entity in 1967.
The National Mall is a landscaped park within the National Mall and Memorial Parks, an official unit of the United States National Park System. It is located near the downtown area of Washington, D.C., the capital city of the United States, and is administered by the National Park Service (NPS) of the United States Department of the Interior.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, first President of the United States and Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.
Following controversy over the discovery by Native American leaders that the Smithsonian Institution held more than 12,000–18,000 Indian remains, mostly in storage, United States Senator Daniel Inouye introduced in 1989 the National Museum of the American Indian Act.Passed as Public Law 101-185, it established the National Museum of the American Indian as "a living memorial to Native Americans and their traditions". The Act also required that human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony be considered for repatriation to tribal communities, as well as objects acquired illegally. Since 1989 the Smithsonian has repatriated over 5,000 individual remains – about 1/3 of the total estimated human remains in its collection.
Daniel Ken Inouye was an American politician who served as a United States Senator from Hawaii from 1963 until his death in 2012. A member of the Democratic Party, he was President pro tempore of the United States Senate from 2010 until his death, making him the highest-ranking Asian-American politician in US history. Inouye also chaired various Senate Committees, including those on Intelligence, Commerce and Appropriations.
The National Museum of the American Indian Act (NMAI) was enacted on November 28, 1989, as Public Law 101-185. The law established the National Museum of the American Indian as part of the Smithsonian Institution. The law also required the Secretary of the Smithsonian to prepare an inventory of all Indian and Native Hawaiian human remains and funerary objects in Smithsonian collections, as well as expeditiously return these items upon the request of culturally affiliated federally recognized Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations.
On September 21, 2004, for the inauguration of the Museum, Senator Inouye addressed an audience of around 20,000 American Indians, Alaska Natives ,and Native Hawaiians, which was the largest gathering in Washington D.C. of indigenous people to its time.
Native Americans, also known as American Indians, Indigenous Americans and other terms, are the indigenous peoples of the United States, except Hawaii. There are over 500 federally recognized tribes within the US, about half of which are associated with Indian reservations. The term "American Indian" excludes Native Hawaiians and some Alaska Natives, while Native Americans are American Indians, plus Alaska Natives of all ethnicities. Native Hawaiians are not counted as Native Americans by the US Census, instead being included in the Census grouping of "Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander".
Alaska Natives are indigenous peoples of Alaska, United States and include: Iñupiat, Yupik, Aleut, Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, and a number of Northern Athabaskan cultures. They are often defined by their language groups. Many Alaska Natives are enrolled in federally recognized Alaska Native tribal entities, who in turn belong to 13 Alaska Native Regional Corporations, who administer land and financial claims.
Native Hawaiians are the Aboriginal Polynesian people of the Hawaiian Islands or their descendants. Native Hawaiians trace their ancestry back to the original Polynesian settlers of Hawaiʻi. In total, 527,000 Americans consider themselves Native Hawaiian.
The creation of the museum brought together the collections of the George Gustav Heye Center in New York City, founded in 1922, and the Smithsonian Institution.
The George Gustav Heye Center is a branch of the National Museum of the American Indian in Manhattan, New York City. The museum is part of the Smithsonian Institution. The Center features contemporary and historical exhibits of art and artifacts by and about Native Americans.
The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.
The Heye collection became part of the Smithsonian in June 1990, and represents approximately 85% of the holdings of the NMAI. The Heye Collection was formerly displayed in the Audubon Terrace location, but had long been seeking a new building.
The Museum of the American Indian considered options of merging with the Museum of Natural History, accepting a large donation from Ross Perot to be housed in a new museum building to be built in Dallas, or moving to the U.S. Customs House. The Heye Trust included a restriction requiring the collection to be displayed in New York City, and moving the collection to a Museum outside of New York aroused substantial opposition from New York politicians. The current arrangement represented a political compromise between those who wished to keep the Heye Collection in New York, and those who wanted it to be part of the new NMAI in Washington, DC.The NMAI was initially housed in lower Manhattan at the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, which was refurbished for this purpose and remains an exhibition site; its building on the Mall in Washington, DC opened in 2005.
Henry Ross Perot is an American business magnate and former politician. As the founder of the successful Electronic Data Systems corporation, he became a billionaire. He ran an independent presidential campaign in 1992 and a third party campaign in 1996, establishing the Reform Party in the latter election. Both campaigns were among the strongest presidential showings by a third party or independent candidate in U.S. history.
The museum of American Indian has three branches: National Museum of the American Indian in the National Mall (Washington, D.C.), George Gustav Heye Center in New York City, and the Cultural Resources Center in Maryland.
The site on the National Mall opened in September 2004. Fifteen years in the making, it is the first national museum in the country dedicated exclusively to Native Americans. The five-story, 250,000-square-foot (23,000 m2), curvilinear building is clad in a golden-colored Kasota limestone designed to evoke natural rock formations shaped by wind and water over thousands of years.
The museum is set in a 4.25 acres (17,200 m2)-site and is surrounded by simulated wetlands. The museum's east-facing entrance, its prism window and its 120-foot (37 m) high space for contemporary Native performances are direct results of extensive consultations with Native peoples. Similar to the Heye Center in Lower Manhattan, the museum offers a range of exhibitions, film and video screenings, school group programs, public programs and living culture presentations throughout the year.
The museum's architect and project designer is Canadian Douglas Cardinal (Blackfoot); its design architects are GBQC Architects of Philadelphia and architect Johnpaul Jones (Cherokee/Choctaw). Disagreements during construction led to Cardinal's being removed from the project, but the building retains his original design intent. He provided continued input during the museum's construction. The structural engineering firm chosen for this project was Severud Associates.
The museum's project architects are Jones & Jones Architects and Landscape Architects Ltd. of Seattle and SmithGroup of Washington, D.C., in association with Lou Weller (Caddo), the Native American Design Collaborative, and Polshek Partnership Architects of New York City; Ramona Sakiestewa (Hopi) and Donna House (Navajo/Oneida) also served as design consultants. The landscape architects are Jones & Jones Architects and Landscape Architects Ltd. of Seattle and EDAW, Inc., of Alexandria, Virginia.
In general, Native Americans have filled the leadership roles in the design and operation of the museum and have aimed at creating a different atmosphere and experience from museums of European and Euro-American culture. Donna E. House, the Navajo and Oneida botanist who supervised the landscaping, has said, "The landscape flows into the building, and the environment is who we are. We are the trees, we are the rocks, we are the water. And that had to be part of the museum."This theme of organic flow is reflected by the interior of the museum, whose walls are mostly curving surfaces, with almost no sharp corners.
The Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe is divided into Native regional sections such as the Northern Woodlands, South America, the Northwest Coast, Meso-America, and the Great Plains; The museum has published a Mitisam Cafe Cookbook.The only Native American groups not represented in the café are the south eastern tribes such as the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee and Seminole, many of which supported the United States throughout the tribes' histories.
George Gustav Heye (1874–1957) traveled throughout North and South America collecting native objects. His collection was assembled over 54 years, beginning in 1903. He started the Museum of the American Indian and his Heye Foundation in 1916. The Heye Foundation's Museum of the American Indian opened to the public on Audubon Terrace in New York City in 1922.
The museum at Audubon Terrace closed in 1994 and part of the collection is now housed at The Museum's George Gustav Heye Center, that occupies two floors of the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in Lower Manhattan. The Beaux Arts-style building, designed by architect Cass Gilbert, was completed in 1907. It is a designated National Historic Landmark and a New York City landmark. The center's exhibition and public access areas total about 20,000 square feet (2,000 m2). The Heye Center offers a range of exhibitions, film and video screenings, school group programs and living culture presentations throughout the year.
In Suitland, Maryland, the National Museum of the American Indian operates the Cultural Resources Center, an enormous, nautilus-shaped building which houses the collection, a library, and the photo archives. The Cultural Resources Center opened in 2003.
The National Museum of the American Indian is home to the collection of the former Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation. The collection includes more than 800,000 objects, as well as a photographic archive of 125,000 images. It is divided into the following areas: Amazon; Andes; Arctic/Subarctic; California/Great Basin; Contemporary Art; Mesoamerican/Caribbean; Northwest Coast; Patagonia; Plains/Plateau; Woodlands.
The collection, which became part of the Smithsonian in June 1990, was assembled by George Gustav Heye (1874–1957) during a 54-year period, beginning in 1903. He traveled throughout North and South America collecting Native objects. Heye used his collection to found New York's Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation and directed it until his death in 1957. The Heye Foundation's Museum of the American Indian opened to the public in New York City in 1922.
The collection is not subject to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. When the National Museum was created in 1989, a law governing repatriation was drafted specifically for the museum, the National Museum of the American Indian Act, upon which NAGPRA was modeled.In addition to repatriation, the museum dialogues with tribal communities regarding the appropriate curation of cultural heritage items. For example, the human remains vault is smudged once a week with tobacco, sage, sweetgrass, and cedar, and sacred Crow objects in the Plains vault are smudged with sage during the full moon. If the appropriate cultural tradition for curating an object is unknown, the Native staff uses their own cultural knowledge and customs to treat materials as respectfully as possible.
The museum has programs in which Native American scholars and artists can view NMAI's collections to enhance their own research and artwork.
In 2014 NMAI opened a new exhibition Nation to Nation: Treaties, curated by Indian rights activist Suzan Shown Harjo.The exhibit is built around the Two Row Wampum Treaty, known from both Indian oral tradition and a written document that some believe is a modern forgery. Museum reviewer Diana Muir Appelbaum has said that "There is no evidence that there ever was a 1613 treaty" and describes NMAI as "a museum that peddles fairy tales."
The National Museum of the American Indian has been criticized occasionally for a perceived disjointedness of its exhibits. Two Washington Post reviews on the museum were hostile at the representation of the American Indian. Two writers, Fisher and Richard, expressed "irritation and frustration at the cognitive dissonance they experienced once inside the museum".Fisher expected the displays that depicted the clash between foreign colonists and the native people. The exhibit lacked a trace of Indians' evolution from centuries of life on this land, and gave little information as to the history of their survival. He concludes, "The museum feels like a trade show in which each group of Indians gets space to sell its founding myth and favorite anecdotes of survival. Each room is a sales booth of its own, separate, out of context, gathered in a museum that adds to the balkanization of a society that seems ever more ashamed of the unity and purpose that sustained it over two centuries". Richards, who also had a similar assessment of the NMAI, begins his criticism by observing that he found the exhibits to be confusing and unclearly marked. To him, the exhibits were full with a mixture of "totem poles and T-shirts, headdresses and masks, toys and woven baskets, projectile points and gym shoes". According to him, the items were presented in a hodgepodge that displayed history in an incoherent demonstration.
Edward Rothstein described the NMAI as an "identity museum" that "jettisons Western scholarship and tells its own story, leading one tribe to solemnly describe its earliest historical milestone: "Birds teach people to call for rain";similarly, Diana Muir accused the curators of going "with verve and confidence to a place where subjective personal narrative is privileged above factual evidence, and the deliberate myth-making of an active national revival trumps scholarship."
Attendance is low, compared to other museums on the Mall. Although the museum had 2.4 million visitors the year it opened, it has averaged only 1.4 million in the years since and is said to be "best known" for its cafeteria.The Washington Post described it in 2015 as "remarkably empty" of visitors and attributed this to exhibits that feel "disjointed and incomplete."
Kevin Gover is the director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian as of December 2, 2007. He is a former professor of law at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University in Tempe, an affiliate professor in its American Indian Studies Program and co-executive director of the university's American Indian Policy Institute. Gover, 52, grew up in Oklahoma and is a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and of Comanche descent. He received his bachelor's degree in public and international affairs from Princeton University and his law degree from the University of New Mexico. He was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from Princeton University in 2001.
Gover succeeds W. Richard West Jr. (Southern Cheyenne), who was the founding director of the National Museum of the American Indian (1990–2007).
West was strongly criticized in 2007 for having spent $250,000 on travel in four years and being away from the museum frequently on overseas travel. This was official travel funded by the Smithsonian,and many within the Native American community offered defenses of West and his tenure.
The museum publishes a quarterly magazine, called the American Indian, which focuses on a wide range of topics pertaining to Native Americans. It won the Native American Journalists Association's General Excellence awards in 2002 and 2003. The magazine's mission is to: "Celebrate Native Traditions and Communities".
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), Pub. L. 101-601, 25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq., 104 Stat. 3048, is a United States federal law enacted on 16 November 1990.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is a museum in Washington, D.C., part of the Smithsonian Institution. Together with its branch museum, the Renwick Gallery, SAAM holds one of the world's largest and most inclusive collections of art, from the colonial period to the present, made in the United States. The museum has more than 7,000 artists represented in the collection. Most exhibitions take place in the museum's main building, the old Patent Office Building, while craft-focused exhibitions are shown in the Renwick Gallery.
Suzan Shown Harjo is an advocate for American Indian rights. She is a poet, writer, lecturer, curator, and policy advocate, who has helped Native peoples recover more than one million acres (4,000 km²) of tribal lands. After co-producing the first Indian news show in the nation for WBAI radio while living in New York City, and producing other shows and theater, in 1974 she moved to Washington, DC, to work on national policy issues. She served as Congressional liaison for Indian affairs in the President Jimmy Carter administration and later as president of the National Council of American Indians.
According to Zuni mythology, Ahayu'da are the twin gods of war. They are also physical representations endowed with certain spiritual powers.
Mario Martinez is a Native American contemporary abstract painter. He is a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe from New Penjamo, the smallest of six Yaqui settlements, in Arizona. He currently lives in New York City.
Frederick Webb Hodge was an editor, anthropologist, archaeologist, and historian.
Edward Harvey Davis (1862-1951) was a field collector for the Museum of the American Indian in New York City who acquired many Indian artifacts from various tribes in San Diego county and northwestern Mexico for that museum.
Julia Florence Parker is a Coast Miwok-Kashaya Pomo basket weaver.
Museum anthropology is a domain of scholarship and professional practice in the discipline of anthropology.
Frank Day (Ly-dam-lilly) was a Native American artist from California.
Pablita Abeyta was a Navajo sculptor and activist from New Mexico, United States. She was the oldest daughter of artist Narciso Abeyta.
Elizabeth Ann Sackler is an American public historian and arts activist. She is the founder of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum.
Conservation and restoration at the Smithsonian Institution deals with the care of the 138 million artifacts located in the collections of Smithsonian Institution. Work is conducted by one research center, the Museum Conservation Institute (MCI), and by conservators at the Smithsonian's museums, galleries, zoo. Smithsonian conservators provide myriad services to their units, including exhibit preparation of the museum collection and loan objects, advising on object care, training for future generations of conservationists, engaging in routine preventive care on a daily basis, conducting research projects related to the collections, and examining objects for evidence of manufacturing techniques and previous restorations All conservation labs collectively further the mission of the Smithsonian Institution, "the increase and diffusion of knowledge." Founded in 1846 the Smithsonian is the world's largest museum and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and nine research facilities.
Carrie Cornplanter (1887–1918) was a Native American artist of the Seneca tribe.
Johnpaul Jones is an American architect and landscape architect, partner in Seattle-based architecture firm Jones & Jones Architects and Landscape Architects, best known for innovative habitat immersion method design of zoo exhibits. A Native American himself, he has also executed many projects for various Native American organizations, and was lead design consultant for the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian, completed 2004 in Washington, D.C. He was the first architect ever to receive the National Humanities Medal.
C. Maxx Stevens is an installation artist from the Seminole/Mvskoke Nation of Oklahoma.
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