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#1931 - Friday, September 24, 2004 - Editor: Gloria  

Being present for the Native Nations Procession and seeing this unprecedented gathering of thousands from tribes indigenous to both continents was a joyous event. People from Alaska to Hawaii, and Peru were united by the honoring of their culture and traditions right next to the Capitol Building. The atmosphere was that of a family reunion, vast and diverse as it was. I have gathered some links and photos and movies that provide a glimpse of this powerful event. The Museum itself was created by native people themselves, and they speak to the contemporary times far more than about the past. It is not a museum just about long dead people, but an experience now of living native culture and values. (And the food is delicious!)  - Gloria Lee  

Opening Day at the National Museum of the American Indian
Maurice Cato, an Appalachian Cherokee from West Virginia, stands near the U.S. Capitol after praying to Mother Earth and Grandfather Sky before the grand opening of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian Sept. 21, 2004, in Washington.

more photos:

Native Americans Arrive on the Mall
Tuesday, Sep. 21, 2004; 5:30 PM

Thousands of Native Americans from North, South and Central America gathered on the Mall to march in a procession celebrating the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian.

see video:  


Participants in the Native Nations Procession take a moment to express themselves from the steps of the National Gallery of Art.

On the Mall, 'A Feast for the Eyes'

Wednesday, September 22, 2004; Page A19

Back in New Mexico, it is harvest time. The crops of the Jemez Pueblo -- corn, chilies, beans and melon -- are ready for picking, and as soon as she returns, Amelita Toledo will be back in the fields.

But yesterday, in her 89th year, she witnessed a different gathering. Native peoples all around her, in the heart of the nation's capital. So familiar and yet so different.

"All kinds of Indians you never see," she said with quiet satisfaction. "So many tribes."

'Too Long in Coming'

The ceremonial dress was one that Teryl Florendo's great-great-grandmother had once worn: a fringed and beaded buckskin dress for a ceremonial powwow, with beaded wrappings for her hair and matching moccasins.

Now it was Teryl's turn. She and other members of her family -- three generations in all -- had driven from the West Coast. Yet walking beside her elders, behind the banner that announced "Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon" -- the quiet 14-year-old seemed almost overwhelmed.

Her grandmother was the one to put words to the moment. "It's something honoring all our people, our Indian people," said Eileen Spino, whose own dress, heavily laden with cowrie and other shells, was nearly as elaborate. "We're all one nation, regardless of how many tribes."

The museum's opening evoked only one regret, Spino said. "It's taken too long in coming. Too long for the Indian nations to be recognized."

-- Susan Levine


"By the Waters Edge" sculpture by Allan Houser [1914-1994]

Allan Houser's Native Modernism work is a major exhibit at the new NMAI

sculpture by Allan Houser, photo by Gloria Lee

A movie might convey a better sense of what it was like to be present at this event.

then: NMAI Opening Ceremony, [part 2 is a better production and has native music for background.]


By W. Richard West, Jr.

Director, National Museum of the American Indian

concluding remarks:


But the National Museum of the American Indian is even more significant as a symbol for this: that, at long last, the culturally different histories, cultures, and peoples of the Americas can come together in new mutual understanding and respect. That understanding and respect make possible the true cultural reconciliation that until now has eluded American history. This prayerful hope has been stated before with far more eloquence than mine, and I want you to hear those words now. Exactly a century ago, on September 21, 1904, Native America lost one of its most legendary patriot chiefs. He was known in English as Chief Joseph, but to his own people he was Hinmatoowyalahtqit.


He made his plea in 1879, just after he had barely failed in his legendary march to seek freedom in Canada from the United States Seventh Cavalry:


If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian, there need be no trouble. Treat all men alike. . . .

Give them all an even chance to live and grow.
All men were made by the same Great Spirit. They are brothers.


So in the spirit of Hinmatoowyalahtqit and at the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian, I say, on this September 21st, to those of you within sight and sound of this occasion who descend from those who came, "Welcome to Native America." And I say to those of you who descend from the Native ancestors who were here, "Welcome home."


In the different journey through history, together, that the eloquence of Chief Joseph commands, and that the National Museum of the American Indian so powerfully demands, I offer, in conclusion and in hope, these words in Cheyenne:


Naa ma’heo’o


"Maheo, the Great Mystery, walks beside you, and walks beside your work, and touches all the good that you attempt."


Thank you for being here with us today.

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