Thursday, November 22, 2012


National Museum of the American Indian
A trip to Washington DC always includes a visit to my favorite Smithsonian Museum... the National Museum of the American Indian. Some of the items are part of the permanent collection, but I've found there's always something new to see or experience due to the rotation of the collection & addition of new artifacts to the museums.
hands to welcome visitors

The exterior of this museum is so serene...  when you enter the building, even the symbols on the doors are welcoming.

As might be expected in a museum of Indian artifacts, there are two carved wooden totem poles on the main floor... 

Depending on the tribal tradition, a totem pole may document:

   historical events
   clan lineage
   cultural beliefs
   symbols or art 

Plains Tipi

The newest exhibit, A Song for a Horse Nation, discusses the Indians relationship with horses & how it changed their lifestyle.

With the arrival of horses, traveling became easier - Indians were able to travel further, faster and with larger loads (including tipis). 

Lakota beaded tipi bag
The acquisition of horses also affected the Indian women... their work load was lightened! and they gained more time for beading and socializing. The bead work often documented a story (actual or embellished is not always known). For example, this Indian has stolen horses (he has more than one), he has been in three battles (three weapons) and he has killed seven enemies, as represented by the heads at the top of the artwork.

Paint on paper - sorry I don't remember the details of this artwork
Ever the educator, I was thinking this would be a great photo to share in the classroom & ask students to tell a story about this picture. When does this event take place in history? why is the horse wearing an American flag mask? is this decorative wear? or battle wear? Describe the clothing worn by the Indian. What is the significance of the buffalo on the Indian's shield? what other symbols are shown & what part do they play in this story?

Then, back on the main floor as you exit the building... this boat from Lake Titicaca region of Peru & Bolivia. We missed this area on our travels to Peru this past summer, so it was interesting to see the size of the boat (2-3 meters) & the tightness of the woven totora fibers. This boat was constructed in 2005 by members of the Aymara peoples. Amazing that reeds can hold a person, as well as the items they are transporting to their homes built on the reed island
It was interesting to see families posing next to the statue of the Indian (main floor)... what a great spot to capture a final memory of this Smithsonian Museum.

BTW, the Song for the Horse Nation exhibit closes January 7, 2013... if you are in the Washington DC area, it's worth a visit.


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