From the Director
The first twenty years of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) were devoted to laying the physical, intellectual, and philosophical foundations of this institution—and what a foundation it is.
I feel a profound and increasing gratitude to the founders of this museum. We are here as a result of the farsighted and tireless efforts of Native culture warriors who demanded that the nation respect and celebrate the contributions that Native people have made to this country and to the world.
The three extraordinary facilities of this institution were built through the determination and intellect of very special people who led the NMAI through its youth. Because of their ideas and their toil, we have the firmest conceivable foundation for promoting the beauty of Native culture and expression, the role of Native peoples in Western and world history, and their ongoing contributions to humanity.
The physical foundation is certainly impressive, but the intellectual and philosophical groundwork of the NMAI is just as important. This metaphysical foundation was built by Native thinkers, Native culture bearers, and Native artists. That is why we try in every endeavor to speak authentically and to present Native peoples' deeply held understandings of their own cultures and histories.
The foundations are firm; the NMAI is ready to move forward with the job for which it was created. Our objective is no less than to change what the world knows about the Native peoples of the Americas and Hawai‘i. We seek to bring the Native voice into every school, every library, every university, indeed every home. Most Americans will never enter our museum, yet because of the digital revolution in communications we can reach them all.
Additionally, this good work would not be possible without the help of the tens of thousands of members, volunteers, and donors who support this museum, to whom we are forever indebted. We thank them for their financial contributions, of course, but also for the philosophical, political, and moral support that strengthens and emboldens this institution. Because of them, we can face the challenges that lie ahead with great optimism for this museum, for the Native communities we represent, and for the world.
Kevin Gover (Pawnee), Director
National Museum of the American Indian