Mascots, Myths, Monuments, and Memory
March 3, 2018
In light of moments such as the demonstrations at Charlottesville, the controversy over the name of the Washington, D.C., football team and the debate over the fate of Confederate statues, the Smithsonian held a national symposium that explores the politics of memory and the conflicting interpretations of America’s past. The symposium, Mascots, Myths, Monuments, and Memory, examines the history and contested memory of racialized mascots and Civil War monuments and other public memorials. Hosted by the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the symposium brings together scholars, activists, elected officials, artists, and other stakeholders to examine the social and psychological impacts on affected communities in the United States and around the world.
Finding Common Ground
February 15, 2018
The National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture are reframing American history. How do we talk about the intersections of various peoples? How do we talk about shared histories? This program, moderated by Michel Martin, weekend host of NPR’s All Things Considered, focuses on the complex, sometimes fraught, history of African Americans and Native Americans, and how these intertwined stories have become an essential part of our American identity. Finding common ground is not always easy, but it is a vital necessity in the realization of American democracy. Distinguished speakers include Lonnie Bunch, Kevin Gover (Pawnee), Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation), Tiya Miles, and Paul Chaat Smith (Comanche). Cosponsored with the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
A Conversation About Americans
January 18, 2018
This special program celebrated the opening of Americans, the National Museum of the American Indian’s bold new exhibition that explores how American Indians have shaped U.S. history, national consciousness, and contemporary experience. Curators Paul Chaat Smith (Comanche) and Cécile Ganteaume, and NMAI Director Kevin Gover (Pawnee) offered their insight on the creation of this provocative exhibition in a conversation moderated by Gerald McMaster (Plains Cree/Member of the Siksika First Nation). Participants described how the exhibition offers a revelatory way to understand the pervasive imagery of American Indians that surrounds 21st century Americans and provides evidence of a surprising, profound, and deeply entangled history.
July 14, 2017
At Chocolate Chat, NMAI’s Living Earth Symposium for 2017, chefs Freddie Bitsoie (Diné [Navajo]), Neftali Duran (Mixteco), and Julio Saqui (Mopan Maya) explore the history of cacao and its growth, harvesting, and production; discuss sustainability and sourcing; and illuminate the delicious intrigue of Mexican hot chocolate, dark molé, and other traditional dishes, both sweet and savory, made with chocolate. Chef and educator Sue McWilliams moderates.
The State of Rock Art in North America
May 18, 2017
From the high plains of Canada to caves in the southeastern United States, ancient images etched into and painted onto stone by Native peoples have inspired observers to question their origins and meanings. Rock paintings (pictographs) and engravings (petroglyphs) can be found in nearly every state and province, and each region has its own distinctive story of discovery and investigation of the rock art record. This program offers new information and approaches to research about these powerful, yet fragile, monuments of our common human history.
Native/American Fashion: Inspiration, Appropriation, and Cultural Identity
April 22, 2017
Held in conjunction with the Native Fashion Now exhibition on view at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York, this symposium brought together Native and non-Native historians, fashion designers, and artists working in the fields of fashion, art, law, and indigenous studies. The speakers addressed fashion as a creative endeavor and an expression of cultural identity, the history of Native fashion, issues of problematic cultural appropriation in the field, and examples of creative collaborations and best practices between Native designers and fashion brands. The symposium was cosponsored with the Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York.
Jamie Okuma (Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock), Boots, 2013–14. Glass beads on boots designed by Christian Louboutin. Museum Commission with support from Katrina Carye, John Curuby, Karen Keane and Dan Elias, Cynthia Gardner, Merry Glosband, and Steve and Ellen Hoffman. Peabody Essex Museum, 2014.44.1AB. © 2015 Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Walter Silver (detail).
From Tarzan to Tonto: Stereotypes as Obstacles to Progress Toward a More Perfect Union
February 9, 2017
As early Americans sought to define their identity in a new country, race became a major fixation. Tarzan and Jane, Tonto and the Lone Ranger, Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima—these and other stereotypes about Native American, African, and African American people have long been part of the American scene. Noted scholars, writers, and critics discuss the pervasiveness of such stereotypes in American culture and the barriers they pose to its advancement. From Tarzan to Tonto is cosponsored by the National Museum of African Art, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Valor in Black and White: War Stories of Horace Poolaw
November 11, 2016
This special Veterans Day program was held in conjunction with the exhibition, For a Love of His People: The Photography of Horace Poolaw, which opened at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, on November 11, 2016. Decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran Robert "Corky" Poolaw and Linda Poolaw (two of Horace's four children, both Kiowa/Delaware), spoke about the photography of Horace Poolaw (Kiowa, 1906–1984) with particular attention to the photographer's pictures on the subject of American Indians and the military. The discussion focused on Poolaw's compelling and insightful images of generations of Native servicemen during the wars in Europe, Korea, and Vietnam. Multimedia artist Thomas Poolaw joined the conversation to explore his grandfather Horace Poolaw's artistic and cultural legacy. The Museum's Alexandra Harris moderated the program.
Vistas and Dreams: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the Museum of the American Indian
September 17, 2016
This special symposium marked the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian’s predecessor institution—the Museum of the American Indian—by George Gustav Heye (1874–1957). Distinguished scholars delved into the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century contexts of North American museums, philanthropy, personal and scientific collecting, and perceptions of Native people. The program explored how these circumstances set the stage for George Heye’s personal collecting after 1897 and his establishment of a museum dedicated to Native peoples of the Americas in New York City in 1916.
Chefs’ Conversation: Celebrating Healthy Native Foods
July 15, 2016
NMAI’s 10th annual Living Earth Symposium, Chefs’ Conversation: Celebrating Healthy Native Foods, features a lively conversation with chefs Terri Ami (Hopi/Navajo), Velvet Button (Tohono O’odham), Loretta Barrett Oden (Citizen Band Potawatomi), and Felicia Cocotzin Ruiz (Xicana/Tiwa), celebrating the extraordinary bounty of foods indigenous to the Americas. They discuss sustainable farming practices, food sovereignty, and Native American culinary traditions and values.
Being Noka (Bear Clan): The Murder Trials of Daniel Du Lhut and the Lessons of Cultural and Linguistic Translation
June 3, 2016
Historian Michael Witgen (Red Cliff Ojibwe) of the University of Michigan discusses a 17th century case of cultural misunderstanding between the Lake Superior Anishinaabe and French colonial authorities and its repercussions. Witgen’s talk is presented in conjunction with the Translation and Transmission in the Early Americas: The Fourth Early Americanist “Summit”, cosponsored by the National Museum of the American Indian.
Strong Women/Strong Nations: Native American Women & Leadership
March 18, 2016
Held in celebration of Women’s History Month, Strong Women/Strong Nations: Native American Women & Leadership features a historical perspective on the complex identities of Native women and lively, insightful discussion by elected tribal leaders, activists, artists, and business leaders about the challenges, obstacles, and opportunities confronting women today. Speakers include Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne & Hodulgee Muscogee), 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom award winner, and The Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould (We Wai Kai Nation), minister of justice and attorney general of Canada.
Kay WalkingStick and Jeff Chang: A Conversation
February 6, 2016
Cherokee artist Kay WalkingStick and Jeff Chang, author of Who We Be: A Cultural History of Race in Post-Civil Rights America and executive director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University, engage in a lively and wide-ranging dialogue about contemporary American art and culture. NMAI Associate Director of Museum Scholarship David Penney and NMAI Curator Kathleen Ash-Milby introduce the program. WalkingStick’s renowned work is the subject of a major retrospective, Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist, at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, from November 7, 2015–September 18, 2016.
I Ka Pono: The Future of Hawaiian Sovereignty
January 30, 2016
The Hawaiian Kingdom, founded by King Kamehameha I in 1810, was a self-governing nation until January 17, 1893, when U.S. diplomats and Marines supported non-Native businessmen in the overthrow of the Hawaiian government. This symposium, held in conjunction with the National Museum of the American Indian exhibition, E Mau Ke Ea: The Sovereign Hawaiian Nation, features Native Hawaiian scholars, leaders, activists, and culture keepers Williamson Chang, Clyde Namu‘o, Jonathan Kamakawiwo‘ole Osorio, and Mahealani Wendt. The symposium title—derived from the second half of a phrase from King Kamehameha III that has become the Hawaiian state motto—suggests "towards what is right, correct, proper." The symposium examines the resurgence of Native Hawaiian nationalism today and offers a variety of perspectives on what the future of Hawaiian sovereignty might best look like. National Museum of the American Indian Curator Douglas Herman moderates the program.
The Dakota–U.S. War of 1862: A Symposium of Remembrance
November 19, 2015
Held in conjunction with the exhibition Commemorating Controversy: The Dakota–U.S. War of 1862, on view at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., January 14–December 29, 2015, The Dakota–U.S. War of 1862: A Symposium of Remembrance examines the lasting consequences of the violent and divisive Dakota–U.S. War of 1862 that led to the exile of the Dakota people from their homeland. The program of remembrance explores the subject from a variety of perspectives, with attention to the role of broken treaties; the effects on the community and Dakota history after the war; memory and multigenerational impacts; efforts at reconciliation and healing; and how cultural institutions address the Dakota War and their efforts in partnering with the Dakota people.
Seizing the Sky: Redefining American Art
November 5, 2015
This special symposium celebrates the opening of Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist, the National Museum of the American Indian’s major retrospective of acclaimed Cherokee artist Kay WalkingStick. Seizing the Sky: Redefining American Art honors Kay WalkingStick and considers her renowned work as a launching point for a fresh perspective and dialogue about contemporary American art with speakers from diverse viewpoints and backgrounds. The program features distinguished scholars, artists, and curators Janet Berlo, Jessica Horton, Robert Houle, Elizabeth Hutchinson, Angela Miller, Kate Morris, Jolene Rickard, Lisa Seppi, and Paul Chaat Smith. Kathleen Ash-Milby and David Penney moderate.
On the Table: Creating a Healthy Food Future
July 17, 2015
NMAI’s 9th annual Living Earth Symposium, On the Table: Creating a Healthy Food Future, explores innovative ways to build a healthier, more resilient food future that provides fresh, nutritious choices while protecting public health and sustaining our environment. On the Table features a wide-ranging conversation about sustainable farming, the impact of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the conservation of heritage seeds, and traditional indigenous approaches to the environment and harvest. Speakers included Ricardo Salvador, senior scientist and director of the Food & Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists; Clayton Brascoupe of Tesuque Pueblo, director of the Traditional Native American Farmers Association; and Robin Kimmerer (Citizen Band Potawatomi), award-winning writer, scientist, and professor.
The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire
June 25–26, 2015
This special symposium celebrates the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian’s landmark exhibition, The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire, with a fascinating look at the material, political, economic, and religious structures that integrated more than one hundred Native nations and millions of people in the powerful Andean Empire known as the Tawantinsuyu. Noted Inka scholars, anthropologists, and engineers discuss how the Inka superbly organized the Andean world of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, using the Qhapaq Ñan. The empire’s 24,000-mile sacred roadway connected vast territories that covered most of six modern republics: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Qhapaq Ñan, a monumental engineering achievement recognized in 2014 by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, contributed to the rapid rise of Inka power. Many parts of the road and Inka structures remain in use today as sacred spaces and symbols of cultural continuity.
Going Home: 25 Years of Repatriation Under the NMAI Act
November 19, 2014
Going Home: 25 Years of Repatriation Under the NMAI Act was held to commemorate a quarter century of repatriation and mark the museum’s Anniversary Year. The 1989 National Museum of the American Indian Act (NMAIA) opened a new era in relations between Native Americans and museums by giving legal weight to the spiritual and ethical concerns of tribes. Distinguished tribal representatives, scholars, and government officials gathered at the symposium to discuss the history of the NMAIA, current repatriation practices at the Smithsonian Institution, and the future of repatriation beyond political and geographical boundaries. Going Home examined repatriation as a human rights issue and explored the growing trends in relationship—and coalition—building among tribes, museums, and agencies on domestic and international levels.
Sand Creek Massacre: 150 Year Remembrance
October 9, 2014
Convened to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Sand Creek Massacre—a tragedy that occurred on November 29, 1864—this symposium aimed to contribute to an understanding of the causes and consequences of the massacre, the Cheyenne and Arapaho people who carry the legacy of Sand Creek with them today, and the role of memorialization in the healing process. On November 7, 2000, the United States Congress authorized the establishment of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site so that the impacts of this pivotal episode in America’s history may be understood and never forgotten. Now, 150 years after the massacre, with the site preserved in perpetuity and a healing process beginning, it is essential to honor those killed at Sand Creek, pay respects to their descendants, and assist in fulfilling Congress’s mandate to help prevent such an atrocity from ever occurring again. Cosponsored by the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Park Service.
Native Chilean Women: Challenges and Opportunities
October 2 & 4, 2014
María Francisca Collipal (Mapuche), Anakena Manutomatoma (Rapanui), and Sonia Avalos (Quechua) shared their insights and experiences—giving examples of their everyday life and work, and relating the issues at hand directly to their Native group—at two lively forums, Empowering Indigenous Women and Their Communities and The Role of Women in the Preservation of Indigenous Culture and Language. Jacqueline Pata (Member of the Raven/Sockeye Clan of the Tlingit Tribe) and Daniel Cano (PhD Candidate, Georgetown University) also shared their knowledge and expertise. Cosponsored with the Embassy of Chile, the National Congress of American Indians, and Freedom House, the forums featured Traducción simultánea, simultaneous Spanish/English interpretation.
Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations
September 18, 2014
This special symposium celebrated the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian’s landmark exhibition, Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations, and the notable book of the same title that accompanies the exhibition. Distinguished scholars, authors, and governmental leaders spoke about the past, present, and future of treaties between the U.S. and Native Nations. They discussed treaties that rest at the heart of American history and that have had an incalculable effect on lands, cultures, and populations of the Native Nations and of the United States. Senator Jon Tester of Montana delivered opening remarks and Judy Woodruff of PBS NewsHour joined journalist Mark Trahant to interview NMAI Director Kevin Gover and Guest Curator Suzan Shown Harjo about the Nation to Nation exhibition.
Living Earth Symposium
Energy for Change: Green Leaders Building a Sustainable Future
July 18, 2014
Energy for Change provided an inspiring look at new projects that are helping to build a sustainable economy and promote local job creation, energy savings, and greater self-reliance. Chairwoman Aletha Tom of the Moapa Band of Paiutes, who successfully worked to move from “Coal to Clean Energy,” spoke about the first industrial-scale solar energy project in Indian Country—the 250-megawatt Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project that will provide clean, solar energy to the City of Los Angeles. Chief Ava Hill of the Six Nations of the Grand River discussed the Six Nations joint venture with Samsung on Grand Renewable Energy Park, which will generate enough clean energy to power 60,000 homes and create jobs for Six Nations and the province of Ontario, Canada. Rebecca Moore, founder of Google Earth Outreach and Google Earth Engine, described how nonprofits, communities, and indigenous peoples around the world are using Google Earth to help solve pressing environmental and social issues.
A SPECTRUM OF PERSPECTIVES: NATIVE PEOPLES AND GENETIC RESEARCH
June 23, 2014
This symposium explored the range of perspectives in Native communities on genomics and highlighted key topics for ongoing community conversation. The program featured four panels of speakers—including Dr. Ron Whitener (University of Washington), Dr. Nanibaa’ Garrison (Vanderbilt University), Dr. Sarah Anzick (NIH/Rocky Mountain Laboratories), Dr. Rosita Worl (Sealaska Heritage Institute), Valerie Segrest (Northwest Indian College), and Dr. Francine Gachupin (University of Arizona). Dr. David Penney (NMAI) moderated a panel. The symposium was co-hosted by the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Congress of American Indians, and the National Human Genome Research Institute in conjunction with the Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE: THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF SENATOR DANIEL K. INOUYE
May 15, 2014
This special symposium honored one of history’s greatest advocates for Native people—Senator Daniel K. Inouye (1924–2012), former Chairman and Vice Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and one of the visionary founders of the National Museum of the American Indian. A person deeply grounded in values, community, and family, Daniel Inouye’s myriad accomplishments include, among others, legislation and support for strengthening Native sovereignty, treaties, governance, economic development, education, and health care. Distinguished speakers who knew Senator Inouye and his work reflected on his many contributions to the well-being of Native America, and looked to the future to build upon the foundation of the Senator's legacy to carry forward his work for the benefit of future generations of Native people.
PATTERNS OF NATIVE HEALTH AND WELLBEING: AN INTERCULTURAL SYMPOSIUM
April 11, 2014
Health issues among American Indians, such as diabetes and substance abuse, are reaching epidemic levels. The majority of governmental and externally driven responses to these health issues have focused on the physical aspects of disease. Much less research has been done on the relationships between culture and health within Native communities. This program reports on active collaborations between Native community members and researchers that focus on the distinct cultural values about wellbeing held by Native communities in solving serious health issues. Cosponsored by the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of Natural History, this symposium was supported with internal Smithsonian funds from the Consortium for World Cultures.
CARVING MYTHS OUT OF HISTORY: THE DYING TECUMSEH
January 10, 2014
The National Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) cosponsored Carving Myths out of History: The Dying Tecumseh. The program at the Smithsonian American Art Museum featured a gallery talk by SAAM sculpture curator Karen Lemmey that highlighted Ferdinand Pettrich’s sculpture, The Dying Tecumseh. Following her talk, R. David Edmunds, Watson Professor of American History at the University of Texas at Dallas and author of Tecumseh and the Quest for Indian Leadership, joined Lemmey to discuss the famed Shawnee war chief and the myth and memory of this sculpture, once displayed in the U.S. Capitol. Renée Gokey (Eastern Shawnee/Sac-and-Fox), educator at the National Museum of the American Indian, read an excerpt from one of Tecumseh’s greatest speeches.
Engineering the Inka Empire: A symposium on sustainability and ancient technologies
November 14, 2013
One of civilization’s most impressive engineering achievements, the Inka Road (or Qhapaq Ñan) traversed the Inka Empire, which encompassed large territories of present-day Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina, and Chile. The symposium explored new theories and discoveries about the construction of the Inka Road and how these ancient techniques can be applied by modern engineers and city planners. Insightful presentations by noted international engineers and scholars illuminated the planning, building, and sustainability of the magnificent Inka roads that five hundred years ago integrated the rugged, mountainous world of the Andes. Cosponsored by the National Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian Latino Center, this symposium was supported with internal Smithsonian funds from the Consortium for World Cultures.
Symposium: Revealing Ancestral Central America
September 8, 2013
The Smithsonian Latino Center and the National Museum of the American Indian cosponsored this symposium to celebrate the exhibition Cerámica de los Ancestros: Central America’s Past Revealed, on view at the NMAI, and to mark the publication of the Smithsonian book, Revealing Ancestral Central America, edited by Rosemary A. Joyce. The program featured leading voices in the interpretation and recovery of the region’s rich indigenous heritage.
Living Earth Symposium: Tribal ecoAmbassadors
July 20, 2013
Communities are the places where individuals join together in powerful ways to make change. Across the United States, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists, tribal college and university professors, and Native students have embarked on projects to help community residents become part of an environmentally conscious future. These Tribal ecoAmbassadors describe the innovative and locally relevant solutions they are developing to protect public health and the environment—from creating carbon-negative and sustainable building materials to participatory air quality monitoring to exploring the impacts mercury and other toxics have on human health. Presented in partnership with the EPA.
Racist Stereotypes and Cultural Appropriation in American Sports
February 7, 2013
Sports writers, scholars, authors, and representatives from sports organizations engaged a capacity audience with lively panel discussions on racist stereotypes and cultural appropriation in American sports. Speakers explored the mythology and psychology of sports stereotypes and mascots, and examined the retirement of "Native American" sports references and collegiate efforts to revive them despite the NCAA's policy against "hostile and abusive" nicknames and symbols. The day-long symposium ended with a spirited community conversation about the name and logo of the Washington, D.C., professional football team, with sports writers from the Washington Post and USA Today, along with eminent members of the D.C. community.
The symposium advances a movement endorsed by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 2001 and addressed last year by the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
In 2005 the American Psychological Association (APA) called for the immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots, symbols, images, and personalities by schools, colleges, universities, athletic teams, and organizations. The APA's position is based on a growing body of social science literature that shows the harmful effects of racial stereotyping and inaccurate racial portrayals, including the particularly harmful effects of American Indian sports mascots on the social identity development and self-esteem of American Indian young people. See also “Of Warrior Chiefs and Indian Princesses: The Psychological Consequences of American Indian Mascots,” Stephanie A. Fryberg, University of Arizona; Hazel Rose Markus, Stanford University; Daphna Oyserman, The University of Michigan; Joseph M. Stone, Stanford University.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) policy limiting the use of Native American mascots, nicknames, and imagery at NCAA championships.
A broad list of resources examining the origins of Native American mascots and the history of Native American resistance to them is available on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, American Indian Studies Program website.
“Entities Opposing ‘Indian’ Sports References,” compiled by The Morning Star Institute, October 2009.
Kevin Gover, “Native Mascots and other Misguided Beliefs,” American Indian Magazine (Fall 2011): 10-13.
Linda M. Waggoner, “On Trial—The Washington R*dskins’ Wily Mascot: Coach William 'Lone Star' Dietz,” Montana, The Magazine of Western History (Spring 2013): 24-47.
Case No. 339242, William Henry Dietz, Investigative Case Files of the Bureau of Investigation. The content of this record—the case files from an FBI investigation for the 1919 trial of Dietz—is referenced in an article by Linda M. Waggoner, “On Trial—The Washington R*dskins’ Wily Mascot: Coach William 'Lone Star' Dietz,” that appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Montana, The Magazine of Western History. This record has since been provided to the NMAI by Ms. Waggoner as supplementary information to the original article.
This Indian Country: American Indian Activists and the Place They Made
January 18, 2013
Noted historian Frederick E. Hoxie—winner of 2012’s American Indian History Lifetime Achievement Award and a founding trustee of the National Museum of the American Indian—presents an illustrated talk about his book This Indian Country: American Indian Activists and the Place They Made, a story of political activism with victories hard-won in courts and campaigns rather than on the battlefield. As Indian lawyers, tribal leaders, activists, and commentators sought to bridge the distance between indigenous cultures and the republican democracy of the United States through legal and political debate, they profoundly shaped the modern political landscape. In the process of defining a new language of “Indian rights” and creating a vision of American Indian identity, they entered into a dialogue with other activist movements, from African American civil rights movements to women’s rights and other progressive organizations.
Maya from the Inside: The 13 Bak´tun as Challenge to the Western Mind
December 15, 2012
December 21, 2012, marked the much-anticipated passing of the 13 Bak´tun in the ancient Maya calendar system. As we approached the day that marks this turn of eras in the calendric cycle, Dr. Victor Montejo offered a fascinating presentation on the deep meaning of Maya culture and history, and on the Maya Calendar, in contrast with the plethora of misinformation, including end-of-the-world scenarios, available in popular culture on this topic.
An internationally recognized Native scholar and author, Victor Montejo is a Jakaltek Maya originally from Guatemala. Previously a professor and chair of the Native American Studies Department at the University of California, Davis, Montejo has now returned to live in Guatemala. He was formerly Minister of Peace in the Guatemalan Republic. Montejo also served as a member of the Guatemalan National Congress from 2004 to 2008.
Nixon and the American Indian: The Movement to Self-Determination
November 15, 2012
President Richard Nixon dramatically changed the federal government’s Native American policy. He directed it toward restoration and self-determination and away from termination of the reservations and destruction of Native cultures. Significant legislation was submitted, litigation instituted, and direction provided by presidential appointees and legislative leaders during Nixon’s time in office from 1969 to 1974. The White House and administration officials who worked with President Nixon on these policies discuss this subject and what it means to the American Indian. Contemporary leading Native American law scholars address the progressive results of all of these activities that were instituted more than forty years ago. Cosponsored with the Richard Nixon Foundation and the National Archives.
Stellar Connections: Explorations in Cultural Astronomy
October 20, 2012
In indigenous worldviews where humanity, nature, and the spiritual realm are closely connected, the night sky provides spiritual and navigational guidance, timekeeping, weather prediction, and stories and legends that tell us how to live a proper life. Cultural astronomy—also referred to as archaeoastronomy or ethnoastronomy—explores the distinctive ways that astronomy is culturally embedded in the practices and traditions of various peoples. In this symposium, experts Michael Wassegijig Price, John MacDonald, Gary Urton, and Babatunde Lawal discuss the cultural astronomy traditions of four indigenous regions/cultures: Ojibwe, Inuit, Andean, and African. Stellar Connections, a partnership between the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African Art in furtherance of indigenous cultural astronomy, was presented in conjunction with the exhibition, African Cosmos: Stellar Arts, on view at the National Museum of African Art from June 20–December 9, 2012.
Jim Thorpe: World's Greatest Athlete
August 17, 2012
Native American athlete Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox, 1888–1953) was the greatest all-around athlete of his age and probably any other. An Olympic gold medalist in track and field, he also excelled in football, baseball, basketball and lacrosse. Thorpe biographer Robert W. Wheeler shared stories about the athlete from some of the many Thorpe contemporaries whom he interviewed. Rare photographs and voice recordings of Jim Thorpe, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jack Dempsey, Burt Lancaster, and others added drama to the presentation. Dr. Florence Ridlon explored the controversy surrounding Thorpe’s Olympic medals, and Rob Wheeler discussed the movement to return Thorpe's remains from Pennsylvania to be buried on Sac and Fox Nation land in Oklahoma. This program was presented in conjunction with the NMAI exhibition, Best in the World: Native Athletes in the Olympics.
Impacts of Climate Change: Our Rivers and Coasts
July 21, 2012
Expert speakers focused on climate change-induced threats to our aquatic and coastal environments, and discussed restorative ecological strategies. Larry McDermott (Algonquin) addressed the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation on the habitat of the American River Eel, while Tina Retasket (Siletz) examined the effect of red tides on intertidal Siletz foods and the effect of climate change on the timing of coastal salmon runs. Eli Enns (Tla-o-qui-aht) spoke about building a conservation economy and adapting to climate change in tribal parks in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, British Columbia, Canada.
(Re)Presenting America: The Evolution of Culturally Specific Museums
April 25, 2012
This program features an important conversation about the role of “ethnic” or “culturally specific” museums with museum directors and scholars from across the National Mall and beyond.
The Health Benefits of Chocolate
February 11 & 12, 2012
Dr. Catherine Kwik-Uribe provided a fascinating illustrated overview of some of the historical uses of cacao, as well as the latest scientific research on chocolate, cocoa, and cocoa flavanols. Dr. Kwik-Uribe is the director of research and development for Mars Botanical, a scientific division of Mars Chocolate North America.
Our Warrior Spirit: Native Americans in the U.S. Military
December 2, 2011
Native Americans have served in the U.S. military since the American Revolution, and by percentage serve more than any other ethnic group in the armed forces. In this special program, Native veterans shared their heroic and unforgettable stories of service in conflicts, and noted scholar and author Herman J. Viola, curator emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution, chronicled the roles of Native soldiers from 1770 to the present, including tales of tragedy, humor, loyalty, and conflict.
The program featured a panel of American Indians who have served our country in the armed forces, including Debra Kay Mooney (Choctaw), an Iraq War veteran who organized and hosted a powwow in a war zone in Iraq in 2004; Chuck Boers (Lipan Apache/Cherokee), an Iraq War veteran and the recipient of two Bronze Star and three Purple Heart medals; John Emhoolah (Kiowa), a Korean War Veteran who joined the Oklahoma Thunderbird Division when he was still in high school and later helped lobby for the passage of the Native American Religious Freedom Act; and Joseph Medicine Crow, a World War II veteran who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 by President Barack Obama.
Fact or Fiction?: The United States Courts’ Use of History to Shape Native Law Jurisprudence
October 7, 2011
Since the first court decision to articulate Native American law back in 1823, our nation’s courts have repeatedly invoked historical “facts” as a basis for fashioning judicial doctrines that have been prejudicial and harmful to Native Americans. This important symposium reveals that many of our modern Native law doctrines are based in fiction, not fact. Join us as we explore the historical foundations of key court decisions impacting Native Americans. Speakers include Stuart Banner, UCLA School of Law; Walter Echo-Hawk (Pawnee), Crowe & Dunlevy, Oklahoma; Mary Kathryn Nagle (Cherokee), Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, New York; and Lindsay Robertson, University of Oklahoma College of Law. Moderated by Kevin Gover (Pawnee), director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the symposium is cosponsored by the National Native American Bar Association and the Federal Bar Association Indian Law Section.
Quantum Leap: Does “Indian Blood” Still Matter?
September 16, 2011
Unlike other ethnic minorities in the United States, American Indians are defined not solely by self-designation but by federal, state, and tribal laws. Blood quantum—originating from archaic notions of biological race and still codified in contemporary policy—remains one of the most significant factors in determining tribal membership, access to services, and community recognition. This concept, however, is not without debate and contestation. This symposium featured Native scholars who approach this important and complex topic from various perspectives. Sociologists Eva Marie Garroutte (Boston College) and C. Matthew Snipp (Stanford) joined historian Malinda Lowery (UNC Chapel Hill) and anthropologist Kimberly TallBear (UC Berkeley) as the panelists at this timely program moderated by National Museum of the American Indian historian Gabrielle Tayac.
Beyond Extinction: Consciousness of Taíno and Caribbean Indigeneity
August 26, 2011
This symposium featured representative speakers from a multidisciplinary delegation of scholars on Taíno and Caribbean indigenous themes who discussed the survival of Taíno language, identity, and material culture in contemporary Caribbean consciousness. Participants included archaeologist Osvaldo García Goyco, historian Alejandro Hartmann Matos, biologist Juan Carlos Martínez Cruzado, and architect Cristian Martínez Villanueva. Roberto Borrero, president, United Confederation of Taíno People, served as respondent. Moderated by José Barreiro, director of the Office of Latin America at the National Museum of the American Indian, the program was organized by the National Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian Latino Center.
Creating a Climate of Change: A Sustainable Future for the Living Earth
July 23, 2011
Acclaimed social thinker Jeremy Rifkin joined authors and educators Gregory Cajete and Melissa K. Nelson to explore how we can connect to the empathic traditions of Native peoples and incorporate the values of sustainability in our culture. Symposium speakers shared strategies for accomplishing the cultural changes that will help us attain environmental health and balance in an endangered world—from harnessing renewable energy and sharing it with others on smart power grids that stretch across continents to revitalizing body and mind with a healthful diet and food sovereignty.
Where Art Worlds Meet: A Conversation with Indigenous Hawai‘ian, Native American, and Aboriginal Contemporary Artists
May 20, 2011
The global indigenous art scene has experienced dynamic growth and change in the first decade of the twenty-first century. How has this rapid evolution affected indigenous contemporary artists from different regions and varying cultural backgrounds? What strategies and artistic practices are working now? Artists Puni Kukahiko, Alan Michelson, Carl F. K. Pao, and Gina Matchitt engaged these questions as they talked about the current art scene in their home regions. The program was cosponsored with Transformer Gallery and presented in conjunction with the exhibition This IS Hawai‘i.
Solomon Enos, Polyfantastica: The ‘Oro ‘Ino, 2008. Acrylic on bristol board, 11 x 14 in.
ESSENTIALLY INDIGENOUS?: Contemporary Native Arts Symposium
May 5 & 6, 2011
In the past, many discussions about Native art have focused mostly on the identity of the artist. While Indian identity has a place in the ongoing dialogue about Native art, this symposium moved the conversation forward in important ways and broke new ground by focusing on the art. What is it about a work of art by a Native artist that makes it Native? Iconography, subject matter, or aesthetic sensibility? Is it a relationship to land or ties to traditional art forms? Is there something essential we can or should define?
Video still: Nicholas Galanin, Tsu Héidei Shugaxtutaan I (2006).
Special Screening and Q&A for Earth Day
River of Renewal (2009, 55 min.) Director: Carlos Bolado
April 22, 2011
NMAI celebrated Earth Day with a special screening of the remarkable film, River of Renewal, which focuses on an extraordinary story in which a conflict over resources in Klamath Falls, Oregon, led to a consensus for conservation. Filmmakers Jack Kohler and Stephen Most took part in a discussion after the film moderated by Chris Palmer, distinguished film producer and director of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University.
Video still: River of Renewal, courtesy of Pikiawish Partners (2009).
Artist Talk with Kay WalkingStick: A Painted Life
April 16, 2011
Distinguished contemporary artist Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee) delivered an insightful illustrated talk about the evolution of her painting over the last 45 years in relationship to the art and politics of the times. In richly textured and evocative paintings, WalkingStick has addressed issues of mixed ancestry, personal and collective history, and physical and spiritual relationships with the land. Her work was featured in the NMAI exhibition, Vantage Point: The Contemporary Native Art Collection.
Artist Talk with Margarete Bagshaw: 3 Generations of Pushing Boundaries
March 12, 2011
In celebration of Women’s History month, contemporary artist Margarete Bagshaw (Santa Clara Pueblo) offered a lively illustrated talk about her art and that of her mother, Helen Hardin (1943–1984), and her grandmother, Pablita Velarde (1918–2006), three generations of groundbreaking painters from Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico. Bagshaw’s work was featured in the NMAI exhibition, Vantage Point: The Contemporary Native Art Collection.
Cacao History and Science: An Uncommon Conversation
February 12 & 13, 2011
This special presentation by Dr. Howard-Yana Shapiro began with a look at the mythology of chocolate, describing the unique relationship that people have had with this tropical treasure and the remarkable role it has played in human culture through time. Dr. Shapiro, Global Staff Officer for Plant Science and External Research at Mars, Incorporated, and Adjunct Professor, University of California-Davis, then discussed this amazing plant in the context of a sustainable future and identified promising new terrain for cacao research and development.
Red, Black, and Brown: Artists and the Aesthetics of Race
January 15 & 16, 2011
Dr. Phoebe Farris (Powhatan-Renape) delivered a fascinating illustrated talk by about artists of mixed Native American, African American, and Latin American heritage whose identities are reflected in their art and who deal with themes of social justice. Primarily women, the artists reference race or identity in myriad ways, often juxtaposed with issues of gender. A professor of art and design and women's studies at Purdue University, Dr. Farris is also an independent curator, photographer, author, and art therapist.
Centuries of Change: State of the Native Nations Symposium
November 12, 2010
Centuries of Change: State of the Native Nations addressed international trends in the search for pragmatic indigenous and nation-state solutions developed with the Native peoples of the Americas. It took a particular look at the work of the Organization of American States with respect to the human rights, land rights, and civil rights of indigenous peoples. With the bicentennials of several Latin American countries taking place in 2010, as well as the 100th anniversary of the iconic House of the Americas—seat of the Organization of American States—and the fall anniversary of the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian, it celebrated a year full of historical remembrance. Cosponsored by the Organization of American States.
Living Earth/Living Waters: A Symposium
August 7, 2010
Native cultures have long recognized and celebrated the interrelatedness of all life on Earth. As we address environmental disasters that affect our oceans, this wisdom is more important than ever. At Living Earth/Living Waters, Native and non-Native scientists, leaders, and innovators discussed the latest research on the biosphere and provided a deeper understanding of the essential role the ocean—“the blue heart of the planet”—plays in sustaining every form of life. Symposium speakers demonstrated how human activity is woven into this fragile web of life, and the role we all can play in restoring and preserving it for future generations.
Preamble to the Republic: Condolence, Wampum, and the Language of Peace
July 1, 2010
When the United States was founded in 1789, American Indians had nearly 200 years of experience dealing with Europeans. During those years, Native people offered distinct protocols of diplomacy—ceremonies, forms of address, and material culture—that governed relations with the colonial powers. Benjamin Franklin published the record of treaties where these protocols formed the primary construct of negotiation. The oral traditions surrounding and informing the early protocols continue in living memory through elders and ceremonial cycles of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) longhouses. Their material legacy is found in the record of wampum and wampum belts of archeological, cultural and historical value.
At Preamble to the Republic, three representatives from a distinguished traditional family spoke on the history, culture, and meaning of the Great Law of Peace, the clanmother system, and the symbology of the longhouse leadership culture as represented in wampum and other materials.
A venerated elder of the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne, Chief Jake Swamp is an internationally recognized spokesperson for the traditions of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) longhouse. Ceremonially released from duties as a chief of the Wolf Clan after nearly forty years, he continues his activism as president of the Tree of Peace Society, a global peace and environment initiative. His wife, Judy Swamp, is a traditional elder of the Mohawk Nation, and his son, Skahendowaneh Swamp, is an installed speaker of the longhouse, educator, and traditional artist. A gustoweh, or traditional longhouse chief's headdress, created by Skahendowaneh Swamp is on exhibit in the Potomac Atrium exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
The Natural World of the Hula
May 29 & 30, 2010
Hula is far more than a dance form from Hawai‘i. It is an expression of the relationship of Hawaiians to the natural elements of islands and to each other. In turn, the natural world is the source and foundation for the hula art form. NMAI visitors celebrated Hawaiian culture with Dr. Sam Gon as he explored not only the symbology of the ornamentation and Hawaiian musical instruments inherent in hula, but the spiritual underpinnings of the ecosystems and plants of land and sea, and how they shaped the undeniably Hawaiian dance called hula.
Samuel M. ‘Ohukani‘?hi‘a Gon III, senior scientist and cultural advisor for the Hawai‘i Nature Conservancy, has 30 years of experience in Hawaiian ecology, as well as extensive knowledge of Hawaiian culture, history and language. A well-known cultural practitioner of traditional chant and protocol, he underwent the traditional Hawaiian ‘uniki rites of passage under Kumu John Keolamaka‘ainana Lake to attain the status of Kahuna K?kalaleo. Gon also holds a master's degree in zoology and a doctorate in animal behavior from the University of California-Davis.
Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day
April 22, 2010
NMAI marked Earth Day with special presentations by Luis Gilberto Murillo-Urrutia and Dr. Alicia Rios Hurtado. Murillo was elected governor of Chocó, Colombia, at the age of 31 after successfully instituting pioneering programs to protect biodiversity and the tropical rainforest, and to defend the land rights of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities. As governor, Murillo won wide praise for his innovative proposals and strategies for sustainable development and environmental protection. He is currently the Vice President for Programs and Strategy at Phelps Stokes in Washington, DC.
Alicia Rios Hurtado has served as Vice-President for Research and Director of the Institute of Biodiversity at the Technological University of Chocó and currently leads the university research group on sustainable use of biodiversity. Dr. Rios Hurtado received Colombia's prestigious National Award for Scientific Merit in 2004. She is one of the nine members of the National Council of Science and Technology, and is the only woman and the only Afro-Colombian on the Council. Cosponsored with the Smithsonian Latino Center and the Embassy of Colombia.
Surveying Andean Legacy: Archaeological Research along the Inka Road System Symposium
December 8 & 9, 2009
This two-day symposium featured illustrated lectures by noted international scholars about the Qhapaq ñan, the magnificent road network developed by the Inka more than five hundred years ago. Distinguished speakers included Gary Urton (USA), Roberto Bárcena (Argentina), Victoria Castro (Chile), Mauricio Uribe (Chile), Alexei Vranich (USA), José Berenguer (Chile), Sergio Martin (Argentina), Christian Vitry (Argentina), Edmundo de la Vega (Perú), José María López Bejarano (Bolivia), José Pino (Perú), and Donato Amado (Perú). Cosponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank Cultural Center.
Indigenous Mapping: Tools for Native Politics in Panama and the World
December 4, 2009
Anthropologist and indigenous rights advocate Mac Chapin presented an illustrated lecture about a remarkable mapping project carried out with the Kuna of Panama. The maps that resulted from this innovative project are being used by the Kuna to protect their territory, strengthen their culture and political organization, and for education in their schools. Similar methodology for mapping indigenous lands has been used in Central and South America, Africa, and New Guinea. Cosponsored by the Smithsonian Latino Center.
IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas Symposium
November 13, 2009
A part of the American story has long been invisible—the story of people who share African American and Native American ancestry. Over centuries, African American and Native people came together, creating shared histories, communities, and ways of life. Often divided by prejudice, laws, or twists of history, African-Native Americans were united by a double heritage that is truly indivisible.
A capacity audience attended the IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas Symposium that brought visibility to African-Native American lives and initiated a healing dialogue on African-Native American experiences for people of all backgrounds. Speakers on this vitally important topic included curators and authors Robert Keith Collins (African and Choctaw descent), Penny Gamble-Williams (Chappaquiddick Wampanoag), Angela Gonzales (Hopi), Judy Kertész, Tiya Miles, and Gabrielle Tayac (Piscataway). NMAI director Kevin Gover (Pawnee) moderated. The symposium was held on the occasion of the groundbreaking exhibition IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas, which was developed, produced, and circulated by NMAI, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. The Museum extends a special thank you to our participating partners for the symposium, The Links, Incorporated, Eastern Area and the Capital City Chapter.
The Blues: Roots, Branches, and Beyond
August 22, 2009
The Blues: Roots, Branches, and Beyond provided a fascinating look at the roots of the blues and points of confluence and difference between Native and African/African American music and styles. Producer and Aboriginal arts activist Elaine Bomberry (Ojibwe/Cayuga, from Six Nations, Ontario) explored the Native connection to the blues and showed highlights from her award-winning Canadian television show, Rez Bluez TV—a popular, groundbreaking series that showcases Aboriginal blues music. Ron Welburn (African-American and Native American descent), a poet and professor of English at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, discussed his research on Native Americans in jazz and the blues and delighted the audience with clips from great vintage blues and jazz tunes. He was formerly coordinator of the Jazz Oral History Project (National Endowment for the Arts) at the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University.
Musicians from the George Leach Band, the Rez Bluez All-Starz, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and Corey Harris—all of whom performed in an Indian Summer Showcase concert after the program—joined the speakers for a lively question-and-answer session with the audience.
Mother Earth: Confronting the Challenge of Climate Change
June 27, 2009
The Mother Earth series of symposia explored how indigenous peoples are responding to the crucial challenge of climate change in creative ways, calling on traditional knowledge and adapting new technologies to craft solutions that benefit all. The programs constituted a vital part of the National Museum of the American Indian’s commitment to disseminate knowledge about sustainable living and advance understanding of human-made climate change.
From Code Talkers to Immersion: Native American Language Summit
May 12, 2009
Opening sessions of this fascinating program featured two elder warriors, Barney Old Coyote (Crow) and Samuel Tso (Navajo). Their heroic use of Native languages in wartime as code talkers was recently recognized by Congress’s passage of the Code Talker Recognition Act, first introduced in 2004 but only passed late in 2008. More than 250 people attended the day's events, representing tribal communities from Alabama, Alaska, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, New York, many more states, and from several First Nations of Canada.
Panel discussions featured directors of successful language immersion schools such as ‘Aha P?nana Leo, the Cherokee Nation, and the Piegan Institute, as well as tribal language program directors working with small speaker populations—including communities in California (Karuk), Massachusetts (Wampanoag), and Oklahoma (Euchee and Sauk). The nonprofit organization Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival, which has over many years refined the master-apprentice method of immersion language learning, also presented an interactive language training workshop. The conference was held as part of the May 11-13 National Native Language Revitalization Summit in Washington, D.C., organized with Cultural Survival and the National Alliance to Save Native Languages.
Images of the American Indian 1600–2000
December 4 & 5, 2008
With the National Gallery of Art's Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, Seminars & Symposia co-organized a Wyeth Foundation for American Art Conference titled Images of the American Indian, 1600–2000, which was held on the occasion of the exhibitions George de Forest Brush: The Indian Paintings, National Gallery of Art, Washington and Fritz Scholder: Indian/Not Indian, NMAI, Washington and New York. The two-day conference presented illustrated lectures by noted scholars Nancy Anderson, Ned Blackhawk, Philip Deloria, Leah Dilworth, Kate Flint, Michael Gaudio, Katherine Manthorne, Jolene Rickard, Paul Chaat Smith, and William Truettner.
Harvest of Hope: A Symposium on Reconciliation
November 13, 2008
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, this timely and insightful forum moderated by Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian Director Kevin Gover (Pawnee/Comanche) focuses on topical issues of reconciliation and highlights national apologies made to Native peoples.
The symposium covers the eloquent apology issued in June 2008 by the Canadian government for the abuse and cultural loss suffered by Aboriginal peoples in Canada's residential schools. It includes a presentation on the Native American Apology Resolution recently passed in the United States Senate as well as an examination of reconciliation efforts in Guatemala. A wrap-up speaker considers the issues involved in apologies and reconciliation processes in a broad scope. Concluding with panel discussion and questions from the audience, Harvest of Hope seeks a deeper, more inclusive understanding of our national narratives and the experiences of the Native peoples of the Americas.