Dwight Peck's personal website

Winter 2022-2023

A photographic record of whatever leapt out at us

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

The National Museum of the American Indian

Kristin's just returned from Chicago and we've met up in a hotel near the Dulles airport -- now we're taking advantage of proximity to meet up with Alison for a visit, first to the National Gallery of Art, and then (after a poke lunch) to the National Museum of the American Indian. 5 January 2023.

The National Gallery was wonderful, and now we seek restorative comestibles. As soon as possible. Alison is familiar with Washington and will direct us. That's meant to be the National Archives Museum in the background.

The National Archives Museum again. One of our party longed for a career as an archivist (apprenticing on the papers of the 1930s Presiding Bishop of the Episcopalians and the 19th century records of the Rhode Island Fish & Game Commission), but got badly sidetracked (too late now).

That cute French-châteauish thing is said (by Google Maps) to be 'The Memorial Foundation'.

A quick update: we are presently on 7th St NW along Pennsylvania, and perishing from hunger.

That's an envious look at the back of the National Archives Museum.

That colorful thing with the tower on it, next to the burger bar, is the Firemen's Insurance building. (Make a note.)

An ad hoc soccer game in front of the US Navy Memorial Plaza ('Homage to American naval forces')

The FBI headquarters on 9th Street (try not to look suspicious, or furtive)

We've found a poke/noodle shop, a well known sort of cuisine for the cognoscenti (like Alison and Kristin), but an entirely new experience for the rest of us.

It turned out to be very good, we'll recommend it to our friends -- both the style of food, and this shop: the Rice Bar Market Place, on D St NW and 9th St NW.

Sitting right out there, alongside the National Archives Museum, for all to see -- how depressing. 'What is past is prologue!' That's almost an incitement to self-harm.

There's the National Air and Space Museum -- the Native American Museum is just to the left.

Unfortunately, to get there, we can't escape another look at the 'house of ill repute'.

Here's the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian facing onto the National Mall -- fairly impressive! The concept was legally enacted in a bill of the same name (with 'Act' tacked on) proposed by Sen Daniel Inouye in 1989. Ground was broken in September 1999, based on designs by architects and project designers all of whom were themselves Native Americans, and Sen. Inouye addressed 20,000 Native Americans at the building's inauguration in September 2004.

The building's design (according to Wikipedia) is 'clad in a golden-colored Kasota limestone designed to evoke natural rock formations shaped by wind and water over thousands of years', and it's surrounded by an arrangement of simulated wetlands to set the mood.

The outside of the building is beautiful, elaborate, and thoughtful; in reading the Wikipedia article, one does notice that there is no mention of the cost. But never mind; it's worth it.

In part, it seems to have been prompted by the discovery that the Smithsonian Institution had some 12,000-18,000 Indian remains on display and in storage, and Sen Inouye's bill in 1989 grew out of that controversy. The Act included criteria and mechanisms for repatriation of a lot of that.

Well, this is certainly part of the Native Americans' story.

There's the main entrance; that is very nice indeed. Graceful, flowing lines, looks much like natural sandstone . . . um, it is sandstone.

We're about to enter the 'natural rock formations' and see what's what.

Ach, dizzy already!

Wikipedia summarizes that 'the museum offers a range of exhibitions, film and video screenings, school group programs, public programs and living culture presentations throughout the year', and the Museum's own website features an amazing array of exhibitions, festivals, collections to be visited, and educational and research opportunities, noting at the same time that there is also an older New York City branch of the operation.

We hadn't time to do more than focus on one floor of the huge establishment, with a quick look at a hurried trot round the rest it (including a dash past the 'The Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe [with] five stations serving different regional foods: Northern Woodlands, South America, the Northwest Coast, Meso-America, and the Great Plains', closing up as we hurtled past).

The floor that we dwelt on for a bit included, in the first half that we viewed, a labyrinth of displays, reconstructions, simulations, and educational texts of the original ways of life of quite a few different regional Native American groups. (But we have no idea what this one was meant to be about.)

The second half, on the other hand, was devoted to a grim series of displays concerning the various relationships, of treaties and mass evictions, between the indigenous Indian inhabitants of the land and the European occupiers who, in short, would really have preferred that the Indians got out of the way.

To the best of our own knowledge (which is not profound on this subject), the historical themes and details here are correct, though of course this whole exhibition does have an ideological slant. How could it not!

There has been controversy about the contents of the Museum, as, again, how could there not be, with some few arguing that it overemphasizes the atrocities against the indigenous people, that it's just 'an identity museum' ignoring 'Western scholarship', and others asserting that there's not enough on 'the history of genocide and colonialism'. Overwhelmingly, however, the Museum is appreciated, even loved, by most visitors for what it does do, and the exhibitions are all masterfully executed, and have mainly been designed by Native American administrators, historians, and educators.

One criticism, however, did suggest itself to us as well (based on our brief visit) -- that the Museum approach seems largely focused on relations between the indigenous peoples and the European invaders, for better or worse, and about the customs and circumstances of those people as the visitors perceived them. We didn't notice any attention to the origins of the Native Americans on the continent or some discussion of their relations with one another over the centuries preceding the European presence.

Much of that, those very disparate peoples over long centuries, may be unknowable, but there is a lot that is known, mainly from archaeology perhaps, and maybe it would have been welcome here. [And perhaps it is already here, and we didn't notice; if so, our bad.]

A lot of these displays (and these few photos are only a more or less random example of the kinds of things we find here) are a bit necessarily slanted -- there can't be anything like a 'balanced view' of these monstrosities -- but . . .

. . . there is in fact a kind of balance in this constant motif of juxtaposing the Indians' 'viewpoints' with the US's viewpoints of what was going on. Though a photograph of William Tecumseh Sherman was never going to brighten up the party.

The facts themselves are pretty straightforward, and one-sided -- there's no Tom Jeffords here to be sympathetic good friends with the Apache Cochise (the unforgettable Michael Ansara)(who was Lebanese)(and married to Barbara Eden, of I Dream of Jeannie)(in which he cameoed as the Blue Djinn). A bit of TV nostalgia there (1956-58) -- but there really was an historically beneficial Jeffords/Cochise relationship.

Played by Jimmy Stewart and Jeff Chandler in the original Broken Arrow film (1950).

In fact, we ourselves are living today in an area of Virginia that was gifted to some wealthy white guys in the early 18th century by the English king, who was under the impression that he owned it all because his ships had driven the Dutch out of New York. How weird is that?

One thing that we've noticed, living for some years around in the Midwest, is that few places don't have towns and counties named for the Indian tribes who'd been marched through there at one time or another (personally, e.g., Shawnee OK, Pottawatomie County in KS and OK, and even in northern WI). So many places are proud of their heritage, though sometimes it's repugnant.

Apart from lots of quickly diminishing 'reservations', a great lot of people, from eastern coasts, swamps, and mountains, to the forested north, ended up in the appallingly blank Oklahoma 'Indian Territory'. Nearly all of which they then lost.

Here's a pretty fair look at how the Viewpoints system works.

Hard to imagine.

Though the Myanmar army's been doing the same thing to the Rohingya in recent years. The Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia not so long ago, 'ethnic cleansing' it was called at the time; the Hutus in Rwanda at about the same time, and Russians in Chechnya, Indonesians in East Timor. Nazi Germany, of course, and the Ottoman Turks' expulsion of their Armenian population back in 1915. In Spain, the removal of Jews and Muslims in 1492 and 1502 -- in fact, the Assyrians may have started it off in the 9th and 7th centuries B.C.

This is another sort of exhibition on a lower floor, but we didn't have time to explore it.

The lobby from above. We're on our way out now -- duty calls -- or rather the Metro back to the airport calls -- but we will need to come back someday for a much longer investigation of what's on offer here. Including the Mitsitam Native Foods Café.

The sun is evidently setting on the US Capitol.

That's the National Gallery of Art again, ciao for now.

Trudging back to the metro, and an hour's jolt back to the Dulles Marriott at the airport -- and tomorrow, back home to the glorious Shenandoah Valley.

Recalling the novel The Haunting of Hill House (1959) and the film of it, The Haunting (1963).

Hotel dinner in the cosy bar (not bad at all: shrimp & orzo) (no Fox News on the screens)

Back home, unpacking the baggage cart, and Choupette wants to help.

Next up: Stern cat pix, and Augusta Springs Wetlands again

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 22 March 2023.

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