Months ago I wrote about three of the four museums we toured this summer in D.C. I have fought writer’s block in my efforts to create something honest and interesting about the fairly new addition to The Smithsonians on Native Americans. This morning I awakened from what the first Americans would describe as a “vision”, in my case a dream. Almost two years ago we lost our black cat in the Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park. That first night I sat outside wrapped in a blanket waiting for her return. Nothing happened, but before I gave up and went to bed I made a request of The Great Spirit: “If she is not essential to the survival of another of your creatures, please send her back to us.” Three days later, 30 minutes before leaving for Oregon, The Kat heard the cat and caught her. Both were safe and sound.
This summer we planned an Amtrak trip to D.C. to see museums that were not there 25 years ago when last we went. I sensed the Great Spirit wanted us to visit the Indians and learn more. It made the list, and was our first stop. All the tribes had been asked for ideas, and many responded, all wanting equal time. Those in power chose to build sections of the museum for each group of tribes – Northeast, Northwest, Southern, Southwest and Plains, and tribes of Central and South America – each group responsible for its content. But I couldn’t put my finger on a central purpose, or find a way to pull it all together. Then my dream revealed a path.
In it I met the Great Spirit (henceforth, GS) and thanked him for sparing Magic the cat. “I get too many requests for help … I can’t get to more than a few in thousands, but your story piqued my interest. Your inherited, declawed pet, unable to hunt found herself as a prey animal without the instincts rabbits and birds need to survive. You were wise to put out plain food; that kept her close without attracting a bear.” “GS, what about the requests for help you can’t answer?” “Most are complaints. Sickness, money, loneliness. I rarely answer those. Money is a human invention: not mine. Sickness teaches people about another part of life, death. And loneliness, there’s what, 8 billion of you now? Find a friend already!” “Have humans done anything good?” “Oh yes!. Cooking, warm clothes, shelter, and saving the buffalo pleased me, even though it’s only to eat a different meat. And music! I love the blues, and you should have seen Mozart live. That crazy dude rocked! And tell me, what’s wrong with disco? Now that rap stuff, what they call it, hop-hop? It’s a waste of good eardrums.” “GS, do you hear from other gods?” “I hear from most people now and then, plus a few whales and porpoises who, believe it or not, have neither medicine men nor preachers. I’ve never heard from other deities, but I dunno, they may be out there. Godding is hard work; you’d think any others would want to talk shop—I’d like to — but so far, no.” “How will you deal with global warming?” “Walking Hawk, my son (that’s me), I never knew mankind would invent so many things, some not so good. That’s another man-made problem requiring a man-made solution. Otherwise, life will eventually be dominated by cockroaches and jellyfish, but humans under-rate both. Life will go on, and three billion years is time enough for Earth to cure pollution and global warming, and for intelligent life to evolve once again, maybe better. I’m getting tired now; go write your blog.”
The Museum is inside a lovely $220,000,000 stone building with a Southwestern feel. Each regional group tells their collective story in pictures and words. Pocahontas, daughter of Powhatan, married Englishman John Rolfe and became the first Native American to visit Europe. Her son was born in England but returned to Virginia at 40. Prominent Virginians proudly claim Pocahontas blood to this day. Palm Springs, CA was first known as Agua Caliente until its inhabitants were displaced to reservations by the Army, gold miners, and the Union Pacific Railroad. Custer died for your sins at Little Bighorn, but our wasichu forbears within a year had put all of his opponents in reservations or graves. The Trail of Tears was indeed a trail of forced relocations, and always toward less and less desirable lands. Again and again our government hammered Indians into bad treaties, only to renege on them again, and again. Here is the overarching theme of The Museum of the American Indian: we screwed them repeatedly. But that’s what apex predators (and people) do.
Put the Museum of the American Indian on your bucket list. It’s good for your soul.