The National Indian Museum
by William J. Hughes, September 21, 2016
Wounded Knee. Enough said? Reason enough to be going to Washington DC to see the new National Museum of the American Indian. Not that the massacre history of the tribes in the museum's historic intent, but…
One other personally pertinent reason? The state Indian Museum in Sacramento at Sutter's Fort.
I had the privilege of an over the shoulder view of two friends as they revised, restored, re-lit and elevated the small museum and its collection into one of the finest presentations of native wares in the country. Ishi himself is well represented there.
So now for the national bigshot on the Capitol Mall just below the Capitol building itself.
I must admit at this point in life I'm not so sure any native people's wares should be on display in any museum except the living ones on their backs. But rifle butts, buffalo slaughter etc. ain't going to get undone and this Museum in DC is there, so who am I? Custer? No. Geronimo? No. So a white man's limbo.
Going to do Appomattox and Mt. Vernon while I'm here — a bit closer to my, our history on the Eastern continent.
Staying in Oakton, Virginia, part of that vast middle American transparent conspiracy to clutter the surrounding Virginia countryside with suburbs. Inside the outside of the Beltway? Good friends from ye olde long ago Long Island.
What's to see between the Baltimore airport and suburban Virginia? Not much, but interesting exit signs for interesting American history. Then you're into Civil War Virginia, Falls Church and festive Wolf Trap Farm Park and all exits DC.
Exhausted but too early in the day to retire so check in in Oakton and into DC by Route 66 just to see the new native building on the Capitol Mall.
Across the Potomac and into the belly of the overfed, arrogant, stupid, stumbling embarrassing DC — the beast at work in Iraq.
Washington's Monument and all the other white man's white wedding day memorials to itself. Sorry. Iraq and the fact that all this came from the subjugation of all the tribes.
Parking garage, no hesitation. A few blocks to walk up to the new museum, approach it, see it from a distance at first.
It's a sunny, brisk day in early May. I'm wearing short-sleeved Jim Morrison. I thought Jim would appreciate a day at the site.
"Indians scattered on dawn's highway/bleeding…
Ghosts crowd the young child's fragile/eggshell mind…"
Up ahead in the dear distance a sandstone adobe cliff, cliff dwelling on the national Mall. So near so good.
The closer I get the more impressed I am. They grew a sandstone cliff on the Grecian Mall. A Frank Lloyd Wright native, carving and natural enough, soft and earthy, earthenware, stable, terra firma. Now absolutely, totally unique like a teepee in Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas.
The Capital Dome looms large right nearby. Makes you feel terrible, sad. Good that the museum has come to life in this form but, well, I've already said so at the start.
But this museum is not going to be about that? It's about we, the natives, are here or are still here, which can also bring the sadness and shame.
So let's concentrate on the grounds, miniaturized versions of the vast ecosystems the tribes once inhabited.
I'm standing beside a miniature marsh sitting out front. Makes you sick to your stomach.
It's all nice and all but if you had to choose between the United States Senate and House of Representatives, all Greek steroid up the blocks or vast swaths of springtime coastal in what became North Carolina…
Great, grand, grandfatherly boulders set out around the building like Henry Moore's way before Henry Moore.
All the boulders feel wonderful. Jim Morrison agrees. We sneak into some shade and share a sacred smoke on it.
A fountain stream runs beside the snake curving adobe cliff building. Nice again if you like your once curving streams in fountain form. One dark duck, that's all, along the sleek water surface.
A short waterfall cascades. At least it's better than Disney.
Not crowded but not quiet as I stand in among the group tours inside a shrunken hardwood forest eco-slice.
Enough. I think I want to get out of here before all the servant civils start making their one passenger per car way back to the burbs from whence they came.
Down gigantic Constitution Avenue, troops of tourists like Iraq wasn't even happening.
The birthday cake Kennedy Center beside the Potomac. The Warren Commission is still full of beans and I've been in the book repository in Dallas, Texas.
A sign for Theodore Roosevelt Island afloat in the wide enough Potomac.
I'd noticed it on a visitor map. It looks, well, forested over. Couldn't be…
Ah but it could, and it did. A brand-new one on me. I've been around a lot before, being in a Native New Yorker with friends who moved to Fairfax, Virginia, stationed here in my Marine Corps years and very recent visit for just for Lindberg's plane up close and connected to his taking off from Mitchell Field on Long Island where I went to college and now my San Diego where the plane was built.
Down to the river there is a fine park parking area beside the river, the green Teddy Roosevelt Island hump blocking out the city from this side of the river.
There's absolutely just one foot bridge across to the island. Huck, if Huck had an engineering degree.
Well I'll be, a wilderness experience right here in the heart of Rome Dome. I haven't got the time to venture too far into the inviting woods after crossing over on the sweet bridge.
The woods; that's the best description it deserves.
Bully. The mustache and pince-nez and the Mt. Rushmore would be glad. I am.
Damn glad I beat the traffic out is always glad to spend some more quality time on the George Washington Expressway in or out of town. A true parkway.
Back in Oakton for the evening, sushi in a little sushi mall restaurant. Nice, suburban, like it too had sprung up overnight.
Tomorrow in the morning an early start out west to Appomattox by way of this side of the Blue Ridge, too slow through the Shenandoah's lush interior inside the blue ridge.
Appomattox will close my personal book on our Civil War. I've walked the bloody ground from Mobile to Gettysburg by way of Vicksburg, Memphis, Shiloh, Chattanooga, Chickamouga, Lookout Mountain, Northern Virginia, Petersburg, Antietam, Harper's Ferry to Pennsylvania… Appomattox Courthouse. Case closed to the point of ignoring Manassas/Bull Run in the morning on the way West. Enough Verdun is enough.
Sleep like the tomb.