Sunday, May 23, 2010

Leaving the Capitol

This is my last day in Washington DC -- well, Alexandria, VA. My nephew, Nathan, graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University. I had a great time. Nathan was thrilled to have his picture taken 100 times with every combination of relatives. We were thrilled not to sit through a 2 hour graduation ceremony. Much more fun to spend time with family and hang out. I got to spend some quality walking (in the rain) and yarn shopping time with Simone (Nathan's lovely partner). Love her!! 
Sorry about all the backlighting in these photos. I plan to spend lots of time learning Photoshop this summer so I'll be able to adjust that kind of thing in the future.

Today, we went to The National Museum of the American Indian. I'd highly recommend it if you're ever in the area. The building itself is beautiful. The whole building is rounded and curved. It looks as if it were a huge rock that the wind had carved away at for ages. Inside and out, there are lots of spirals and circles. Very organic and easy on the eyes. While going through the museum, I found myself aware of moving in circles but not staying still. Many of the sections were curved so that you left in the same place you entered so there was a sense of being back in the same place but with different knowledge and experience. My understanding is that this is a common Indian philosophy and way of seeing the world. It was quite a multidimensional experience.

I learned a lot -- so much information that was sadly lacking in my education; in all of our educations no doubt. I'd have to go several times to really absorb everything there. Representatives of each community curated it's own smaller section. Who knew that there was a cross-tribal community of urban Indians in Chicago? Pretty cool. 

A friend of mine and a faculty member in the American Indian Studies program at UIUC was generous enough to share some of his syllabi with me. I've read most of the way through a book called Everything You Know About Indians Is Wrong by Paul Chaat Smith and it was so cool to be at the museum where the author refers to some of the work he and others have done there. The book was overdue at the library and I couldn't renew it but this will get me back in gear to request it again. It's a very funny, honest, direct (in an indirect kind of way) and poignant book. Check it out! You can also go to his home page - PCS - to see how funny he is - he calls the page Fear of a Red Planet. I love the way he humorously touches on the very things Americans struggle with in incorporating American Indians into their concept of the US. He often seems to include Indians themselves in this struggle. I'd love to have dinner and chat with this guy. Seems like a very interesting person.    

Back to NMAI, I learned a little more online about some of the sculptures outside the NMAI building. If you go to Always Becoming you can learn more about some of them and about Nora Naranjo-Morse who is the Santa Clara Pueblo Indian who designed and installed the sculptures pictured below. She has a great website! These three are (from left to right) Mother, Father and Little One.
I'm less certain about the meaning of this spiral. Lisa walked it like a labyrinth. I couldn't find out anything else about it online so I emailed the Museum to learn if it has a particular meaning or if it's more of a general tie-in with the other spiral imagery of the site. I'll let you know what they tell me!

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