The outside of the museum is beautiful. It has the best fountain and water display out of all the Smithsonian museums. Not much detail if you ask me! Confusing layout and artifacts are lacking. The exhibits seemed more commercial than historical. The focus was far too much about how the settlers took over their land, the treaties and an apology to the Native Americans. There was hardly any information about them as people! I came out feeling like I knew no more about them than when I went in! Think this was created by ‘American’s for ‘Americans.’
Also, shouldn’t the museum be called National Museum of the Native American rather than ‘American Indian’? The museum is one of those museums full of words and photos with very few exhibits. The boats on the ground floor are excellent, and apparently, they have cultural demonstrations in the same place. The clothing and eagle headdress is a highlight, but apart from that, it’s marginally better than the internet. Admission is FREE! Additionally, you do not have to take any extra steps to gain access like required at the African American museum, so you walk straight in. There are four floors, with most of the exhibits on the top two. It took me around 5 hours to get through the museum. However, I read a lot of the displays and watched most of the short films and presentations. You know what they when you visit any Smithsonian you should plan it to be an all-day affair.
Although the content was professionally presented, it was fragile in Native American history as a whole. You had some concrete information on a few tribes, treaties, and things of that nature. However, I merely expected much more considering the wealth of ‘’American Indian’’ history available. Even the interpretive displays left much to be desired. For instance, in the room designated “Who won the battle of the Little Big Horn?”, there was so little actual material on the battle, why it was fought, who the main leaders were, etc. the museum would have done better not to have mentioned it at all.
On one floor they had an area for children to play. Young children. This offers a nice break for families I’m guessing. There is also a great and fun interactive quiz that a few people can play, where questions are displayed on a screen, and up to 3 people try to hit their buzzer with the correct button I played this for about 30 minutes, and it was both entertaining and very educational. One floor had an extensive exhibit on the “Trail of Tears” which is essential to have for our remembrance of history. Sometimes the settling of the west is often glamourized and down talked. It would do well to spend time in this museum and recognize the first nation peoples of our country.
Although I didn’t like the museum as a whole, I did learn a lot, for instance, I was extremely impressed with the research spanning 12,000 years of history in North America. So little time is spent in United States classrooms honoring these tribes. Beautiful artwork and how in tuned and sensitive they were about the mistreatment of the earth. Having some Native American blood in theme, seeing most of the exhibits like the Cherokee Removal exhibit It was utterly heartbreaking. The role that the US played in the death of 4,000 Cherokee women, children and men alongside the hundreds of millions of Africans/Blacks killed on this soil breaks me every time I think about it.
What the Americans exhibit at the museum is a rather cool exhibit if I must say so myself. The exhibition examines the troubled relationship between images of Indians used in advertising and entertainment and how Native Americans have been treated throughout history. They even have an exhibit about Pocahontas; although she was glamorized and her story was told differently by Disney, I wasn’t expecting to see an exhibition about her.
Besides the apology that was posted in the museum, it would be expected to see the famous Native American beadwork, headdresses, and blankets. There are some beautiful sculptures, but the museum was an excuse to have a big gift shop, cafeteria, and theaters all of which they can make money off of still exploiting the early Americans. The museum could have been so much more I think we have failed the early Americans. We owe them a better museum for the lives and bloodshed in this country. If you have any substantial knowledge of Native American history and culture, you too will probably be disappointed in this so-called museum.