The National Museum of the American Indian gave me a first-hand look at the life of the Native Americans. This museum is an extension of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC that is rich in culture and diversity. Some of the exhibits included artifacts, fashion, jewelry, utensils and everyday items utilized throughout the Western Hemisphere during that period. The National Museum of the American Indian is housed by the George Gustav Heye Center in Downtown Manhattan.
I walked up the grand staircase leading to the three-floor elegant building; the architectural design was stunning. After being screened by security, I entered into the Rotunda, located in the center of the main floor. This section received natural light through the bright sunlight that was pouring through the ceiling. The exhibitions that were there were large life-size diagrams, illustrations, and text about the later parts of American History. Some of the exhibits were about canned food vs. fresh foods, farming, the growth of the education system and how it all intertwined with presidential politics.
Afterward, I proceeded into the West Gallery. As soon as I entered, it was like a whole new world. Playing lightly in the background was soothing Native American instrumental music. The West Gallery featured artifacts, bowls, spoons, intricately designed clay pots, cups, and plates. This section exemplified the daily lives of different tribes. The men mostly hunted, went to war, planted crops and took care of their households. However, the lives of the women seemed to be a lot more interesting.
There were exhibits in which the everyday lives of Native American Women was the focal point. To include household duties while being both a mother and wife. Although their responsibilities are a lot similar to the modern day woman, the most significant difference was that we have technology such as microwaves, washing machines, and dishwashers. However, the Native American women did not have such luxuries. Therefore, they fulfilled their chores from sunrise to sunset.
The South Gallery featured clothing attire of the Native American men and women. This section exemplified the fashionistas of their era. All of the clothes were handmade, durable and individually sewn with love.
The elaborate uniform of the Chief was in the center of the room, as soon as I entered into the South Gallery. Protected and properly lit behind the glass showcases were a variation of footwear such as mukluks and moccasins; some of them were plain while others were beaded. The general attire of men included breechcloths, leather leggings used during the winter months, or leggings made out of fur. The women wore tunics or leggings with a skirt. The style of the clothes differed between the tribes.
Lastly, I visited the East Gallery, and to my delight, some of the most exquisite jewelry and its history was on display. The Glittering World: Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family was the name of the exhibit that glittered and sparkled under the light. There were extravagant necklaces, rings, bracelets and earrings that were designed by Lee Yazzie, his brother Raymond Yazzie and their sister Mary Marie. Gold, natural stones such as Larimer, and silver are the types of jewelry highlighted in the showcase. It symbolizes over 50 years of the Navajo Indians that were distinguished by their jewelry making skills.
All of the galleries mentioned above were on the main floor. The second floor was closed off, but the basement was open to the public. After doing a bit of exploring, I decided that hanging out in the life-size Teepee was one of my favorite things to do at this museum.
Overall, The National Museum of the American Indian was cultural, educational and historically satisfying.
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