The National Museum of the American Indian

Finally, more than a week after I promised it, I'm here to tell you about the National Museum of the American Indian, which I visited while I was in Washington DC.

I was incredibly excited to visit the American Indian museum. I mean, come on folks, it's about time the first people to inhabit this country got their own museum in our nation's capitol. I only wish it would have happened sooner.

The exterior of the building is pretty darn cool. It's quite distinctive from the rest of the stuffy buildings on The Mall, which is exactly the way it should be.

Inside is striking too. But, admittedly, it's a bit confusing figuring out where you're going and what you're looking at. Which is one of the biggest problems I had with the museum. The building is loaded with beautiful artifacts and history, but the permanent exhibitions, Our Universes, Our Peoples, and Our Lives, leave something to be desired.

They're designed to represent important ideas and experiences in Native life and history. And at that they certainly succeed. But by dividing the exhibits up into these overarching categories, visitors (at least this visitor) end up coming away with a fuzzy notion of what American Indian culture in general is and was like, without gleaning very many specifics about the many Native communities represented in the museum.

I realize that a full representation of even one American Indian culture could fill the entire museum, so of course things had to be edited in order to represent as many cultures as possible. And those people who didn't grow up immersed in an area rich in American Indian history of one sort or another (like I did) undoubtedly learn quite a bit.

Still, I came away wanting more, wanting a clearer representation of the myriad cultures briefly showcased within the curving walls of the museum. Each Native community has its own art, culture, and history, that I can't help but wonder if they all get the short shrift when grouped together.

Yet I know, too, that no museum can be all things to all people. And despite my criticisms, the museum is certainly worth a visit. Spend some time there, learning about the Native communities included in the exhibits, perusing the pottery and beadwork and weaving they're known for, learning about what challenges American Indian communities today face. It's well worth it.

Oh, and whatever you do, do not leave without a stop in the cafeteria. If you do nothing else, you must sample the food. Particularly the Plains offerings, which include one of my most favorite meals: Indian tacos.

(What you're seeing: tomatoes, onions, lettuce, cheese, chili with buffalo meat, atop a piece of golden fry bread. Mmmm.)

If you've never had an Indian taco, you're missing out. Try one at the museum. Or if you're in Illinois, give me a little warning, and I'll scrounge up what's left of my Wooden Knife fry bread mix and make one for you.

Oh, and a piece of fry bread with honey? Now that's the ideal dessert.

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