All language has its dangers! Who is an American? Who does this huge land belong to? Even on a short Metro train ride into Washington DC one is aware of the sheer diversity of people – it really is the land of many races and languages. I sit behind a couple who speak Chinese and to my side (as I read the Washington Post) there is a group of young people speaking Spanish. I get a sense of greater tolerance and integration here – but impressions can be deceptive epsecially to the tourist.
My destination is the National Musuem of the American Indian – and here is the building:
This picture gives only a small glimpse of its splendour – four floors with an open glass ceiling and not a straight line anywhere. The place is bathed in sunlight – alomost moving to the rhymn of drums and music.
The story inside is a disturbing one of bloodshed, opppression and inequality. These diverse peoples and their traditions were deeply part of this land and its history. The museum tells the story of conflict and suppression – and the recovery of land and traditions that shape cultures. We see this native way of life and are introduced to the art and stories and symbols of these peoples. With skill the visitor is taken through the landscapes that shaped the life of families and traditions – far more complex and interesting than the indians we might have glimpsed in fiction and film.
We all need to understand where we have come from and appreciate some of the paradoxes of our national history. This place opened up a whole new world of perception and understanding. Quite spectacular.
Introducing the history of a place and its people – now there is food for thought and action!