The Land Has Memory: Indigenous Knowledge, Native Landscapes, and the National Museum of the American Indian

The Land Has Memory: Indigenous Knowledge, Native Landscapes, and the National Museum of the American Indian

The Land Has Memory: Indigenous Knowledge, Native Landscapes, and the National Museum of the American Indian

The Land Has Memory: Indigenous Knowledge, Native Landscapes, and the National Museum of the American Indian

Synopsis

In the heart of Washington, D.C., a centuries-old landscape has come alive in the twenty-first century through a re-creation of the natural environment as the region's original peoples might have known it. Unlike most landscapes that surround other museums on the National Mall, the natural environment around the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is itself a living exhibit, carefully created to reflect indigenous ways of thinking about the land and its uses.

Abundantly illustrated, The Land Has Memory offers beautiful images of the museum's natural environment in every season as well as the uniquely designed building itself. Essays by Smithsonian staff and others involved in the museum's creation provide an examination of indigenous peoples' long and varied relationship to the land in the Americas, an account of the museum designers' efforts to reflect traditional knowledge in the creation of individual landscape elements, detailed descriptions of the 150 native plant species used, and an exploration of how the landscape changes seasonally. The Land Has Memory serves not only as an attractive and informative keepsake for museum visitors, but also as a thoughtful representation of how traditional indigenous ways of knowing can be put into practice.

Excerpt

Like all mothers, Mother Earth is the ultimate giver. She reveals her beauty in countless variations, from wetlands and meadows to rain forests and deserts. Like any good mother, she does many things at the same time and does them all well. She nurtures us with food crops, heals us with medicinal plants, and sustains us with other natural resources. She teaches us how we should live our lives—don’t take more than you need, she chides. and like all parents, she shapes her children’s lives and their ways of looking at the world in profound ways. When we learn that one of our brothers or sisters—Native or not—is from Texas or Alaska or rural Brazil, we then know something about who that person is and how he or she sees the world. So, just as each generation makes its mark on the land, the land inevitably makes its mark on us.

This is Indian thinking. There are many differences between traditional Native philosophies about the natural world and the Western paradigm that has dominated much of recent life in the Americas. Despite its ancient history, the American landscape has come to be seen, over the last several centuries, primarily as the object of Manifest Destiny and a mere backdrop for American civilization. Both of these ideas seem based on the assumption—completely at odds with Indian thinking—that the land is a passive commodity, a thing that gives only if we conquer it, a thing we can own and exploit to fullest advantage. More recently, though, a growing concern is being voiced about the state of our world. a global ecological movement is building that seeks to respect, honor, and preserve the . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.