Friday, August 8, 2014
Our Lives: Contemporary Life and Identities
When: through July 6, 2015
This is one of the major display areas of the NMAI, and I'm assuming it was formerly a permanent exhibit. It's quite good, although too large for a lunch time visit, unless you work across the street from the museum and can waste no time in travel to and fro. I work a good distance from this part of the Mall, so I'm always in a hurry when I visit. That's why I like the shows in the Sealaska Gallery so much: they're small enough that I can see them without rushing.
The exhibit is well-organized; in the middle of the very large space is general information on the current-day lives of Native Americans. Around the walls are information on individual Indian tribes from around the country. There's even a group (who are not officially recognized as a tribe) in Virginia, which was news to me.
Each group lives differently and faces different challenges in incorporating their traditional way of life into modern American society. Two of the tribes must deal with living on opposite sides of borders: one group in the United States and Canada and the other group in the United States and Mexico. When the boundaries between the nations were established, the tribe members were given the right to move freely back and forth, but maintaining those rights has been a struggle over the years.
One can only wonder what will go in this space after this show closes next July. The issue of how Native Americans hold on to their culture, while living in the United States is one that I think would resonate with many people whose ancestors came from other countries and had to decide how much of their old ways to abandon in order to become Americans. We can only hope something equally thought-provoking will move into this area on the 3rd floor.
Verdict: You've got plenty of time to see this show before it closes next summer. You may want to take a couple of lunch hours in order to see all of it.