Published June 11, 2016
WASHINGTON – When the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian opens its new exhibition, “Americans,” in fall 2017, it will be due in part to a significant contribution from the Cherokee Nation.
The country’s largest tribal nation is the first major contributor, providing $500,000 to the exhibition that will dispel myths and educate the more than 1.7 million average annual museum visitors about major moments in American history, including the forced removal of Cherokees, known as the Trail of Tears.
“It is an honor for us to be the first of what we hope are many partners to fund this much-needed educational exhibit,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “As Cherokee people, we lost our homes, land and thousands of lives, but we survived and persevered, and today our sovereign government is stronger than ever. That’s an inspiring American story, and, sadly, it is getting lost incrementally in our country’s classrooms. It is our responsibility to help share the true accounts of our history with the visitors of the National Museum of the American Indian.”
“Americans” is a 10-year exhibition consisting of six sections within a 9,200-square-foot gallery. It will present a plethora of Indian imagery spanning six centuries that opens a conversation with visitors about the omnipresence of such imagery in American life.
The exhibition uses certain points in American history as frames of reference. One section examines the Trail of Tears, taking visitors beyond the specifics of Cherokee removal and focusing on the national consequences of the passage of the 1830 Indian Removal Act. Furthermore, the exhibition will demonstrate the failure of the act to diminish Southeast native nations and address how their descendants and non-Native alike reflect on the removal today.
“The museum is embarking on a vast effort to confront popular myths about Native Americans and the national origin myths that influence how most Americans are taught about history,” said Kevin Gover, museum director. “This undertaking invites visitors to make a personal connection with these myths and ask themselves how ideas of ‘Indian-ness’ affect their own lives and perceptions of the United States. The Cherokee Nation gift will be a vital part of our success in this pursuit.”
The Cherokee experience will also be a part of Native Knowledge 360°, a strategy to introduce to grades 4-12 contextualized and historically accurate educational materials with native content to standard school curricula and national standards across the country.
Cherokee Nation Businesses, the tribe’s holding company, is funding the effort to further its mission of preserving Cherokee culture and history. This contribution expands a partnership that began in 2014 with Cherokee Days, an annual event centered on Cherokee culture. Storytellers, musicians, artists and leaders interact with the museum’s visitors to promote mutual understanding and cultural appreciation during the annual three-day event that runs throughout the weekend. Those unable to attend the event in person can still take part in the “Cherokee Days” experience through a new interactive website, by visiting Anadisgoi.com/CherokeeDays. The site provides a detailed agenda of daily activities and performances, access to information and photos from each tribe’s social media accounts, and live streaming throughout the event.
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