The National Museum of the American Indian

Washington, D.C., United States

The National Museum of the American Indian is part of the Smithsonian Institution and is dedicated to the life, languages, literature, history, and arts of the Native Americans of the Western Hemisphere.

Following controversy over the discovery by Native American leaders that the Smithsonian Institution held more than 12,000–18,000 Indian remains, mostly in storage, United States Senator Daniel Inouye introduced in 1989 the National Museum of the American Indian act. On September 21, 2004, for the inauguration of the Museum, Senator Inouye addressed an audience of around 20,000 American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians, which was the largest gathering in Washington D.C. of indigenous people to its time.

The museum collection includes more than 800,000 objects, as well as a photographic archive of 125,000 images. It is divided into the areas of Amazon, Andes, Arctic/Subarctic, California/Great Basin, Mesoamerican/Caribbean, Northwest Coast, Patagonia, Plains/Plateau and Woodlands.

The collection, which became part of the Smithsonian in June 1990, was assembled by George Gustav Heye (1874–1957) during a 54-year period, beginning in 1903. He traveled throughout North and South America collecting Native objects.



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Founded: 2004
Category: Museums in United States


4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Jacob Davis (19 months ago)
This is an excellent museum that has a wealth of beneficial and generally useful information. I found the layout to be simple, but a little frustrating - the first two floors are basically all gift shops and a cafe. That's fine, but you have to walk past it all to get to the main exhibits. I didn't manage to go through all exhibits, but the ones I did were great. Notably, I think the curators and staff did a very, very good job with presenting both the Battle of Little Bighorn and the Trail of Tears. It wasn't just a sob story or a "woe is me" tale. Rather, both sides of these situations are presented and discussed. I particularly found the dialogue on the Trail if Tears enthralling and well presented. It shared things that are less commonly known or thought about. For example, Andrew Jackson pass legislation to start this, but eight other sitting presidents allowed it to continue. I took a picture of some other info I found interested, which is below. By chance, I also was able to watch a group of Hawaiian singers and dancers present some beautiful music, which lended to the experience. Overall, go to this museum and keep an open mind. You'll learn something and notice more about American Indian culture and how it is all American's culture as well.
Jeffery Nielsen (19 months ago)
Fun building with unique architecture. The kids area is great for keeping little ones interested.
Ms. Green (2 years ago)
Very tranquil & informative museum. I thought it was so fitting to see Native Americans working thru out the museum to answer any question about a display or artifact. The trail of tears exhibit can be sad to see the destruction of tribes. But the presence and strength of remaining tribes are encouraging to all as they tell stories of life, faith and family. The gift (3, I think) shops have something for everybody in all price range. The Dining area has burgers and fries but many cultural dishes. Chicken tenders with fries cost $9.25, 8oz chocolate milk was $2.75, Pork Tamales are large with 2 in an order cost $10.50.. portions are a nice size. Delicious!!!!!!!
penguin rick (2 years ago)
From an architectural design perspective rather than content: A very beautiful museum that's clearly thoroughly and thoughtfully designed. I was impressed by the variety of opportunities for experiences that were provided, and I would suggest this as an excellent example of what a museum can be. There are a lot of museums to see here, but I would prioritize this one.
Jeremy Kephart (2 years ago)
At first it looked like a bunch of random pieces from lots of tribes. However, taking the time to go through the gallery and read the plaques and listen to the film's, a simple central theme presented itself. I did not visit all the museums, but I was incredibly moved by the weight of history like no other museum I have been to. * Take the time to see this museum as it presents itself, it is unique and remarkable.
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