for National Geographic News
The pounding of an Indian elk-skin drum and the high-pitched wail of tribal powwow singers echoed over the National Mall in front of the U.S. Capitol and conjured up visions of irony for George Horse Capture.
"We were native to this landhere for thousands of years and yet we are the least-known group of people in this country," he said. "Our lack of historical knowledge is a shortcoming in our national education, but it does not have to be that way forever."
Raising America's awareness of its indigenous people is the personal quest of Horse Capture, a senior special assistant for the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.
The 65-year-old Horse Capture, a member of the A'aninin Gros Ventre tribe in Montana, envisioned the inaugural powwow as a way to draw attention to the museum.
The event, which took place the weekend of September 14-15, drew hundreds of Native Americans and thousands of Washington, D.C.-area visitors. The National Geographic Society joined public radio station 88.5 WAMU and Washington television station NBC4 as the sponsors of the powwow.
Making Indian Culture Real
The museum is scheduled for completion in fall 2004, and will attract about 6 million visitors annually, said Smithsonian spokesman Thomas Sweeney.
"This will show Indians are real," said Horse Capture, gazing toward the tent where a group of young women practiced their "fancy shawl dance."
In their garments of blazing reds, calicoes, and electric blues, they looked like a circling flock of songbirds.
On the other side of the tent Danny Garneaux waited to join the ceremonial circle with the other men who would perform the grass dance.
Most days, Garneaux wouldn't get a second glance, wearing scruffy jeans and T-shirts in his day job on construction sites in Norfolk, Virginia.
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