Powwow Marks Construction of U.S. Indian Museum

George Stuteville
for National Geographic News
September 20, 2002

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 land—here 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.

Continued on Next Page >>




NEWS FEEDS     After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.   After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS

National Geographic Daily News To-Go

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.
Click here to get 12 months of National Geographic Magazine for $15.