The Land Has Memory

The Land Has Memory: Indigenous Knowledge, Native Landscapes, and the National Museum of the American Indian

DUANE BLUE SPRUCE
TANYA THRASHER
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 184
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9780807889787_blue_spruce
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  • Book Info
    The Land Has Memory
    Book Description:

    In the heart of Washington, D.C., a centuries-old landscape has come alive in the twenty-first century through a re-creation of the natural environment as the region's original peoples might have known it. Unlike most landscapes that surround other museums on the National Mall, the natural environment around the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is itself a living exhibit, carefully created to reflect indigenous ways of thinking about the land and its uses.Abundantly illustrated,The Land Has Memoryoffers beautiful images of the museum's natural environment in every season as well as the uniquely designed building itself. Essays by Smithsonian staff and others involved in the museum's creation provide an examination of indigenous peoples' long and varied relationship to the land in the Americas, an account of the museum designers' efforts to reflect traditional knowledge in the creation of individual landscape elements, detailed descriptions of the 150 native plant species used, and an exploration of how the landscape changes seasonally.The Land Has Memoryserves not only as an attractive and informative keepsake for museum visitors, but also as a thoughtful representation of how traditional indigenous ways of knowing can be put into practice.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0601-9
    Subjects: Sociology, History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-ix)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xvii)
    KEVIN GOVER

    Like all mothers, Mother Earth is the ultimate giver. She reveals her beauty in countless variations, from wetlands and meadows to rain forests and deserts. Like any good mother, she does many things at the same time and does them all well. She nurtures us with food crops, heals us with medicinal plants, and sustains us with other natural resources. She teaches us how we should live our lives—don’t take more than you need, she chides. And like all parents, she shapes her children’s lives and their ways of looking at the world in profound ways. When we learn...

  4. Introduction: REMEMBERING THE EXPERIENCE OF PAST GENERATIONS
    (pp. 1-9)
    JOHNPAUL JONES

    There is no place without a story. Every plant, every animal, every rock and flowing spring carries a message. Native peoples of the Americas learned over thousands of years to listen to the messages, and we know every habitat. We know the earth; we know the sky; we know the wind; we know the rain; we know the smells. We know the spirit of each living place. The spirit of place is embedded deeply within us; we are connected to something larger than ourselves.

    In 1993, I joined forces with Donna House (Diné/Oneida), Ramona Sakiestewa (Hopi), and Douglas Cardinal (Blackfoot)...

  5. HONORING OUR HOSTS
    (pp. 11-31)
    DUANE BLUE SPRUCE

    For Native people, the process of creating something—a meal, a basket, an article of clothing, a dance, a song—is as important as that which is being created. Pueblo people demonstrate this belief in their daily lives, whether they are making loaves of oven bread or hand-coiled clay pots. To make ceremonial or everyday pots and bowls, for example, Pueblo women work together on the arduous task of gathering clay from riverbeds and wooded areas and watch their elders to learn which plants to collect for the pigment. They sing songs taught to them by their families, giving thanks...

  6. CARDINAL DIRECTION MARKERS: BRINGING THE FOUR DIRECTIONS TO NMAI
    (pp. 33-47)
    JAMES PEPPER HENRY and KRISTINE BRUMLEY

    Nearly every culture on earth has a concept of the cardinal directions: north, east, south, and west. A basic means of establishing geographic orientation, they are known as the Four Directions to many indigenous peoples throughout the Americas and are represented in ceremony, art, clothing, and architecture.

    The Four Directions have greater significance beyond their practical function. They are imbued with metaphor and supernatural powers that relate to our existence as human beings. Many Native peoples associate colors, seasons, and animals with the Four Directions, associations that form the basis of an indigenous philosophy known as the Medicine Wheel. Each...

  7. ALLIES OF THE LAND
    (pp. 49-59)
    GABRIELLE TAYAC

    Late spring on Nanjemoy Creek brings mayflies and a wave of swampy heat that hints at the long, humid summer to come. It also brings my extended family together every Memorial Day weekend. We gather to camp on a home base belonging to Calvert Posey, a lifelong friend of my late grandfather, Turkey Tayac. This year Cal is no longer with us in corporeal form, having passed into the spirit world over the winter. He has joined the legion of ancestors who I believe spiritually guard this land, one of many living beings intertwined over millennia at this place. I...

  8. ALWAYS BECOMING
    (pp. 61-70)
    NORA NARANJO-MORSE
  9. LANDSCAPE: THROUGH AN INTERIOR VIEW
    (pp. 71-79)
    KATHLEEN ASH-MILBY

    The land, as depicted by contemporary Native artists, is complex space. Rather than creating work that is simply representational or infused with romanticism, many Native artists have chosen to explore the land’s various complicated meanings. Their relationship to the land is multilayered, encompassing personal and collective memory, history, and narrative. These artists are not rigidly bound by tradition in their expressions of landscape; instead, their sources of inspiration range from the profound to the mundane, the past to the present, and the deeply personal to the political. The results are inherently indigenous, revealing the complex relationships contemporary Native people have...

  10. STORIES OF SEEDS AND SOIL
    (pp. 81-119)
    GABRIELLE TAYAC and TANYA THRASHER

    Every plant, animal, and stone has a story to tell. This concept can be understood through the more than 27,000 trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants; 40 massive boulders; and 4 Cardinal Direction Marker stones placed throughout the National Museum of the American Indian’s landscape. All were carefully selected, blessed with prayer and song, transported over thousands of miles, and thoughtfully re-oriented on the museum’s four-acre site. These living beings traveled by boat, helicopter, flatbed truck, and tractor-trailer, and when they arrived at the museum, they were tearfully and joyfully welcomed as long-absent relatives.

    Four hundred years ago, the Chesapeake Bay...

  11. A SEASONAL GUIDE TO THE LIVING LANDSCAPE
    (pp. 121-141)
    MARSHA LEA

    Over a nine-year period beginning in 1993, I was fortunate enough to be a member of the design team responsible for creating a bold new environment on the National Mall—the landscape surrounding the National Museum of the American Indian. I recall a morning in early summer, prior to the museum’s opening, when the plantings were not yet fully in place. Amid the cacophony of construction, a night heron visited the site, alighting on the fallen bald cypress tree in the wetlands area. The heron paused for several minutes before taking flight toward the nearby Anacostia River, leaving the crew...

  12. Appendix 1: Selected Resources & Organizations
    (pp. 143-144)
  13. Appendix 2: NMAI Plant List
    (pp. 145-149)
  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 151-152)
  15. Contributors
    (pp. 153-154)
  16. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 155-156)
  17. Photo Credits
    (pp. 157-158)
  18. Index
    (pp. 159-166)