First Americans Tour

Time Travel Tour to Your Ancestors Time Travel Tour to the National Museum of the American Indian

The tour begins in the shadow of The National Museum of the American Indian whose sweeping curvilinear architecture, its indigenous landscaping, and its exhibitions, all designed in collaboration with tribes and communities from across the hemisphere, combine to give you a first sense and spirit of Native America.

Beginning in the early 1990s, the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) opened dialogues with Native communities and individuals across the Western Hemisphere. These early meetings resulted in the museum's landmark document The Way of the People (1993), which incorporate Natived sensibilities throughout the museum.

A series of themes emerged from the dialogues. One involved the intuitive nature of the building: it needed to be a living museum, neither formal nor quiet, located in close proximity to nature. Another was that the building's design should make specific celestial references, such as an east-facing main entrance and a dome that opens to the sky. Many comments expressed the desire to bring Native stories forward through the representation and interpretation of Indian cultures as living phenomena throughout the hemisphere. This tour seeks to be an extension of that story, bringing you to visit the First Americans as they continue their thousands of years governing the Indigenous Nations of America.

Native people believe that the earth remembers the experiences of past generations. The National Museum of the American Indian recognizes the importance of indigenous peoples’ connection to the land; the grounds surrounding the building are considered an extension of the building and a vital part of the museum as a whole. By recalling the natural environment that existed prior to European contact, the museum’s landscape design embodies a theme that runs central to the NMAI—that of returning to a Native place. Four hundred years ago, the Chesapeake Bay region abounded in forests, wetlands, meadows, and Algonquian peoples’ croplands. The NMAI restores these environments and is home to more than 27,000 trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants representing 145 species.

A subtle yet significant design concept, the museum’s Cardinal Direction Markers are four special stones placed on the museum grounds along the north-south and east-west axes. Those axes intersect at the center of the Potomac area of the museum building, linking the four directions to the circle of sandstone that marks the figurative heart of the museum. The four stones also honor the Native cultures of the north, south, east, and west. The stones have traveled from the far reaches of the hemisphere in collaboration with their Native source communities: Hawai’i (western stone); Northwest Territories, Canada (northern stone); Monocacy Valley, Maryland (eastern stone); and Puerto Williams, Chile (southern stone). As you gather for the beginning of your time travel tour, make a special effort to locate the eastern stone, which is representative of the Indigenous Nations we will visit, and one of your living historians who will accompany you on the tour.

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Mattaponi Tax Payment Museum Opened in 2004

On September 21st 2004, thousands of Native Americans -from the Arctic to the southern tip of South America - marched on Washington, D.C.'s National Mall to celebrate the opening of the new National Museum of the American Indian. It was the largest gathering of Native Americans in recent history. The National Museum of the American Indian is the first national museum in the United States to be dedicated exclusively to Native Americans and the first to present all exhibitions from a native viewpoint.

This tour is not a commemoration of the past as much it is a celebration of the current cultures that still exist. The tour is part of the global reconciliation process with native people —acknowledging our joint past, but moving forward in justice, love and truth. On the six days following, the opening the First Americans Festival hosted concerts, dance performances, and storytelling on the National Mall. This name "First Americans" has been adopted by this tour to emphasize their primacy in relation to the thousands of years the nations you will visit governed and continue to govern these lands. One of the artists who participated in the First Americans Festival, captured this spirit of reconciliation; Kevin Locke. He performed a Hoop Dance, told stories and played the flute to over 4000 museum visitors. “The way I look at is every distinct people on the planet has some beautiful gift to bring and contribute towards an emerging global civilization and only in the context of that emerging global civilization can the true value and worth of those contributions be made manifest,” Kevin Locke says. “None of us really knows the value of those things, but we nonetheless owe it to our ancestors to offer these gifts. Our ancestors had prayers; they had dreams and hopes, visions and aspirations. They’re not here now, but we can fulfill those aspirations and dreams on their behalf, and we can do that through the heritage that was passed down to us.”

Tour outside the Museum

Prior to boarding the Tour Bus, take a moment to leave your current life behind for a moment. Travel to a Native Space. The Spirit of a Native Place plants walking tour is narrated by Buffy Sainte-Marie (pictured below), a Cree Indigenous Nation singer-songwriter, musician, composer, visual artist, pacifist, educator, social activist, and philanthropist. Throughout her career in all of these areas, her work has focused on issues of Native Americans. Buffy Sainte-Marie virtually invented the role of Native American international activist pop star. Her concern for protecting indigenous intellectual property, and her distaste for the exploitation of Native American artists and performers, has kept her in the forefront of activism in the arts for forty years. Since 1969, she has operated the Nihewan Foundation for Native American Education, whose Cradleboard Teaching Project serves children and teachers worldwide, free and online.

You can follow the map pictured above to begin your walk at the indicated location (the corner of 4th and Jefferson Streets), and click below to listen, The Spirit of a Native Place Walking Tour

Tour inside the Museum

If your stay in DC permits, we hope you can return to appreciate the many Exhbits inside the museum as well. The Nanticoke Indigenous Nation school boy pictured, Roosevelt Perkins in 1911, is part of an Exhbit within the Museum relating to the Indigenous Nations we will visit in our Tour. The Exhbit, like the tour, is designed to help you meet the Native peoples of the Chesapeake Bay region – in what is now the successor states of Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware – through photographs, maps, ceremonial and everyday objects, and interactives. This compact exhibition educates visitors on the continued Native presence in the region, and provides an overview of the history and events from the 1600s to the present that have impacted the lives of the Indigenous Nations. The exhibition was curated by Gabrielle Tayac, Ph.D. (pictured below).

Time Travel Reservations

The following departures are available for you and your friends or family:
Inaugural $20 First Americans Tour on April 1 2017 from 8am to 4pm EST in Washington DC
Additional Tour Dates
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