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National Pride: The National Museum of the American Indian Opens on the Mall

The Washington Post, , September 17, 2004


After two decades of planning and building, the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian opens on Tuesday, bringing a new and ringing sense of native identity to the heart of Washington.

Filling the Mall between the new museum and the East Building of the National Gallery of Art and from the Capitol almost to the Washington Monument will be the six-day First Americans Festival, a joint production of the new museum and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, featuring hundreds of Native American performers, storytellers and artisans populating two pavilions and six stages, including an open-air dance circle

Trudie Lamb Richmond, a Schaghticoke storyteller, will pull double duty for the museum's opening. As the director of public programs at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center in Connecticut and a member of the new museum's national education advisory committee, she'll be meeting with friends and fellow committee members, but she'll also be featured on the festival's Raven Stage Tuesday through Thursday twice each day where she'll be telling traditional Algonquian and Iroquois lesson tales. For Richmond, being part of a "living culture" means picking up where her ancestors left off, keeping not only the stories alive but the reasons for their telling.

"In native traditions, storytelling is a way of passing down history and teaching lessons, especially for children," Richmond says. "Traditionally, native storytelling has been used as a form of discipline. When children misbehave, instead of punishing them by scolding them, we'll bring them over and tell them a story."

Subjects Covered: diversity training, education, storytelling festivals

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