Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Our Connections To The Earth

Originally I titled this month's blog, "His Connection To The Earth" in reference to the interview we did with Duane Blue Spruce in New York. In listening to the interview several times over, I realized Duane's words were articulating "Our" experience as a contemporary Native person looking at the NMAI Landscape. Not only was Duane addressing the landscape surrounding the NMAI museum in Washington D.C., in addition, he was addressing a larger issues of our on going relationship to the earth. The rhythm of his words and the words themselves encourages an awareness of simple things like rocks, earth and water. I was also reminded of the elders in the Pueblos who speak of such relationships with the environment that go beyond our family and community, how we must respect what is around us with a renewed understanding every single day.The title change for this month's blog reflects Duane's ideas about the landscape surrounding NMAI in Washington, D.C. and includes the concept that Kevin Gover, Director of the NMAI museum recently concluded,"The land inevitably makes it's mark on us."
Duane Blue Spruce is Pueblo Indian from New Mexico, an Architect and was a consultant in the design of the NMAI building and the landscape surrounding the museum. Most recently Duane along with Tanya Thrasher edited the newly released book entitled, The Land Has Memory - Indigenous Knowledge, Native Landscape and The National Museum of the American Indian. The book looks at the history of the land that now houses NMAI and how the outside environment reflects the cultural sensibilities of Native peoples. The book included many of the Native consultants and artists who have worked in realizing the museum and the landscape surrounding the museum.

Every plant and tree, rock and flower tells a story.
We need to speak to the land first and explain our intentions.
Promise to use it wisely and not deviate from that promise.

John Paul Jones
(Excerpt from, The Land Has Memory)

The landscape that surrounds the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington is certainly unusual, especially if compared to the other Smithsonian Mall landscapes. NMAI houses boulders, a corn and tobacco patch and a water fall. This type of environment invites squirrels, a variety of birds and other creatures to nest and add to the ecosystem now in place. Clearly a visual and cultural contrast in an otherwise a cosmopolitan environment. And this contrast is what I find so significant about the NMAI landscape as well as the theme of the Always Becoming project. Reiterating Mr. Goover's sentiments, our unique Native world views have been and continue to be marked by the earth we all walk on.

Mr. Blue Spruce touched on the significance of the land's history and how it has evolved to it's present state while creating a cultural statement about our relationship to this earth. Listening to the story of this place and understanding it from the perspective of the Always Becoming project, the five ephemeral pieces are becoming on land that has been waiting for them and like the birds and other creatures living out their time in a sacred place. Duane and John Paul Jones, Donna House and others listened and then manifested the echoes from our history, setting the stage for a presence in the nation's capitol that speaks to issues of earth and culture in a way that is inclusive and profound.

....And so we have arrived at the crossroads of asphalt and fertile ground.
Where old man rock watches his children mix dreams and earth.
Sing your father's sweet grass song
Prayer bundles in hand as you become
And purposeful.

(Excerpt from The land Has Memory)

* Next month we will return to the second installment of the "Strong Woman" Series

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