COMMEMORATING THE OPENING OF THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN -- (House of Representatives - September 21, 2004)
Mr. EHLERS. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the Senate joint resolution (S.J. Res. 41) commemorating the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian.
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Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
(Mr. Larson of Connecticut asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks, and include extraneous material.)
Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Mr. Speaker, I would like to associate myself with the remarks of the gentleman from Michigan. Indeed, I am pleased to support Senate Joint Resolution 41, commemorating the successful 15-year effort to create the National Museum of the American Indian and requesting the President to issue a proclamation for this occasion.
What a day it has been already, having the celebration kicked off this morning. So many Native Americans from my great State of Connecticut are down here for this very special commemoration.
I would also echo the remarks and sentiments of the gentleman from Michigan. What a great tribute. This is the 18th such museum that the Smithsonian has put up; and under their tutelage, we know that it is going to continue to be as spectacular as the 17 others that come under their control and auspices.
I am equally proud as well that so many tribes in the great State of Connecticut have contributed not only to our great economy and employment there but they themselves have been leaders. The Mashantucket Pequots of Mashantucket have put together their own museum and are going to collaborate here with the national museum.
They are both extraordinary sites and worth everyone visiting, as well as have the Mohegans in Connecticut who are also great economic contributors and employers in the State of Connecticut, who have also put together an educational program and archaeological field trips that teach both the culture and the storytelling and the lore of all that are so important.
So, Mr. Speaker, I am proud and encourage everyone to support this resolution today.
I am pleased to support S.J. Res. 41, commemorating the successful 15-year effort to create the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) on the Mall, and requesting the President to issue a proclamation for the occasion.
The legislation was originally introduced by Senators CAMPBELL and INOUYE, the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Indian Affairs, and passed the Senate on July 22. Many of Connecticut's tribal nations are here this week for the commemoration.
The Museum encompasses the culture and history of indigenous peoples throughout the Western Hemisphere, who total more than 35 million.
The Museum, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution, opens today at 4.25 acre site southwest of the U.S. Capitol grounds. It is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the life, languages, literature, history and arts of cultures indigenous to the Americas.
Earlier today there are a ceremonial procession of Native Americans from the Smithsonian to the Capitol, followed by the Museum dedication ceremony on the Mall and the opening of the Museum to the public. A six-day festival and celebration on the Mall also begins today.
Besides the site on the Mall, the Museum also includes the George Gustave Heye Center, a museum in New York; and the Cultural Resources Center, a research and collections facility in Suitland, Maryland.
The National Museum of the American Indian is the 18th museum under the control of the Smithsonian. It was formally created by Congress in 1989 after the Heye Foundation in New York City agreed to transfer its own unique collection to the Smithsonian. Construction on the Mall began in 1999.
The structure has a unique architectural design using Kasota limestone which gives the appearance of having been weathered by the elements. It is a majestic setting which enhances the Mall, and the Museum's location along Independence Avenue near the Capitol ensures that it will become one of Washington's premier attractions for visitors. American Indians have played a key role in the Museum's design and fund-raising, as well as the exhibitions and programs.
The Smithsonian Institution has developed a special expertise in conceiving and managing museums which move beyond traditional concepts of exhibitions that remain static for decades, and instead allow living and evolving history to be displayed.
This is especially appropriate since Native American communities in the United States and Canada, and throughout the Hemisphere, remain vital forces in the cultural identifies of the many new nations with which they have been joined.
The Native American communities in the United States remain distinct, highly visible entities culturally, and often politically and economically, in the States where they are located. In this country alone there are more than 500 distinct Native cultural communities recognized by the Federal government, and States recognize still more.
There are more than two million indigenous peoples residing in the United States.
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, in my home State of Connecticut, in addition to being a major employer and economic force in the State due to its well-known casinos, was the first Tribe to make a large donation to the National Museum of the American Indian. Its $10-million donation was, at the time, the largest-ever single contribution to the Smithsonian. Both the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut and the Oneida Tribe of New York later made similar donations.
The National Museum of the American Indian has also been the beneficiary of numerous other sizable donations from tribal communities and tribally related organizations. Tribes and tribal organizations have donated nearly one quarter of the approximately $199 million total cost of the Museum building, a testament to the continuing cultural and economic vitality of Indian tribes and their interest in disseminating knowledge to the broader American public.
The Mashantucket Pequots also own and operate the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center in Mashantucket. This 308,000 sq. ft. facility houses the largest collection of Native American artifacts in the world. Four full acres of permanent exhibits at the Center depict 18,000 years of Native and natural history in thoroughly researched detail. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, along with the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center will continue to work together in a cooperative agreement with the National Museum of the American Indian.
The Mohegans have also created many educational resources to bring their contributions to a wider audience. Their Archaeological Field School provides an opportunity to learn about Native American history first-hand. Cultural and community programs bring Mohegan culture to life through presentations of tribal artifacts.
It is an honor for me to know personnally so many tribal leaders, including from the Mohegans, Lifetime Chief and former Chairman Ralph Sturges, Chairman Mark F. Brown, Vice Chairman Peter J. Schultz and Ambassador Jayne G. Fawcett; and from the Mashantuckets, Chairman Michael Thomas, Vice Chairman Richard "Skip" Hayward, Executive Director of Public Affairs Pedro Johnson, and Councilmember Kenny Reels.
Mr. Speaker, the successful completion of the National Museum of the American Indian bodes well for public interest in the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which was created by Congress last year and is in the preliminary stages of development, site selection and fund-raising.
I insert in the CONGRESSIONAL RECORD at this point a chronology of the development of the National Museum of the American Indian prepared by the Smithsonian Institution.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN CHRONOLOGY
1980--Discussions begin between the Smithsonian Institution and the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation in New York City. The Heye collection of 800,000 objects, representing tribes from the entire Western Hemisphere, was one of the largest Native American collections in the world. The talks were initiated by the museum's trustees, and discussions centered on an affiliation with the Smithsonian while still maintaining an independent museum in New York. Although not conclusive in themselves, these early talks lead the way to future negotiations.
April 1987--Smithsonian Secretary Robert McC. Adams accompanied Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) to New York to talk with officials of the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation.
May 4, 1987--The board of trustees of the Museum of the American Indian unanimously adopted a resolution providing for an affiliation between its museum and the Smithsonian, and for the relocation of the museum collections to a new building on the National Mall in Washington.
May 11, 1987--The Smithsonian Board of Regents approved a motion encouraging the Secretary to "continue discussions with representatives of the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, about the prospect of a formal institutional relationship between the museum and the Smithsonian."
Following discussion with the Smithsonian and the Heye Foundation's board of trustees, Senator Inouye introduced a bill (S. 1722) on September 25, 1987, to establish a National Museum of the American Indian within the Smithsonian Institution.
The Smithsonian Institution continues its negotiations with the board of trustees of the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation. The Smithsonian Board of Regents approved an "agreement in principle" on January 30, 1989 to transfer the Museum of the American Indian collection to the Smithsonian.
March 16, 1989--Julie Johnson Kidd, chairman of the Heye Foundation, signed the agreement. The Smithsonian Board of Regents gave its final approval to the agreement on May 8, 1989, and it was endorsed the same day by Secretary Adams.
Senator Inouye introduced S. 978 to establish the National Museum of the American Indian on May 11, 1989, and Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colorado), at that time a U.S. representative from Colorado, introduced companion legislation, H.R. 2668 on June 15, 1989.
September 12, 1989--Secretary Adams joined Senators Inouye and Campbell for a press conference announcing the Smithsonian's revised policy on repatriation of American Indian human remains in the National Museum of Natural History collections. The legislation establishing the new museum, to be named the National Museum of the American Indian, would incorporate the repatriation policy and appropriate funds for an inventory of human remains in the Smithsonian's collections.
November 28, 1989--President George Bush signs legislation establishing the National Museum of the American Indian as part of the Smithsonian Institution.
May 21, 1990--Secretary Adams announced the appointment of W. Richard West (Southern Cheyenne), as founding director of the new museum, effective June 1, 1990.
April 1991--The Smithsonian selected Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates Inc. of Philadelphia to assist the National Museum of the American Indian in developing general architectural program requirements and criteria for the design of the new museum in Washington, D.C., and for a Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, MD, about six miles from Washington where the museum's collections would be housed.
June 1992--The Smithsonian selected Polshek and Partners of New York City, Tober + Davis of Reston, VA, and the Native American Design Collaborative to provide architectural and engineering services for the Cultural Resources Center.
A preview exhibition, "Pathways of Tradition," a selection of more than 100 objects representing American Indian cultures and creativity, was on view at the Smithsonian's George Gustav Heye Center of the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City from November 15, 1992-January 24, 1993.
February 1993--The Smithsonian selected the architectural firm of GBQC of Philadelphia in association with Douglas Cardinal Architect Ltd. of Ottawa, Canada, to create the design concept for the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall in Washington.
October 30, 1994--The museum's Geroge Gustav Heye Center officially opened in the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House at One Bowling Green in New York City.
January 1998--The Smithsonian terminated its relationship with GBQC and Douglas Cardinal (Blackfoot) and the Institution assumed responsibility for the design and construction of the museum on the National Mall. Assisting the Smithsonian were Polshek/Smith Group and Johnpaul Jones (Cherokee/Choctaw).
September 28, 1999--The groundbreaking and blessing ceremony takes place on the National Mall in Washington, DC, at the site of the National Museum of the American Indian's Mall Museum. The new museum will occupy the Mall's last remaining site. Three planned inaugural exhibitions will feature historic and contemporary aspects of Native life, and will highlight artifacts from the museum's priceless collection.
June 26, 2001--The Smithsonian Institution awarded a contract to "CLARK/TMR, A Joint Venture," to build the National Museum of the American Indian. CLARK/TMR is composed of the Clark Construction Company of Bethesda, MD, and Table Mountain Rancheria Enterprises Inc., a construction company that is a subsidiary of the Table Mountain Rancheria of Friant, CA.
September 14-15, 2002--A national Pow Wow was sponsored by the museum on the National Mall adjacent to the museum construction site. Approximately 25,000 people attended to watch nearly 500 Native Americans dance over the two-day event.
November 20, 2002--A "topping out" (a circular section of glass was installed on the roof of the building) ceremony and blessing was held to mark the completion of the major structural elements of the new building.
January 15, 2004--The first phase of occupancy of the new museum by staff begins.
Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) may control the remainder of my time.
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