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American Indian Heritage Month Celebrations Feature Exhibition, Festivals and Screenings at National Museum of the American Indian

Among the Festivities, Museum Honors Native Veterans and Celebrates the American Bison, Arts of the Pacific Northwest

October 19, 2016

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian celebrates American Indian Heritage Month with numerous events honoring Native veterans, celebrating the recent designation of the American bison as the national mammal and showcasing the arts of the Pacific Northwest coast.

New York


As part of its “At the Movies” series, the museum’s George Gustav Heye Center will screen the film Mekko Thursday, Nov. 3, at 6 p.m., followed by discussion with director Sterlin Harjo (Seminole) and lead actor Rod Rondeaux (Crow). The movie, a story of redemption and hope, is about Mekko who is released from prison after 19 years.

“At the Movies” is made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Consult the film’s press release for more information.


The museum’s Buffalo Days festival honors the recent designation of the American bison as the national mammal Saturday, Nov. 19, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event celebrates the bison’s relationship to Native peoples of the Great Plains and features hands-on learning activities for all ages, dancing and music.

Washington, D.C.


Mekko will screen in Washington Saturday, Nov. 5, as part of the museum’s “Dinner and a Movie” series. The Mitsitam Espresso bar will serve food and drinks until 6:45 p.m.; the film starts at 7 p.m. in the Rasmuson Theater. The screening will be preceded by the short film Who Should I Be Grateful To? by Cynthia Mewborn and the Street Sense Filmmakers Cooperative. A discussion with Harjo follows.

Exhibition Opening

For a Love of His People: The Photography of Horace Poolaw” opens for Veterans Day, Friday, Nov. 11. The exhibition is curated by Tom Jones (Ho-Chunk) and Nancy Marie Mithlo (Chiricahua Apache) and includes 75 of Poolaw’s most heralded framed photo prints and eight graphic prints. More information about the exhibition is available in its press release.

Veterans Day Events

Throughout the day, the museum honors Native Americans’ service in all branches of the Armed Forces. The Native American Women Warriors will do an honor guard presentation at 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m.

At 2 p.m., decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran Robert “Corky” Poolaw and Linda Poolaw (two of Poolaw’s four children, both Kiowa/Delaware) will discuss Poolaw’s photography, with particular attention to his pictures on the subject of American Indians and the military, demonstrated in his compelling and insightful images of generations of Native servicemen during the wars in Europe, Korea and Vietnam. Poolaw’s grandson, contemporary multimedia artist Thomas Poolaw, will join the conversation with an exploration of his grandfather’s work and reflection on his artistic and cultural legacy. The museum’s Alexandra Harris (Cherokee) will moderate the symposium. Book signing to follow.

Public Programs

“Native Arts in Motion: Process and Production,” a 10-day event taking place Nov. 14–23, highlights artists of the Pacific Northwest coast. Mike Dangeli (Tsimshian), Dolores Churchhill (Haida) and Tommy Joseph (Tlingit) will each produce an item of dance regalia in open studio sessions in the Potomac Atrium. Visitors will see the artists in action as they meld traditional practices with contemporary fine arts techniques.

The month’s festivities will close with three days of dance performances during “A Native American Heritage Month Celebration of Northwest Coast Dance,” Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 24–26. West Coast First Nations mask-dancing group Git Hayetsk (People of the Copper Shield) from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and the award-winning multigenerational Tsimshian dancers Lepquinm Gumilgit Gagoadim (Our Own Dance in Our Hearts) from southeastern Alaska will give performances that reflect indigenous life with humor and theatricality.

For more details about the museum, visit Follow the museum via social media on Facebook, its Twitter accounts for Washington and New York and Instagram

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Media only 
Lisa Austin    

Joshua Voda 

Washington Museum exterior
Related photos: 

2016 American Indian Heritage Month

Carved wooden mask

Mike Dangeli

Transformation mask is an image of Git Hayetsk, carved by Mike Dangeli (Nisga'a). Photo courtesy of the artist.

National Museum of the American Indian 

Related photos: 

2016 American Indian Heritage Month

Mike Dangeli carving a mask

Mike Dangeli

Wood carver Mike Dangeli (Nisga’a) 

Photo courtesy of the artist. National Museum of the American Indian