Timothy Noah’s story about the Smithsonian’s new travesty —
under the headline “The National Museum of Ben Nighthorse Campbell” — is a devastating
account of what’s wrong with the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
The new museum stubbornly refuses to impose any recognizable standard of
scholarship, or even value, on the items in its galleries. Precious artifacts are mingled with
present-day kitsch, with few if any clues provided about what makes them significant. The
museum’s curators regard the very notion of a Native American cultural heritage as anathema
because it clashes with the museum’s boosterish message that Native American culture is as
vibrant today as it ever was. This isn’t a museum; it’s a public service
Also, without addressing the issue, Noah lends implicit support to criticism by the activist
American Indian Movement that the museum ignores the history of the “holocaust” carried out
against Native American Indians by the U.S. government. One of Straight Up’s readers had a different response, not to the
museum itself but to the Native American Indians she encountered on their way to D.C. last week
for the opening of the museum.