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Land Has Memory

Indigenous Knowledge, Native Landscapes, and the National Museum of the American Indian

Edited by Duane Blue Spruce and Tanya Thrasher

Publication Year: 2009

In the heart of Washington, D.C., a centuries-old landscape has come alive in the twenty-first century through a re-creation of the natural environment as the region's original peoples might have known it. Unlike most landscapes that surround other museums on the National Mall, the natural environment around the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is itself a living exhibit, carefully created to reflect indigenous ways of thinking about the land and its uses.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii


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p. ix-ix

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pp. xi-xviii

Like all mothers, Mother Earth is the ultimate giver. She reveals her beauty in countless variations, from wetlands and meadows to rain forests and deserts. Like any good mother, she does many things at the same time and does them all well. She nurtures us with food crops, heals us with medicinal ...

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Introduction: Remembering the Experience of Past Generations

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pp. 1-10

There is no place without a story. Every plant, every animal, every rock and flowing spring carries a message. Native peoples of the Americas learned over thousands of years to listen to the messages, and we know every habitat. We know the earth; we know the sky; we know the wind; we know ...

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Honoring Our Hosts

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pp. 11-32

For Native people, the process of creating something4a meal, a basket, an article of clothing, a dance, a song4is as important as that which is being created. Pueblo people demonstrate this belief in their daily lives, whether they are making loaves of oven bread or hand-coiled clay pots. To make ...

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Cardinal Direction Markers: Bringing the Four Directions to NMAI

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pp. 33-48

Nearly every culture on earth has a concept of the cardinal directions: north, east, south, and west. A basic means of establishing geographic orientation, they are known as the Four Directions to many indigenous peoples throughout the Americas and are represented in ceremony, art, clothing, and ...

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Allies of the Land

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pp. 49-60

Late spring on Nanjemoy Creek brings mayflies and a wave of swampy heat that hints at the long, humid summer to come. It also brings my extended family together every Memorial Day weekend. We gather to camp on a home base belonging to Calvert Posey, a lifelong friend of my late grandfather, Turkey ...

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Always Becoming

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pp. 61-70


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Landscape: Through an Interior View

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pp. 71-80

The land, as depicted by contemporary Native artists, is complex space. Rather than creating work that is simply representational or infused with romanticism, many Native artists have chosen to explore the land’s various complicated meanings. Their relationship to the land is multilayered, encompassing ...

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Stories of Seeds and Soil

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pp. 81-120

Every plant, animal, and stone has a story to tell. This concept can be understood through the more than 27,000 trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants; 40 massive boulders; and 4 Cardinal Direction Marker stones placed throughout the National Museum of the American Indian’s landscape. All were ...

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A Seasonal Guide to the Living Landscape

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pp. 121-142

Over a nine-year period beginning in 1993, I was fortunate enough to be a member of the design team responsible for creating a bold new environment on the National Mall4the landscape surrounding the National Museum of the American Indian. I recall a morning in early summer, prior to ...

Appendix 1: Selected Resources and Organizations

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pp. 143-144

Appendix 2: NMAI Plant List

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pp. 145-150

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 151-152


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pp. 153-154

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pp. 155-156

The writing of The Land Has Memory has been a joyful collective effort. We owe a debt of gratitude to many friends, specifically to Donna House (Diné/Oneida), the notable ethnobotanist who originally envisioned the exterior plantings and worked with the landscape architecture firm EDAW of Alexandria, Virginia, to create four distinct environments that bring to life the

Photo Credits

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pp. 157-158


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pp. 159-166

E-ISBN-13: 9780807889787
E-ISBN-10: 0807889784
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807832646
Print-ISBN-10: 0807832642

Page Count: 184
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2009