Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., To Reopen Friday, Sept. 25

Museum Will Continue To Offer Virtual Events
September 23, 2020
News Release
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Exterior of American Indian Museum

Photo © 2004 Judy Davis Hoachlander, Davis Photography for Smithsonian

The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., reopens to the public Friday, Sept. 25. The museum will be open Wednesday to Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free timed-entry passes are required and are available on the museum’s website. The museum in New York City remains closed. 

The museum will reopen with enhanced safety precautions in place. Some areas of the museum will remain closed, including the cafes, stores, theaters and the imagiNATIONS Activity Center. The “Our Universes” exhibition, located on the museum’s fourth floor, and the Sealaska Gallery on the second floor, will also be closed. No onsite programming or tours will be offered. More information about the museum’s reopening is available on the website.

The following exhibitions are open:

“Americans”: American Indian images, names and stories infuse American history and contemporary life. Pervasive, powerful and at times demeaning, the images, names and stories reveal how Indians have been embedded in unexpected ways in the history, pop culture and identity of the United States. The exhibition highlights the ways in which American Indians have been part of the nation’s identity since before the country began.

“Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations”: Treaties lie at the heart of the relationship between Indian Nations and the United States. This exhibition is the story of that relationship, including the history and legacy of U.S.–American Indian diplomacy from the colonial period through the present.

“The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire”: Construction of the Inka Road stands as one of the monumental engineering achievements in history. This exhibition explores the foundations of the Inka Road in Andean cultures, technologies that made building the road possible, the cosmology and political organization of the Inka world, and the legacy of the Inka Empire during the colonial period the present day.

“Return to a Native Place”: Meet the Native peoples of the Chesapeake Bay region—what is now Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Delaware—through photos, maps, ceremonial and everyday objects, and interactives. The exhibition educates visitors on the continued Native presence in the region and provides an overview of the history and events from the 1600s to the present that have impacted the lives of the Nanticoke, Powhatan and the Piscataway tribes.

“Patriot Nations: Native Americans in Our Nation’s Armed Forces” will be on view in the museum’s Potomac Atrium through Oct. 18. The exhibition tells the remarkable history of the Native American men and women who have served in the U.S. military. Native peoples have participated in every major U.S. military encounter from the Revolutionary War to today’s conflicts in the Middle East.

New Exhibitions

“Developing Stories: Native Photographers in the Field” is an online exhibition of a series of photo essays created by Native photojournalists Russel Albert Daniels and Tailyr Irvine in collaboration with the museum. Through compelling, never-before-seen photography, each photo essay provides thought-provoking insights into 21st-century Native life and a nuanced perspective on an American experience that is largely invisible to mainstream society.

Why We ServeOpening on Nov. 4, this poignant exhibition tells personal stories of Native American veterans. It details the history of more than 250 years of Native American participation in the military, from colonial times to the present day. 

Upcoming Virtual Events



Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Mascots, Monuments, and Memorialization

Monday, Oct. 12; 1 p.m. ET

How do people’s memories of the past inform and influence the current racial and social landscape? As part of the museum’s new series Youth in Action: Conversations about Our Future, participants can hear from young Native activists who are propelling this conversation forward and addressing the tension between history, memory and the current movements happening across America. Featured panelists include Brook Thompson (Yurok and Karuk), Julian Brave NoiseCat (Canim Lake Band Tsq’escen and Lil’Wat Nation), Lina Krueck (Oglala Lakota), Dylan Baca (White Mountain Apache) and Alberto Correa III (Taíno). 

The event will feature an introduction by Kevin Gover (Pawnee), director of the National Museum of the American Indian, and a musical performance by hip-hop artist Frank Waln (Sicangu Lakota). The panel will be moderated by museum cultural interpreter Michaela Pavlat (Sault Ste. Marie Band of Chippewa Indians). 

Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos Weekend Festival

Friday, Oct. 30–Sunday, Nov. 1


Friday, Oct. 30; 6 p.m. ET

Monarch butterflies are everywhere in Día de los Muertos celebrations, from the holiday’s traditional symbolism to presentations about tracking the butterflies’ annual migration to Mexico and preserving their habitats. Participants can learn about monarchs from cultural and scientific experts and enjoy the music of Grammy-winning East L.A. band Queztal.

A Virtual Celebration of Día de los Muertos

Saturday, Oct. 31, and Sunday, Nov. 1; 2 p.m. ET

Day of the Dead: The Basics
Museum folklorist Cynthia Vidaurri will answer frequently asked questions about Day of the Dead, including What is Día de los Muertos? How is it different from Halloween? And what is an ofrenda, and what do the beautiful decorations mean? Vidaurri will illustrate the presentation with images collected during her years of research and selected images from earlier years’ Day of the Dead programs at the museum. 

How to Make Paper Marigolds
With Evelyn Orantes (Quiche Maya) and Joaquin Newman (Yaqui/Mexica)

“Entre flores nos reciben y entre ellas nos despiden.” —dicho mexicano
“Among flowers we are received, and among them we depart.” —Mexican proverb

Flowers play an important role in many celebrations. From births to funerals, they help express people’s feelings. For Day of the Dead, the colorful petals of zempasuchil (marigolds) are used. Evelyn Orantes and Joaquin Newman will demonstrate step by step how to create paper marigolds.

Celebrating the Rich Culinary Heritage of Día de los Muertos
Chef Neftali Duran will discuss his culinary journey through the foods and feasting associated with Día de los Muertos. Mole, a signature sauce associated with the celebrations, and the rich history of pan de muerto, will be featured.

Remembering Loved Ones on the Museum’s Facebook Page
The museum’s Facebook page will feature images of ofrendas from earlier Day of the Dead festivals, and visitors to the page can post messages in memory of their loved ones.

Federal support for this program is provided by the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center.


Veterans Day

Wednesday, Nov. 11

On Veterans Day 2020, the museum will host a virtual event to mark the completion of the National Native American Veterans Memorial. The event will acknowledge the service and sacrifice on Native veterans and their families. When it is safe to do so, the museum will schedule a dedication ceremony at the memorial so that Native veterans and their families can be honored in person.

Conversation with “Why We Serve” Co-Author Alexandra Harris 

Thursday, Nov. 12; 2 p.m. ET

Join museum senior editor Alexandra Harris, co-author of Why We Serve: Native Americans in the United States Armed Forces, virtually for a discussion about identity and the warrior stereotype of Native people serving in the military, as well as actual—and remarkable—traditions of peace and war within American Indian communities. Details for registering for this Zoom event will be available via

Native Cinema Showcase

Thursday, Nov. 18–Friday, Nov. 27

The National Museum of the American Indian’s Native Cinema Showcase is an annual celebration of the best in Native film. This year, for the 20th-anniversary showcase, the museum presents the full program online, streaming new films, fan favorite classics and conversations with filmmakers. The showcase provides a unique forum for engagement with Native filmmakers and stories from Indigenous communities throughout the Western Hemisphere and Arctic.

Special support provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Additional support provided by the New York State Council on the Arts under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council Initiative and by The Walt Disney Co.

Youth in Action: Conversations about Our Future

Indigenous Food Sovereignty 

Thursday, Nov. 19; 4 p.m. ET

Native food systems and agricultural practices were disrupted upon European settlement and the displacement of Native peoples from their lands. For the past century, new foods introduced by U.S. federal policy were unhealthy and substantially different from traditional diets. The introduction of unhealthy food, combined with uneven quality of and access to medical care, continues to leave many American Indians fighting an uphill battle for their health. Today many young people are returning to traditional food sources and sustainable ways of living through political action and sustainable practice. This November, for Native American Heritage Month, participants can join a conversation with young Native foodies working to decolonize their diets and restore balance in their bodies and communities.  


Healing through Native Creativity

Friday, Dec. 4, to Sunday, Dec. 6

Artists and artisans from earlier Native Art Markets share the stories of their art and new works that reflect this unprecedented time. Through the beauty and solemnity of their creative pieces, these artists encourage people to look forward to a future of good health and social justice.

Youth in Action: Conversations about Our Future

Thursday, Dec. 17; 4 p.m.

The museum provides live programs for students of all ages who are interested in a more inclusive, accurate and complete education about Native America. Youth in Action: Conversations about Our Future, a new series of free webinars, is targeted to middle- and high-school students. Each month, students can hear from young Native activists and change makers from across the Western Hemisphere who are working toward equity and social justice for Indigenous peoples.

About the Museum

In partnership with Native peoples and their allies, the National Museum of the American Indian fosters a richer shared human experience through a more informed understanding of Native peoples. For information about the museums, including hours and directions, visit additional information is on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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