National Museum of the American Indian Celebrates Solstice Saturday

Festivities Include Cultural Demonstrations, Performances and Family Activities To Celebrate the Great Inka Road Exhibition
May 30, 2019
News Release
Inka Road event

Credit: Comparsa Iluminada  photo by Matailong Du for the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian celebrates the first Saturday of summer—Solstice Saturday—beginning with an afternoon of Andean music, dance and family-friendly activities celebrating the Great Inka Road. At 7 p.m., the celebration becomes the Solstice Illuminated Dance Party, taking place on the museum’s Welcome Plaza. There will be a DJ, refreshments, fun and food and all the galleries will be open throughout the evening.

The festivities showcase “The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire.” This first major bilingual exhibition on the South American civilization explores why the construction of the Inka Road more than 500 years ago stands as one of the world’s greatest engineering feats. Without access to iron, in mountains too steep for wheeled transport or stock animals to pull heavy loads, the Inka built a road network the length of the Andes, linking the headwaters of the Amazon Basin and the Pacific Coast. (The museum uses the spelling Inka, rather than the more common Inca, because it is consistent with the Indigenous Quechua and Aymara languages.)

A banner version of the exhibition has been on view at museums and universities in South America, including the Gold Museum in Colombia, the Museum of the Democratic Revolution and Culture and the Museum of Lake Titikaka in Bolivia, and Simón Bolívar Andean University FLACSO in Ecuador. The original, major exhibition is on view at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., through June 2020.

“The Inka are one of the primary examples of the achievements of the Indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere,” said Kevin Gover (Pawnee), director of the museum. “Their knowledge, their understanding of their environment, their agriculture and, of course, their engineering all remain infinitely interesting and instructive, particularly in a world that is grappling with sustainability. There is knowledge to be gained from the examination of Indigenous cultures not simply for the sake of gathering knowledge, but for its application in our lives.”

Through images, maps, models and 140 objects—including a ceramic Chavín stirrup spout bottle (the oldest item in the exhibition, ca. 800–100 B.C.), impressive gold ornaments, necklaces made from shells from the Lambayeque region, stone carvings, silver pendants and figurines and various textiles made from camelid hair—the exhibition illustrates important concepts in Andean cosmology, including duality and reciprocity, and the integration of infrastructure and spirituality.


Solstice Saturday at the National Museum of the American Indian
Saturday, June 22

3–7 p.m.—Solstice Saturday: Celebrate the Sun!

With the exhibition The Great Inka Road as the theme, the museum celebrates Inti Raymi, the festival of the sun, with Andean music and dance. The festivity opens with traditional Bolivian dancing by Tradiciones Bolivianas, Pujllay Cliza, Fraternidad Tinkus Chochabamba, and Expresion Cultural Sikuris K'hantati Los Andes share traditional dances of Bolivia. RAYMI will be playing Andean music. Visitors can make their own Andean fan based on the “chakana” (a symbol indicating the four cardinal directions) and add luminescent embellishments to show off later in the evening. They can get inspired by the solar and lunar imagery throughout the museum and decorate their own canvas bag to take home.

Indigenous peoples of the Andes in South America believed that gold represented the sun. Visitors can create their own foil pendant featuring your choice of a llama, sun, or jaguar design at the imagiNATIONS Activity Center.

Visitors can meet Ande, the museum's resident, life-size, plush toy Llama, and will learn how to dress a fashionable llama for a stroll along the Inka road. 

7–9:30 p.m.—Solstice Illuminated Dance Party

Visitors can grab a glow stick and dance to DJ Dola on the Welcome Plaza. Local food truck Peruvian Brothers and the museum’s Mitsitam Café Espresso Bar will be available with food and drink to purchase. The museum’s membership table will offer a special gift with a museum member card or with new membership that evening. The indoor galleries will also be open through the night. When the sun goes down, visitors can bring their luminescent fan and join a “Comparsa Iluminada”—an illuminated procession—from the festivities to an outdoor gathering on the Welcome Plaza.

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. National Mall at Fourth Street and Independence Avenue S.W.; open every day from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25); FacebookTwitter, Instagram and

The public can join the conversation on social media using the hashtags #InkaRoad and #SolsticeSaturday

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Marielba Alvarez

(202) 633-6888

Becky Haberacker

(202) 633-5183

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