National Museum of the American Indian Presents Production of Grandchildren of the Buffalo Soldiers

New Director and Cast for D.C. Premiere
March 3, 2010
News Release

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, in collaboration with the National Museum of African American History and Culture, presents William S. Yellow Robe Jr.’s (Assiniboine) compelling drama, Grandchildren of the Buffalo Soldiers. This play runs Thursday, April 22 (museum members only), through Sunday, April 25, and Thursday, April 29, through Sunday, May 2, at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays, in the museum’s Rasmuson Theater in Washington, D.C. The press preview performance is Thursday, April 22. Tickets are free to the public and available on a first-come, first-served basis.


Grandchildren of the Buffalo Soldiers reveals the historic clash of two fiercely proud yet oppressed cultures pitted against one another by Westward expansion. The play depicts the homecoming of Craig Robe, descended from a Native American woman and an African American “buffalo soldier.” Ridiculed as “too black” to be Native, the Robe family has struggled for acceptance not only by their tribe, but by each other. Through skillfully balanced humor and pathos, this fearless, heart-felt play asks audiences to consider racial and cultural identity, while maintaining a compassionate and open-minded view of the complexity of mixed-race heritage in America.


“Native American theater is unique—not many stages or theaters produce it,” said Kevin Gover (Pawnee), director of the National Museum of the American Indian. “We are proud to educate and entertain our audiences through the medium of Native theater and especially proud to collaborate with our colleagues at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.”


“African Americans, like Native Americans, are proud of our oral tradition,” said Lonnie G. Bunch, director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. “Much of our history is passed down through the recitation and reenactment of stories. Grandchildren of the Buffalo Soldiers carries on that custom in a way that is particularly suited to young people.”


Recommended for middle-school grades and higher, Grandchildren of the Buffalo Soldiers is part of an ongoing series of programs in support of the museum’s exhibition, “IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas,” which is open through May 31.


Yellow Robe is a member of the Assiniboine Nation located on the Fort Peck Indian reservation in northeastern Montana. He is an actor, playwright, director, poet and instructor. He has written more than 50 plays, including full-length and one-act works, a book for a musical and children’s plays. Yellow Robe is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Maine in Orono. Among other awards, Yellow Robe is a recipient of the Indigenous People Organization Award, Theater Communications Group National Residency Grand, Princess Grace Fellowship, Jerome Foundation Grant, New England Theater Conference Award for Excellence and was awarded the First Book Award for Drama from the Returning the Gift conference.


The Rasmuson Theater design is inspired by the metaphor of a perfect storytelling venue: a clearing in the woods under a bright night sky. Native stories are often told in winter or at night, and visual references to this setting include the moon, the texture of ice and Raven, a trickster character often found in American Indian stories. Vertical wood paneling surrounds the 322-seat circular theater, evoking a dense hardwood forest, and above, a dark ceiling twinkles with fiber-optic constellations. Cast-glass sconces along the back wall recall the phases of the moon.


The National Museum of the American Indian was established in 1989 by an Act of Congress, and it is an institution of living cultures dedicated to advancing knowledge and understanding of the life, languages, literature, history and arts of the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere. Additional information is available at


The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established by an Act of Congress in 2003 making it the 19th museum of the Smithsonian Institution. Scheduled for completion in 2015, it will be built on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on a five-acre tract adjacent to the Washington Monument. Currently, during the pre-building phase, the museum is producing publications, hosting public programs and building collections. It is presenting exhibitions at other museums across the country and at its own gallery at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. An array of interactive programs and educational resources is available on the museum’s Web site at


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