On occasion, it doesn’t hurt to reminisce about the past journeys of the Potawatomi. One such experience took place on September 21, 2004 when over 60 Prairie Band Potawatomi took part in the grand opening of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. Most of the Potawatomi rode a chartered bus to Nations Capitol. The 2,000 mile round-trip wasn’t a magic carpet ride but enjoyable if a person likes to read or watch videos or just to rest.
The trip wound through Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania and we passed by old Civil War battlefields, into Washington, D.C. on the way there and back through West Virginia, and the Appalachian Mountains, Kentucky and through Missouri on the way back. Both were very scenic routes. Some of the land resembled Eastern Kansas, such as the many corn-fields, until the bus got into the Pennsylvania area where it seemed like it turned into a gigantic forest. The towns and highways seemed like they were carved out of the woods and were a testimony to man trying to conquer Mother Nature.
It was interesting to see so many people lined up to watch the parade, many taking pictures of the Indians in the parade. Some people asked our group if they knew how to talk English, which we thought was funny.
The museum is four stories high and it’s near impossible to see all the 8,000 objects in a two hour tour. The entire collection has over 800,000 objects collected from North, Central, and South America. Many children were seen watching a small television screen, which told traditional tribal stories.
Some tribes were mad because they had very little represented there. Others were mad to see sacred drums and other objects displayed. Personally I thought there was little to represent how the Indian people lost their land, how the Indians were killed by the thousands and how our people were treated in the removal period. I always thought the Jewish people did it right when they built their museum. They displayed all the atrocities because they didn’t want the same thing to happen to their children and grandchildren. It’s early in the museum development and in time the whole story will be told at that level.
The next day, many of the Potawatomis went on tours to see the U.S. Capitol; The White House; and all of the veterans memorials. One amazing fact about D.C. is the extreme poverty and the large amount of homeless people living there. Some homeless people were seen eating out of trash-cans and sleeping on park benches - all of that in a city of such power and riches. It makes you wonder what the politicians think about this situation or even care, when they ride by in their limousines and fly by in their helicopters.
It was well worth the time to ride the bus, get lost on the subway twice, do all that walking, participate in the parade, to see some of the nation’s capital, but above all, it meant a lot to be part of such a grand event.