Spirituality pervades new American Indian museum in Washington

Opening celebrated in service at Washington National Cathedral
Just as earth tones form an underlying decorative element in the new National Museum of the American Indian, spirituality is an undercurrent within the 254,000-square-foot edifice built on Washington’s National Mall.

The top level of the imposing building of light brown limestone features a permanent exhibition that highlights how spiritual beliefs and values merge with the everyday life of native peoples across the Western Hemisphere.

“Spirituality is really a rather fundamental tenet of native life,” said Richard West, the director of the newest Smithsonian Institution museum. “It imbues everything, as far as I’m concerned.”

The fact that West is also a United Methodist whose Native American heritage is the Southern Cheyenne Tribe also speaks to the efforts of both Christian and native religious leaders to enjoy the museum opening despite wounds from the past.


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