Indian family support grows for National Museum of the American Indian

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CHARLESTOWN, W.Va. ? Max Portrey, Cherokee/Blackfoot, has supported the preservation of American Indian culture in whatever way he can for over 30 years.

Like many other individual Indians, he has made a contribution to the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) on the National Mall in the nation's capitol. Portrey said he was not raised in the most traditional manner and had no ancestors or relatives involved in tribal affairs, but considers the NMAI to be a very tangible method of protecting Indian culture.

"I think it's very important to not only preserve our culture, but help others to remember and to pay attention," said Portrey.

An anger-management counselor at the embattled WorldCom Corporation, Portrey said he was also trying to instill pride in their heritage to his two children, Ashley, 19, and Morgan, 14. Ashley was inspired to include in her college application essays on the importance of her Indian heritage in her family, something her father said he found very gratifying.

"That will have paid for my donation many times over," said Portrey. He added that his daughter's essay helped her gain admittance in the fall to Shepherd College in West Virginia.

Portrey said he would gladly encourage other Indians to contribute to the NMAI. The museum will help other Indians in what he called in his case "a process of discovery" in becoming more familiar with his roots.

The place of honor on the National Mall will also contribute to the awareness of non-Indian Americans.

"For me, if we don't pay attention and support the museum, we will have lost a part of our heritage and what it is to be American," said Portrey. "We will have lost part of our cultural soul."

Portrey earned his doctorate in social psychology from Oklahoma State University in 1980.