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Pablita Abeyta and NMAI go back a long way, to the first congressional
hearing on the new museum proper, in 1987. She was on the staff of Ben
Nighthorse Campbell, then a Democrat in the House of Representatives (he is
now a Senate Republican). With passage of the legislation in 1989, she went
to work on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and finally to the
Smithsonian Institution - NMAI's organizational parent - in the Office of
Government Affairs.

There she served as a liaison with the museum in its fundraising drive,
which eventually brought in much more than the one-third of private sector
funding mandated by Congress for construction and opening costs (according
to the latest figures available, Congress has appropriated $119 million,
while private donors have contributed $100 million).

Currently Abeyta coordinates the attendance of tribal leaders at the
opening ceremonies, as a member of the Native Nations procession team.

"It's going to be a big statement for Indian people about this museum. It's
been so long coming."

Like many other museum employees, Abeyta, who is Navajo, is an artist in
her own right, in her case a clay figure sculptor.