NMAI issues a 'Call to Consciousness' on environment
Launching its Mother Earth Indian Summer Showcase for 2008 with the enticing promise of ''Hot Concerts for a Cool Planet,'' the National Museum of the American Indian delivered a stellar opening day that established a high standard for its summer-long symposia on the environment, with companion musical acts serving as a popular draw and, for that matter, as a high order of entertainment.
Approximately 800 people found the combination irresistible June 13, according to Leonda Levchuk, public affairs specialist for NMAI, a unit museum of the Smithsonian Institution. Even the weather, scorching for early summer even by Washington standards, felt cooperative on the museum's outdoor Welcome Plaza, shielded from the full blaze of noon by the building's cantilevered levels. Scott Klinger, in attendance from First Peoples Worldwide in Fredericksburg, Va., said the museum's cliff-modeled architecture indeed seemed to channel breezes into what could have been a cool canyon draw.
Indoors at the Rasmuson Theater, ''A Call to Consciousness on Climate Change'' symposium featured leading names in Native spirituality toward the Earth and ''all our relations'' - elders Rico Newman and Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Onondaga Nation; scientists Nasbah Ben, Anthony Socci and Daniel Wildcat; and author/activist Winona LaDuke. Tim Johnson, NMAI associate director for museum programs, introduced them and Jose Barreiro, assistant director for research, moderated.
Program notes provided a good summary of the day's complex theme: ''Climate change is an issue not only of science and policy, but of culture and worldview. We [at NMAI] aim to encourage unity of thought and consciousness bridging Native elders, climate scientists, federal government representatives, private-sector interests, and tribes with global warming initiatives.
''Preserving the health of Mother Earth is our generation's gravest responsibility. ... It is time to regain that integrated understanding of the world that for millennia has characterized Native traditions.''
Music is a great integrator. At the evening plaza concert, singer and songwriter Bill Miller, a Grammy Award winner and a great favorite for years now around Indian country, opened for ultra-popular Indigenous.
Miller steered the program through his patented takes on a troubled Indian youth, onto Christian-inflected ground and out again on the other side with a spell of powerful traditionalist chanting. He invited Indigenous to join him for a few numbers, making the band whole again with the timely offer of a guitar strap. ''It was just musicians having fun,'' Klinger said.
By the time they rounded off their collaboration with a lights-out arrangement of ''Folsom Prison Blues,'' the audience had joined them, and there would be no holding back for Indigenous.
Tribal libraries get a boost
Indian and Alaska Native libraries nationwide received grants June 10 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The awards, totaling $1.22 million among 209 tribes, will sustain core library services and programs; support the hiring, training and professional development of staff; and pay for on-site library assessments from independent consultants.
The June 10 awards ranged from $5,000 to $6,000 for each recipient. Neither of the grant categories at issue require cost-sharing, according to an IMLS release.
The next deadline for the IMLS Native American Library Services Basic Grants is March 3, 2009. They are non-competitive, meaning any eligible institution that follows established procedures can get one, said Loriene Roy, president of the American Library Association. She added that many tribal libraries, including tribal college libraries, have a small budget for book purchases, so that a $5,000 grant has a big impact. ''It's always a good day when the IMLS grants come out,'' she said.
Beyond its basic grant programs, IMLS administers a Native American Library Services Enhancement program worth up to $150,000 per grant. Eligibility depends on an institution's having applied for a Native American Library Basic Services grant in the same fiscal year.
Roy, White Earth Chippewa of Minnesota, will step down July 2 from her year as ALA's first American Indian president. But her emphasis within ALA on Indian-specific issues will outlast her presidency, she said, noting that a November conference in Washington on Native cultural issues will be another ALA first.