DC: Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian: Stop #2

National Musuem of the American Indian: DC

korahIn Washington D.C., we were greeted by Korah English Morez, the NMAI Cultural Arts Program Specialist, who organized a breathtaking, and beautifully curated exhibit of “Maya Creativity and Cultural Milieu”.

Unlocking Silent Histories Filmmakers and the Maya Traditions Foundation guests were joined by Maya weavers from Weaving for the Future, a Washington, D.C.-based cooperative. An array of colors and crafts permeated the space.   Indigenous Design Collective, a Washington-based Maya graphic arts initiative dedicated to educating people about Maya symbolism, facilitated hands on activities; The musuem displayed interactive websites; and the Smithsonian Latino Center organized opportunities to learn about Maya migration and Bak’tun 13.  This was all set to energizing, authentic Guatemalan marimba music.

The USH Film Screenings took place in the NMAI Rasmuson Theater.  Here audience viewed the thoughtfully threaded programs crafted by Melissa Bisagni, NMAI Program Manager Media Initiatives.  Featured were 16 youth-produced films from our 9 partner communities in Guatemala.  Discussions with the filmmakers and program leaders Carmen, Chema and Carlos followed.  In both the  morning and afternoon conversations, you will hear how these leaders describe their roles in co-creating USH, how the organization belongs to all of them, and why this work is important for their indigenous communities.


A very special than you also, for the private guided tour of control room.  It was a very special opportunity for these burgeoning professions to get a behind the scenes insight to high quality production and documentation!

Visiting the Film Archives


Melissa Bisagni was obviously thinking about our guests having the experience of their lifetime.  She prearranged a very special trip for Carmen, Carlos, and Chema.  We visited the Human Studies Film Archive, at the Museum Support Center (MSC) in Suitland, MD.  What an amazing morning!  We handled legacy equipment and imagined what it might have been like filming and editing with equipment like this!   Next, they viewed various archival ethnographic films of the Lake Atitlán region of Guatemala, dating between 1920 and 1960.  These three inquisitive youth greatly appreciated of the opporutnity to see historical films of their region – noting what stayed the same, what changed, and how others outsiders were choosing to document their communities and describe them – at times the descriptions were inaccurate.  An experience that inspired conversations and visions of doing more films from within.

Melissa told the youth, your work is important because we often have films about indigenous communities, but not many from within themWords taken to heart with great appreciation from this very seasoned expert.

Special Guest Duane Howard

As if the program that Korah and Melissa had prepared was not enough, we also welcomed a very special guest, Duane Howard.  Duane played the role of ‘Elk Dog’, the lead native warrior in 20th Century, in movie “The Revenant”.


Duane enjoyed DC with our USH team, sharing his wisdom – both about film and about First Nations communities.  After watching both sets of films, he comments that he was taken by the ways in which the youth were capturing their cultures and traditions, and spirituality of the communities.  His first visit to DC, we organized a special tour of the museum and entertained him at a traditional U.S. diner and a “hip” neighborhood bar!  It was an honor to have him, and most of all, we appreciated his humorous, generous spirit, and support of our work at USH.

Visiting Sites

DC was incredibly busy, yet we found some time to visit DC’s Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and a distant glimpse of the Capital Building.  Our Program Leaders will need to come back for a visit to enjoy more of the city!


Thank you DC. What an amazing time we had!!


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