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Color photograph of the wooded area outside the National Museum of the American Indian. In the center foreground, a winding railing stretches back and bends left, towards an opening where a circular metal memorial stands. The memorial is a metal circle with a hole in the middle. To the right is a small pond surrounded by trees and shrubbery in bright autumn colors. A clear blue sky peeks through between the branches.
The path leading towards the Native American Veterans Memorial outside the National Museum of the American Indian. Photo by Bailey DeSimone.

Observing Native American Heritage Month and Veterans History Month at the NMAI

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The Washington, D.C. location of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) sits at the foot of Capitol Hill along Independence Avenue NW. Surrounded by a thoughtfully planted garden that evokes crops native to the Americas, the museum was established in 1989 via an act of Congress (Public Law 101-185). The act was amended in 1996 to include a process for “repatriation of unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, and cultural patrimony,” among other details. In 2018, the Law Library of Congress hosted a panel discussing the surrounding legislation.

Outside the museum, I followed the short path to the National Native American Veterans Memorial. The Why We Serve exhibit, finishing a two-year run at the end of this month, examines the complex relationship between Native Americans and the United States military, with a priority to honor and recognize these individuals and their legacies. The Navajo Code Talkers are one such group. Many other minority groups, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, have extensive histories within the broader context of veterans history.

Color photograph of the wooded area outside the National Museum of the American Indian. In the center foreground, a winding railing stretches back and bends left, towards an opening where a circular metal memorial stands. The memorial is a metal circle with a hole in the middle. To the right is a small pond surrounded by trees and shrubbery in bright autumn colors. A clear blue sky peeks through between the branches.
The path leading towards the Native American Veterans Memorial outside the National Museum of the American Indian. Photo by Bailey DeSimone.

 

Both the NMAI and the Law Library contain complementary resources for researching Native American history. One of the museum’s ongoing exhibits, Nation to Nation, displays treaties between the United States and American Indian nations. The Law Library published a research guide on American Indian Law in 2022, as well as a variety of digitally accessible Native American constitutions and other legal materials. A Law Library StoryMap also maps Native American and First Peoples monuments and memorials across the country, and the acts of Congress that cemented them in American legislative history. The Law Library’s blog also explores the relationship between Native Americans and the law through many specialized posts, with a few listed below:

Subscribe to In Custodia Legis – it’s free! – to receive interesting posts drawn from the Law Library of Congress’s vast collections and our staff’s expertise in U.S., foreign, and international law.

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