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.
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:
- Activist and Indigenous law expert Hank Adams
- Charles Curtis, the first Native American in Congress
- Chief Standing Bear’s Civil Rights Case
- Land Claims Cases of Indigenous Nations in New York
- Orange Shirt Day and the legacy of Indian residential schools
- Ojibwe artwork in government reports
- Suffrage and citizenship for Native Americans
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