The National Mall in the United States capital was jammed with some 80,000 people on the morning of Sept. 21 as close to 25,000 Indigenous people from throughout the Americas and beyond—many in their traditional regalia—celebrated the opening of the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) with a spectacular procession down the middle of the Mall. The procession lasted two hours.
A festival of Indigenous culture continued all day long and for several days afterward. The museum itself stayed open all night that first day.
There are four direction stones that come from Native communities in the Americas placed around the site of the NMAI. The northern stone is from the Northwest Territories. Forty grandfather rocks are placed throughout the grounds. They come from Aylmer, Que.
Before the rocks were moved to Washington, a group from the Montagnais Nation held a blessing ceremony to ensure that the rocks would have a safe journey and carry the cultural messages of past generations to future generations.
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