Author: Dennis Zotigh

Dennis W. Zotigh (Kiowa/San Juan Pueblo/Santee Dakota Indian) is a member of the Kiowa Gourd Clan and San Juan Pueblo Winter Clan and a descendant of Sitting Bear and No Retreat, both principal war chiefs of the Kiowas. Dennis works as a writer and cultural specialist at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Mitchelene BigMan with fellow members of the Native American Warriors. (Photo courtesy of NMAI)
Deb Haaland speaks at the Groundbreaking Ceremony for the National Native American Veterans Memorial, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. Paul Morigi/AP Images for Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.
N8V Dance Fitness Instructor Michelle Reed (far right) poses with participants of the Hannaville Indian Community of Michigan (Photo used with permission, courtesy of Michelle Reed)

Health and Obesity in Indian Country

January 23rd, 2021, 9:46AM
Hank Adams carries a letter from the White House to Chief Frank Fools Crow (Oglala Lakota) during the siege of Wounded Knee. Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota, 1973. (Hank Adams Collection)

“The Most Important Indian”—In Memory of Hank Adams (1943–2020)

December 23rd, 2020, 9:30PM
“Hogan in the Snow,” ca. 1985. Painted by Robert Draper (Diné [Navajo], 1938–2000). Chinle, Navajo Nation, Arizona. 26/6481 (National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian)
Volunteers with the Navajo & Hopi Families Covid-19 Relief Fund distribute food and other essential supplies to isolated communities and farmsteads on the Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation. As part of the Smithsonian's virtual program 24 Hours in a Time of Change, Shandiin Herrera (Diné)—seated on the left, wearing a Duke University sweatshirt—describes how this grassroots response to the COVID-19 pandemic came together last spring and shares her experiences as the fund's volunteer coordinator in Monument Valley, Utah. (Photo by Karney Hatch)

Smithsonian Wants Your 2020 Stories

December 9th, 2020, 12:55PM
Percy Sandy (A:shiwi [Zuni], 1918–1974).
Theresa Secord (Penobscot, b. 1958). Ear of corn basket, 2003. Maine. 26/1694. By looking at  Thanksgiving in the context of living cultures, we can make the holiday a more meaningful part of teaching and learning, in school and at home.
Rebecca Hill-Genia in the award-winning documentary
Doña Ofelia Esparza decorates the ofrenda
California Natives gather in front of City Hall to celebrate Los Angeles's second annual Indigenous Peoples Day. October 14, 2019, Los Angeles, California. (Photo courtesy of Helena Tsosie)

Rethinking How We Celebrate American History—Indigenous Peoples’ Day

October 12th, 2020, 12:00PM
On Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2020, the museum brings young Native activists together online to discuss  the tension between history and memory, and how both are reflected in the current racial and social landscape. Hip-hop artist Frank Waln contributes a musical performance. From left to right: Musician Frank Waln; panelists Brook Thompson, Dylan Baca, Lina Krueck, Julian Brave NoiseCat, Michaela Pavlat, and Alberto Correa III. (Photos courtesy of the participants)

Five Ideas for Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2020

October 7th, 2020, 9:59AM
Native American veterans of the Vietnam War stand in honor as part of the color guard at the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial. November 11, 1990, Washington, D.C.  (Photo by Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
Cody Ayon (Tsistsistas [Southern Cheyenne]) enlisted in both the U.S. Navy and the New Mexico Army National Guard. The Native community of Albuquerque welcomed then-Lieutenant Ayon home with a Soldier Dance after his service during the Iraq War. (Steven Clevenger [Osage], courtesy of Cody Ayon)
An Indigenous couple marries on the beach at Assateague Island National Seashore and Assateague State Park. Many of the United States' National Parks are places of historical, cultural, and sacred meaning for Native communities. (Photo used with the permission of Desirée Shelley Flores)
A Diné child begins her much-anticipated school year online in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Courtesy of Cornillia Sandoval, used with permission)
Dressed in ceremonial regalia, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Northern Cheyenne), a veteran of the Korean War, stands with World War II veteran Senator Daniel K. Inouye  and Native American veterans  of the Vietnam War during the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall.  September 21, 2004, Washington, D.C. (Mario Tama/ AFP for the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian)
People protest against the name of the Washington, D.C., NFL team before a game between Washington and the Minnesota Vikings. Minneapolis, November 2, 2014. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Ending the Use of Racist Mascots and Images

July 8th, 2020, 3:30PM
Normee Ekoomiak (Inuit, 1948–2009).
Members of the Kiowa Gourd Clan Ceremony stand as the flag of Spencer “Corky” Sahmaunt is raised. Carnegie, Oklahoma; July 4, 2019. Mr. Sahmaunt served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and was a member of the Kiowa Black Leggings Warrior Society, as well as the Kiowa Gourd Clan.The Kiowa Flag Song, analogous to the Star Spangled Banner, accompanied the flag-raising. (Photo courtesy of Mari Frances Sahmaunt, used with permission)
Cegape or Strike the Kettle (Lakota, ca. 1841–?). Untitled painting, collected in 1893. North or South Dakota. 20/5176. Most large paintings of this kind focus on a single event, often a battle. This painting, made by a follower of Sitting Bull, shows warriors—figures on horseback carrying lances and shields—within the Lakota way of life. (National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian)

144 Years after the Battle of Little Bighorn, Lakota Values Endure

June 24th, 2020, 10:00AM
Adrian Stevens (Ute/Shoshone–Bannock/San Carlos Apache) and Sean Snyder (Dine/Ute), a couple who regularly participate in powwows. (Courtesy of Adrian Stevens, used with permission)
Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox), with the inscription “To my little girl Grace From Dad Jim Thorpe 1951.” The photo, in the original folder frame, shows Thorpe during his career with the Canton Bulldogs football team, ca. 1915 to 1920. Grace Thorpe Collection, NMAI.AC.085 (pht_092_002). (National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center, Smithsonian)
Drum used by Native American soldiers during Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2007 and 2008. 27/167. The drum was also used in a Cheyenne Soldier Dance held for Cody Ayon (Southern Cheyenne) in 2010 when he returned to the United States. Mr. Ayon gave the drum to the museum in 2018. (National Museum of the American Indian)

Memorial Day in Indian Country

May 22nd, 2020, 9:00AM
Gabrielle Lee (Kanaka Maoli), the first Native Hawaiian cultural interpreter on the staff of the National Museum of the American Indian, in a small section of the New York Botanical Garden that features plants native to Hawai‘i. (Courtesy of Gabbi Lee)

Aloha Opens the Door to Learning

May 20th, 2020, 12:00PM
Patricia Stone (Akimel O'otham) and Leonard Stone (Akimel O'otham) with their new baby, 1965. Gila River Indian Community, Arizona. (Helge Teiwes Collection, NMAI.AC.070)
Visitors look at a large, cut-paper work by Ian Kuali’i (Native Hawaiian and Mescalero Apache), on view at the Red Bull House of Art Detroit. Kuali’i was a resident artist at the experimental, noncommercial arts organization in 2016. (Red Bull, courtesy of Ian Kuali’i)
Ceramic olla purchased from Soledad Lala (Soboba Luiseño), Riverside, California, for the collections of the Museum of the American Indian, with a sketch by the collector, E. H. Davis. Olla: NMAI 7/1952. Drawing: Expedition Sketch Book, No. 2, November 1917. Edward H. Davis Papers, Huntington Free Library Collection 9166, Cornell University Library (National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian; sketch courtesy of the Cornell University Library)
Chief Warrant Office Two Misty Dawn Lakota (Oglala Lakota) takes part in the White House Conference on Supporting Contemporary Native American Veterans. Washington, D.C., November 19, 2019. (White House photo by Andrea Hanks)
Maria Marable-Bunch, associate director for museum learning and programs of the National Museum of the American Indian, in the exhibition
Plains nations' pipes and pipe bags from the collections of the National Museum of the American Indian  and the Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History. On view in the exhibition “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations” at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. (Ernest Amoroso, Smithsonian)
Coiled basket jar, ca. 1900, made by Mary Burkhead (Western Mono). Madera County, California. 16/5503. Through archival research, the museum now knows that a Western Mono woman named Mary Burkhead made this coiled basketry jar, information not listed on the catalog card. The research is part of a multiyear, multi-institutional project to recover information that was separated from, or perhaps never a part of, the museum's catalog records. (National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian. Note: Objects and catalog cards in these photo composites are not to scale.)
Thanksgiving, as the United States’ origin story, leaves out painful truths about the nation’s history. Giving thanks, however, has always been part of Native Americans’ everyday lives. Image: Earnest L. Spybuck (Absentee Shawnee, 1883–1949).
Alaska Magazine calls the Inuit drum-dance group Pamyua
Ian Kuali'i with some of his cut-paper art, June 2019. (Courtesy of the artist)

Time-lapse video of artist Ian Kuali'i working on a paper-cut portrait

October 18th, 2019, 9:30PM
Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee) at the opening of the exhibition
Command Sergeant Major Julia Kelly (U.S. Army retired), one of 80 Native American delegates to the 75th anniversary observance of D-Day, stands on Omaha Beach. Kelly holds an eagle feather staff, an American Indian symbol of respect, honor, and patriotism. (Courtesy of Julia Kelly)
A design drawing shows the standing metal ring of the National Native American Veterans Memorial as it will be seen from the southeast corner of the National Mall, between the Capitol Building and the National Museum of the American Indian. (Design by Harvey Pratt/Butzer Architects and Urbanism, illustration by Skyline Ink, courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian)
Members of the Cherokee Youth National Choir taking part in the installation of the Treaty of New Echota at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. (Paul Morigi/AP Images for the Smithsonian)
Norma Baker–Flying Horse (third from left) with models wearing her Red Berry Woman designs. Paris Fashion Week, March 2019. (Ulla Couture Photography)
Red dresses displayed along the river walk of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., represent the crisis of missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls. Conceived by Canadian artist Jaime Black (Métis),
Niuam (Comanche) peyote fan, ca. 1890. Oklahoma. 22/9197 (Ernest Amoroso, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian)
Alaska Army National Guard Col. Wayne Don, then 38th Troop Command commander, pledges the Oath of Office, administered by Alaska Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Joseph Streff, Alaska Army National Guard commander, after Don was promoted to full colonel. Dena'ina Center, Anchorage, July 14, 2017.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David Bedard)

A Tradition of Service: Colonel Wayne Don

November 28th, 2018, 10:00AM
Haudenosaunee bear effigy pipe, 17th c. Cayuga Lake, New York. 22/3765 (Ernest Amoroso, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian)

"Words Spoken Before All Others," the Ohenten Kariwatekwen or Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address

November 22nd, 2018, 9:30AM
Petty Officer S. Joe Crittenden (U.S. Navy retired), deputy principal chief of the Cherokee Nation and a member of the advisory committee to the National Native American Veterans Memorial. (Photo by Jeremy Charles, courtesy of the Cherokee Nation)
Ramey Growing Thunder (Fort Peck Sioux and Assiniboine Tribes), Chief John Spotted Tail (Rosebud Sioux Tribe), Carolyn Brugh (Fort Peck Sioux and Assiniboine Tribes), and Tamara Stands and Looks Back–Spotted Tail (Rosebud Sioux Tribe) take part in a ceremony at the National Museum of the American Indian honoring the Treaty of Fort Laramie. Ms. Growing Thunder holds a photograph of Medicine Bear (Yanktonai Band of Sioux), one of the Native leaders who signed the treaty 150 years ago. Delegations from the Yankton Sioux Tribe, Oglala Sioux Tribe, and Northern Arapaho Tribe also traveled to Washington, D.C., for the installation of the treaty in the exhibition
Designer, artist, activist, and organizer Jordan Cocker. (Tekpatl Kuauhtzin)
Delaware leaders prepare to unveil the Treaty of Fort Pitt, on view at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. From left to right: Denise Stonefish, chief of the Delaware Nation at Moraviantown; museum director Kevin Gover; Chester “Chet’ Brooks, chief of the Delaware Tribe of Indians; and Deborah Dotson, president of the Delaware Nation. May 10, 2018, Washington, D.C. (Paul Morigi/AP Images for the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian)
Lyricist, musician, and dancer Christian Parrish Takes The Gun, aka Supaman. (Matika WIlbur)
Jazz performer and composer Delbert Anderson (Navajo). (Shutterfreek Photography)
The Honorable Senator Daniel Kahikina Akaka speaking during the lei-draping ceremony to commemorate King Kamehameha Day. June 7, 2009, the U.S. Capitol Visitors’ Center Emancipation Hall, Washington, D.C. (Courtesy of the U.S. Senate)
Kevin Gover, director of the National Museum of the American Indian, and Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation representative and CEO of Oneida Indian Nation Enterprises, at the dedication of the new interpretive sound, light, and imagery around the sculpture “Allies in War, Partners in Peace.” (Katherine Fogden [Mohawk], National Museum of the American Indian)
Representatives of the Navajo Nation read the original text of the Naaltsoos Sání, or Navajo Treaty of 1868, after its unveiling in the exhibition
Captain Jefferson Keel (U.S. Army retired), Lieutenant Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. (Courtesy of Jefferson Keel)
Specialist Allen Kale‘iolani Hoe (U.S. Army retired), the son and grandson of veterans and a Gold Star father, serves on the advisory committee of the National Native American Veterans Memorial. (Courtesy of Allen Hoe)
On mid-tour leave from Operation Iraqi Freedom, Sergeant First Class Chuck Boers carries in the eagle staff at the Shenandoah Powwow, 2004. (Courtesy of Chuck Boers)
John Richard Edwards (Onondaga) takes part in the installation of the mile-marker post from the Dakota Access Pipeline in the exhibition
Members of a delegation from the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians read names of the signers of the Treaty of Fort Wayne of 1809 as the museum prepares to place the treaty on exhibit. From left: Tribal Council Member Wayne (Alex) Wesaw, Council Chairman John P. Warren, Council Elders Representative Judy Winchester, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer; Jason S. Wesaw, and Council Vice Chairman Robert (Bob) Moody, Jr. National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C., September 2017. (Kevin Wolf/AP Images for National Museum of the American Indian)
Ningiukulu Teevee, (Canadian [Cape Dorset], b. 1963),
Niuam (Comanche) fan with sun and Morning Star designs (detail), ca. 1880. Oklahoma. 2/1617. (Credit: National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian)
Visitors to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., viewing the Removal Act of 1830. Photo for the National Archives by Jessica Deibert
Poet and spoken word artist Autumn White Eyes. (Angel White Eyes for Red Cloud School)