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Museum design captures spirituality of Native Americans

 


Museum design captures spirituality of Native Americans

Sept. 20, 2004

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - The National Museum of the American Indian cuts a dramatic figure on the National Mall.

Nestled amid gray and pink marble Smithsonian buildings and the U.S. Capitol, the curvilinear, earth-tone, limestone structure rises out of the ground as if it were a rock that had existed on that location long before the pilgrims landed on the shores of present-day Massachusetts.

"The building is meant to look as being of the earth ... carved and shaped by wind and water," said museum Director Richard West Jr. "We look to nature as our inspiration for how we design building structures. You find very few straight lines and right angles in nature."

The building’s design also provides a touchstone for the spirituality of Native Americans.

"Our spirituality is something, a quality, that pervades all of our life," said West, a United Methodist Native American. "It is an attitude toward life and a sense of the potential and expanse of life here on earth, not only in the form of us two-leggeds but also in four-leggeds and in living forms from plants to rocks. It’s that dimension of respect for life that is at the core of native spirituality."

West believes that philosophy melds seamlessly with Methodism. "I see no conflict between the two," he said. "They are both about reaching beyond ourselves to seek as good a definition as we can get of higher being, if you will - approaching the divine and seeking to find balance in our lives and making our lives whole. Native spiritual practice and good Christian practice try to do the same thing."

*Schoeff is a correspondent for the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference’s UMConnection newspaper. This story first appeared in that paper.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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