An underrated Smithsonian asset at The National Museum of the American Indian


The Museum of the American Indian is mostly known among Washingtonians for its cafeteria; it's the best place to eat on the National Mall. 

But the permanent exhibit "Americans" is an underrated Smithsonian asset. Built from hundreds of common references to Native Americans—from the woman kneeling on every box of Land O'Lakes butter to a video loop of Cher in a feathered headdress to models of Apache helicopters—the central hall fills visitors with a warm sense of familiarity before shunting them off into smaller installations that correct misconceptions about everything from Pochahontas (yes, there's a plaque about Elizabeth Warren) to the Battle of Little Bighorn and the first Thanksgiving.

Visitors are left with a sense of how deeply Native American imagery and identity are embedded in mainstream American life, how intertwined our misconceptions are with those images, and how pop and commercial culture are the primary vectors for our positive associations with the people who were here first.