Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sundays in My City: Defiantly Joyful

I remarked to some friends, after viewing the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, that "Canada seemed to be like an entire nation of Minnesota---nice, polite people, very cold, with an abundance of elk and  rounded 'Os."  My friend from Toronto quickly pointed out that it is, in fact, warmer in Vancouver than it is here in Maryland.

She's right, of course. How American of me to make gross generalizations about a diverse group of people.

I must admit, I didn't watch the entire program, but I thought the presentation of the various First Nation tribes of Canada was a such a class act on behalf of the organizers. It has not been a easy ride for the First Nation tribes, although certainly a bit easier than the Native Americans here in the USA. If I remember my history correctly, many Native Americans attempted to cross into Canada because they were murdered with far less frequency then in the United States.

Thanks to Sarah Vowell, and her stunning essay, "What I See When I Look at a Twenty Dollar Bill," I have a better understanding of man's inhumanity to man regarding my country and its policies regarding the original inhabitants. It's shameful.

Yet, as I sat in my living room, watching the First Nation tribes, I saw nothing but pride and joy. They wore their traditional clothing and their dance said, "We're here. We endure. We're alive and we're proud."

This old girl got a little emotional, I must admit.

The human spirit is a powerful thing. We, again and again, get knocked down, and we get up again. Although these are the lyrics of the timeless Chumbawamba classic, "Tubthumping," the sentiment remains true. People are resilient, and watching people be defiantly joyful is one of the holiest acts I know.

The National Museum of the American Indian, right on the National Mall, celebrates this pride. It's an absolutely gorgeous building, and it attempts to tell the numerous stories in a respectful and honest fashion. It's almost too much, because it's like trying to do the Museum of Europe, all in one building---so many different languages, traditions, geography, values, and beliefs. It's simply impossible to give anything beyond a basic overview.

What it does do, however, is send a clear statement: Despite it all, we're still here. Despite the Trail of Tears and the bloodshed and the systemic genocide, we're still here. Our light still shines.

Not only is the National Museum of the American Indian spiritually uplifting, it has the best food court on the National Mall. Do not go to the McDonald's in the Air and Space Museum. Do not buy a hot dog from a sidewalk kiosk. Walk to the National Museum of the American Indian, and be prepared for a culinary nirvana.

The Mitsitam Cafe is a food court that serves dishes inspired by Native Foods. For example, from the Northwest Coast menu, one can dine upon Cedar Planked Fire-Roasted Juniper Salmon. Or, if one prefers the South American menu, as I did on my last visit, one can have a Chicken Tamale with Peanut Sauce with Guava Flan for dessert.

This is for the same price as one would pay for a Sabarro Pizza or a Happy Meal.

And, if you have a four-year old boy, The Mitsitam Cafe has something that is perhaps the most awe-inspiring marvel on this earth:

Yes. Holy Flaming Shitballs, yes. 

There is a tray machine, where you can watch your tray disappear. It moves! It involves machinery!

No, I am not toying with you. This marvel actually exists, and oh, is it ever glorious! 

It took a team of horses to tear Owen away. 

There is joy to be found---in an ancient dance, or in a modern food court.  Seek it, and it will be found. 

And, please---Join Unknown Mami to share your city each Sunday! 

Unknown Mami


Joanna Jenkins said...

Yes indeed--- "The is joy yo be found..." Thanks for the stunning post and wonderful reminder Nancy. I enjoyed this very much.

Have a great week.

Life with Kaishon said...

I loved this post so much Nancy. The picture of the dancing indian childs feet was my favorite :) Love that your son was so enamored with the tray removal : ) Sweet.

Bethany said...

I love the lines "defiantly joyful."
Flaming shitballs, eh? I think I would enjoy just hanging out with you and listening to you talk.
When I got to your page I noticed I was smiling before I even read anything.
That food court sounds amazing. And wow to the tray machine.

only a movie said...

Love this post! Really beautifully written. :-)

DUTA said...

'Better late than never'. The indigenous tribes, so it seems, got recognition and respect.
Your lovely, informative post made me wish I could visit the National Museum of the american indian and its food court.

Mel said...

Great post! I love Sarah Vowell's work. I love the dancing feet picture too. Your comment on my page: I was born in Maryland, grew up on the peninsula! Small world, isn't it?

Tracie said...

Ha! The cafeteria in the hospital where Hubs works has one of those. We spent so much time watching that thing when the boys were younger.

michelle said...

That sounds like a place my kids would love to check out.

Defiantly joyful. I love that

lisleman said...

maybe Owen will be an engineer someday.
very good post that reminds me we should never forget how inhuman humans can be. I've remember seeing that museum while it was being finished so I've never been in it. Thanks for the recommendation. Just down a few blocks is the Holocaust Museum which gave me a very sad experience of inhuman treatment.
I hope your post will get a few citizens to visit and enjoy their capital.

adrienzgirl said...

This was a lovely post Nancy. I am often ashamed to be a white when I explore the atrocities our ancestors inflicted on so many of our fellow men and women. It is beyond my ability to fathom in what world anyone thought it was alright to slaughter those who were different or had something they wanted or were easily oppressed.

The museum is fascinating!

Julie said...

What a glorious post about the First Nations and the American Indians. I did not know much of that but it probably is on a par with the Australian Aboriginal tribes who are immensely diverse too. I love the sting in the tail of the post with the story of little Owen.

Prairiemaid said...

Such a wonderful post with great pictures!


Sonya said...

Love the feet photo!! Great post as always!

4 Lettre Words said...

This is so beautiful.

We have some Indian mounds near our home. Every visit is emotional for me.

Unknown Mami said...

It really is a testament to the human spirit that people do no only endure, but shine.

I'd love to try some of that food.

Marla said...

We went to The Red Earth Festival here in Oklahoma last year. What an amazing event to attend. Watching and listening as each tribe entered the arena dressed in their beautiful native costumes dancing was more than I could handle. I stood and cried through the whole thing.

Love the photos, Nancy!

blueviolet said...

I think I would actually enjoy that tray machine too!

I would also REALLY love that museum, like a lot!

Cat said...

Love the writing. And that museum is amazing.

Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip said...

Nancy, what a beautiful and stunningly truth-filled post. Every time I read your writing I melt inside a little bit. You are so fabulous and you make words come alive in a way that always moves my heart. I know that sounded totally sappy, but I really admire you. Happy Valentine's Day.