Updated at 12:03 p.m., Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Native Hawaiians march in step with American Indians
By Frank Oliveri
Advertiser Washington Bureau
Young children smiled. To Lee's delight, many responded in the same way.
"I've got chicken skin," he said, rubbing the bumps on his arm.
The Native Hawaiian contingent was among some 20,000 American Indians representing more than 515 tribes that signed up for the procession. Hundreds of thousands of others Indians and non-Indians alike watched the colorful spectacle from the sidelines and listened to the speakers at the dedication ceremony on the lawn just outside the new museum.
Though the ceremonies had a decided American Indian texture, Lee and other Native Hawaiians felt a strong bond of kinship.
Kuma hula Nalani Kanaka'ole, a leader of Hilo's Halau O Kekuhi, said the gathering "is more important to the Native Americans. O It's been a long time."
But she said it was a good place for all native people to come together. Her grandson, Ulu, said, "It's nice to see so many brown faces."
The day started early as hundreds of Native Hawaiians circled in the shadows of trees, joined hands and were led in a pule, or prayer.
Tony Sang, chairman of the state council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations, said the sight of people of so many different cultures gave him "an overwhelming feeling of O we're still alive, still here. Part of this great country. We haven't gone away."
Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona said the gathering made it clear "that we have these common ties. "We all are so proud and humble and appreciate the respect."
Apoliona said the placement of the museum on the National Mall was a great honor.
"The last space for the first people," she said.
The $219 million for the museum building and public programs came from taxpayers and private donors, including Indian tribes that run multimillion-dollar casinos.
The pattern for the welcome plaza outside the east entrance plots the configuration of the planets on Nov. 28, 1989, the date Inouye introduced legislation in Congress to create the museum.
Clad in textured, wheat-colored Kasota limestone from Minnesota, the five-story building's curved lines are reminiscent of rocks shaped by wind and water over thousands of years.
Officials expect the museum will draw 4 million visitors a year, which would make it the Smithsonian's third most-popular museum after the National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of Natural History.
Exhibits will display about 7,000 items that span 10,000 years and an area from the Arctic Circle to the tip of South America. The Smithsonian gained the cornerstone of the museum's exhibits when it acquired the collection of George Gustav Heye, an heir to an oil fortune who accumulated 800,000 Indian objects before his death in 1957.
The museum's three permanent inaugural exhibits examine themes common to all Indian people: the spiritual relationship between humans and their universe, native people's survival in the face of the European onslaught and how Indians maintain their distinct communities in the modern world.
Also this week, the National Museum of Natural History will display a canoe that was a gift to the Smithsonian from Queen Kapi'olani in 1887. Lee, who also helped to design several of this nation's submarines, helped to restore the canoe.
Lehua Yim, who works in Boston but calls Maui home, said the gathering and the museum are like "a seed that was just planted and is breaking through the ground.
"We're here to give it our 'Aloha,' " she said.